Facebook and Instagram are giving all users the option to hide public “likes” on their posts, potentially upending a core dynamic of the social media platforms where like counts are seen as a sign of a person’s influence.
The social media giant has since 2019 been testing the ability for users to hide like counts, a feature synonymous with Facebook, as a way to make Facebook and Instagram less stressful to use.
As of Wednesday, every user can now choose whether people can see the number of likes on his or her own post and also whether to see how many people liked other users’ posts, Facebook (FB) said in a blog post Wednesday.
Facebook has been working to combat mounting criticisms that social media platforms can be harmful to the well-being of users and society. However, even with Wednesday’s announcement, hiding likes on Facebook and Instagram will be optional rather than by default, making it unclear how many users will actually take this step.
“What we heard from people and experts was that not seeing like counts was beneficial for some and annoying to others, particularly because people use like counts to get a sense of what’s trending or popular, so we’re giving you the choice,” Facebook said.
If users opt out of sharing public like counts on their posts, viewers will be able to see a list of who liked the post, but not the number of likes it got. The person who posted the photo will still be able to see the number of likes, even if it is not displayed publicly.
The company said the feature will let users “focus on the photos and videos being shared, instead of how many likes posts get.”
Facebook and Instagram users can also choose not to see how many people liked others’ posts as they’re scrolling through their feed — a feature that can be turned on by visiting the “new posts” section in settings, the company said.
Some users who previously had the option to test hiding likes on Instagram told CNN Business the option could help improve wellbeing on the platform. However, for social media influencers who have built businesses on the app, demonstrating their own like counts — and comparing them with those of other users’ posts — can be important for securing lucrative brand partnerships.
Facebook said in its blog post that it is funding “external research about people’s experiences on Instagram, and how we can improve our policies and products to support our community,” adding that it is accepting proposals from academics and non-profits for such studies.