Australian Facebook users will be the first in the world unable to see the number of Likes a post has received on the platform as part of a new trial aimed at taking the competition out of social media.
It’s a big move from the largest social media company in the world which introduced the blue thumbs up symbol to the world.
As part of the test, which is aimed at improving how users interact with Facebook and feel using the platform, the number of Likes, reactions and view counts will be unable to be viewed publicly.
Account holders will still be able to see these interactions on their own posts, but those viewing them publicly will only see “and others” Liked the post.
It follows a similar trial on Facebook-owned Instagram that kicked off earlier this year in Australia, Canada, Brazil, New Zealand, Japan, Italy and Ireland.
Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 for $US1 billion.
The trial will aim to work out if Facebook users use the platform differently when people can’t see how many likes each post is receiving, Facebook Australia policy director Mia Garlick said.
“Does that help people focus more on the quality of the interactions that they’re having on our services rather than getting obsessed by the quantity of the ‘Like’ count? Can we take some of that social comparison out?” Garlick told ABC News.
“The thing that we’re really trying to understand by extending this test to Facebook, is to see if the ways in which people use the platforms are really different, and to see if this is useful across both platforms.”
Facebook has not revealed how it will assess the trial in order to decide whether Likes should be hidden across the platform around the world, saying only that it will measure “both qualitative and quantitative data”.
“We will gather feedback to understand whether this change will improve people’s experiences,” the company said.
Australian eSafety Commissioner Julia Inman Grant said it is a “positive step” from Facebook but “more can be done” by social media companies to improve the wellbeing of users.
“We actively encourage social media companies to do risk assessments up front and bake safety features into the design, deployment and development of a product or service, before it goes to market,” Inman Grant told ABC News.
The move comes amidst increasing concern about the impact of social media on the mental health of users around the world, especially young people.
A 2018 Pew Research study found that 43 per cent of teenagers aged between 13 and 17 surveyed in the US felt pressured to post content that made them look good to others, while 37 per cent said they also felt it was important to post content that got lots of Likes and comments.
Along with the disappearing Likes trials on Facebook and Instagram, the social networking giants are also looking to have an increased focus on the wellbeing of its users.
There will soon be a number of new features on Instagram, including an anti-bullying tool to warn users if they are about to comment something deemed to be bullying by artificial intelligence and a “restrict” feature, allowing a user to block someone without them knowing.
“We will make decisions that mean people use Instagram less if it keeps people more safe,” Instagram boss Adam Mosseri said.