In Australia, Facebook is removing public visibility to like, reaction, and video view counts from user-made posts and ads as a test to see whether the change improves the experience on the social network.
In Australia, Facebook is starting to hide the “like” counts on user posts and ads to see whether it makes the social network less stressful to use.
People in Australia will still be able to like and react to a user post or ad. But only the original author behind the content will be able to see the like/reaction count. The rest of the public, on the other hand, can only view whether certain friends and family on Facebook reacted to the post. (That said, the comment count appears to remain intact.)
“We are running a limited test where like, reaction, and video view counts are made private across Facebook. We will gather feedback to understand whether this change will improve people’s experiences,” a company spokesperson said.
Facebook’s like button debuted in 2009 as a way to let people quickly share positive feedback on user posts. But the same function can also cause people to focus on getting a high like/reaction count akin to a popularity contest as opposed to sharing quality content. As a result, critics have questioned whether the like function can induce feelings of anxiety among users, making it bad for their mental health.
Facebook’s other platform, Instagram, has also been experimenting with hiding like counts in certain countries. “It’s because we want people to worry a little bit less about how many likes they’re getting on Instagram and spend a bit more time connecting with the people they care about,” Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, said in April.
For Facebook, hiding the like count may create the positive benefit of making users more comfortable to post about themselves, since they won’t have to worry as much about whether the post attracted enough likes. But on the flip side, the total like count can also act as indicator that a user post is important. “Influencers” on Instagram also use like counts as an engagement metric to help them sign advertising deals with brands.
So far, Facebook hasn’t said whether it’ll roll out the test more widely.