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Facebook trialling removal of likes
Photography Prateek Katyal, via Unsplash

Facebook is hiding likes for some users to stop people feeling bad

Taking the lead from Instagram – which trialed the removal of likes in May – the social media platform wants to improve your mental health

In an attempt to curb social media-induced mental health issuesFacebook is now trialling the removal of likes, displaying that a post was liked by ‘(a friend) and others’, instead of showing a number count. The platform hopes the feature will reduce the impact of online validation on users’ self-worth.

Initially testing in Australia, the platform is gauging whether the feature will improve users’ mental health, before rolling it out to more regions. The social media giant is following in the footsteps of its other platform, Instagram, which began testing hiding likes in May. Launched in Canada, IG’s feature has since expanded to six more countries.

“We are running a limited test where like, reaction, and video view counts are made private across Facebook,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We will gather feedback to understand whether this change will improve people’s experiences.” 

While counts will be hidden from users’ friends and the public, the author can still see how many people have liked their posts. Friends will also be able to click through to see who’s liked the post, meaning likes could be counted manually. 

With the feature, Facebook aims to reduce the feelings of anxiety and insecurity often associated with pining after a popular social media presence. When the trial was rolled out on Instagram, the platform’s head said: “We do hear people worry about how many like counts they get.” He added that the switch-up aimed to create “a less pressurised environment where people feel comfortable expressing themselves”. 

Although Instagram’s test was mostly welcomed by users, influencers were concerned about the feature’s impact on their careers. “Without the likes to prove engagement, it could be harder for potential clients to see their worth immediately,” a Dazed writer explained in July. “It could make their work completely worthless – will potential employers want to use social media marketing if nobody is going to like it?” Without the same prevalence of influencers, it’s likely the trial will be more praised by users on Facebook.

The announcement comes just weeks after the platform revealed the launch of Facebook Dating, which connects you with friends of friends and users outside of your network based on your “preferences, interests, and things you do on Facebook”.

Facebook’s like removal trial is another attempt by the platform to stay relevant at a time when users are leaving the site in droves following last year’s shocking Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which it was revealed that the platform harvested millions of users’ information to aid Donald Trump’s election campaign.