SAN FRANCISCO (AFP, REUTERS) – Facebook and Instagram on Wednesday (May 26) announced plans to let users stop displaying “like” tallies racked up by posts, letting people opt out of seeking status through the approval of others.
The two platforms will let users shun “like” counts completely or just keep such tallies to themselves, according to Instagram chief Adam Mosseri.
“People will be able to decide if they want to see like counts or not,” Mr Mosseri said in a briefing.
Tools being added to the services will let users turn off “like” features on individual posts or all of them, according to Mr Mosseri.
He did not expect to see a significant change in user engagement from the move.
Mr Mosseri said social media creators, who make content on the service for their large followings, had been split in their reactions but there had been concern from some less-established creators.
He expected small creators trying to win fans to be most averse to eliminating “likes”, since they are typically trying to boost their popularity by showing how many people endorse their posts.
A test of the option showed that some people shared more posts when the potential for them to be judged by viewers was removed, according to Mr Mosseri.
Instagram has dabbled with letting users hide “like” counts.
“In 2019, we started hiding like counts for a small group of people to understand if it lessens some pressure when posting to Instagram,” a Facebook spokesman told AFP in April.
“Some people found this beneficial but some still wanted to see like counts so they could track what’s popular.”
Running tallies of how many people signal they like posts at social networks can be seen as status symbols or indicators of worth, raising mental health concerns.
Some experts say the insatiable quest for “likes” can be addictive and have devastating effects, particularly for younger people.
Facebook said that it has been working with experts to understand how design tweaks such as the one being tested at Instagram can support well-being of users while providing control over how they engage with the service.
Instagram has faced heat recently over its plans to build a version of the app for children under 13 years old, with attorneys general from 44 states in the United calling for Facebook to abandon the plan.
The default setting will be for likes to be turned on.
Mr Mosseri said Instagram would explore whether to hide like counts by default for users under the age of 18.