Jane Manchun Wong, the researcher and developer who first discovered that Instagram was testing a feature that would hide a photo’s number of likes from other users, has now made another discovery that is sure to strike terror in the hearts of influencers everywhere. As Wong details in her blog post, she’s discovered Facebook is actively testing hiding like counts on that platform, too.
Facebook is working to hide like counts, too!https://t.co/WnUrM12aZg
— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) September 2, 2019
Wong did some clever reverse engineering of the code of Facebook’s latest Android beta app and discovered the experiment. Wong says that, just as with Instagram, when likes are hidden in Facebook the creator of the post can still see the number of likes the post received, but all other users will only be able to access a list of people who liked or reacted to the post.
So why is Facebook doing this? Wong speculates it could be an effort to stymie social media-induced depression:
The fact that Instagram initially tested their hidden like counts feature in Canada, and then subsequently in more regions around the world, and then now Facebook is working on it too, indicates Facebook/Instagram have confidence the pros of hiding like counts outweigh the cons.
By hiding the like/reaction counts from anyone other than the post creator, users might feel less anxious about the perceived popularity of their content. Studies have shown that social media use may influence mental health, including leading to depression and anxiety.
As with any hidden feature discovered in betas, however, there’s no guarantee this will roll out to users at large. Then again, digital well being is an area many tech giants are investing in, and it’s possible Facebook may decide the feature is the best thing when it comes to the mental health of its users.