For the past six months, Facebook has been experimenting with like-hiding on Instagram in several countries. As some media suggest, Facebook could be next. The company claims it is testing how to prevent people from destructively comparing themselves to others. Instead of fixating on likes, Facebook hopes people will focus their attention on what they post. Moreover, they believe deleting the like button could lead to more honest, spontaneous and free behavior, as it might make people less anxious about the popularity of their posts.
The like button is part of the core of Facebook’s business model because it captures and holds consumers’ attention, thus time. At first sight, changing this might effectively harm the profitability of advertising. However, Facebook is becoming less popular among youth, who instead use other platforms, such as Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat. Day-to-day activities are not often posted on Facebook anymore, but rather the more standalone and special events such as weddings or new job announcements. As a result of the decline in use, people might worry that their special events will not attract many likes,causing them not to post about them at all. The like button might currently thus prevent users from posting something and ultimately cause the demise of Facebook usage altogether. Therefore, some claim Facebook is worried that the like-button ultimately has negative effects for the company itself and that this is the real reason for removing it.
Consumer behavior changes constantly and ethical sensitivity towards social media has grown. Removing like-counts could be a part of this, certainly when it doesn’t affect advertising income too much. Facebook and other social media will keeprethinking the fundamental design principles of social media. To counteract the further decline in Facebook usage, the company could learn from successful smaller platforms, which are less dependent on advertising. For example, Twitch is creating new foundations in terms of engagement or interactive social media use. The structure of moderated discussion onReddit might be a good strategy for battling fake news and Strava and Figure1 show that even niches are a viable option for social media design.