Facebook is running an experiment to hide “like” counts and other public-facing social scores in select markets. The social network confirmed Friday that it started hiding like, reaction and video view counts in a limited test across the social network as part of an effort to improve the atmosphere on the platform.
“We will gather feedback to understand whether this change will improve people’s experiences,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in an e-mail statement to AdAge.
Such a change, if made permanent, could ultimately affect publishers and brands looking for visibility on the social network, according to marketing and publishing execs.
The theory goes that like counts add social undue pressure on the average user, who might begin to put too much weight on how popular (or not) their posts are on Facebook. The rationale goes that if Facebook were to no longer show users how many likes a given post received, then it might generate less anxiety around sharing on Facebook. “People are using the ‘like’ counter as way to measure their self-worth,” says David Cohn, senior director of AlphaGroup, which is a tech incubator within the publishing group Advanced Local.
Likes, or lack thereof, may be stressful for everyday users, but they are partly how publishers and brands measure their actual worth on Facebook. “Just as the likes have been validation for users,” Cohn says, “they have been validating for publishers, as well.”
The like count has historically been one of the inputs that Facebook’s algorithm relies on to determine what posts are most popular and deserve more visibility. Hiding the count could depress people’s urge to hit “like.”