Commentary

Is Facebook Moving Away From Approval Tracking?

Is social media growing out of “like” counts and other means of quantifying popularity?

Hard as that might be to believe, Facebook does appear to be moving away from more conspicuous forms of approval tracking.

In July, Instagram expanded a like-hiding test to additional regions of the globe. In addition to Canada, the Facebook unit began hiding like counts among select users in Australia, Brazil, Japan, Ireland, Italy and New Zealand.

“We want your friends to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get,” Instagram said at the time.

Then, over the holiday weekend, researcher Jane Manchun Wong broke news that Facebook is testing like-hiding on its flagship platform.

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Wong suggested the continued expansion should be seen as a sign of things to come.

Facebook's following Instagram's example "indicates that they have confidence that the pros of hiding like counts outweigh the cons,” Wong tweeted on Monday.

Facebook has since confirmed to TechCrunch that it's testing like-hiding among a small subset of users. How far Facebook plans to go with its test is still anyone's guess.

In tests on Instagram, users can still view their likes by tapping on the “liker list,” but their friends can't see how many likes their posts have received.

Going forward, Facebook's rationale for reducing the prominence of popularity meters is sure to generate significant debate.

Is the company actually concerned with the negative side effects of such tracking? Or, as Wong suspects, is its decision based on findings that people are posting less out of fear of low "like" counts?

“I think the side effects of these mental-health burdens will make people less likely to post their personal content, making the platform less active,” she tweeted.



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