Months after the news of Instagram hinting at hiding 'likes' from its platform, Facebook is reportedly following suit. Both social networks, which are under the same ownership, have often been called by critics as responsible for today's 'like-obsessed' culture. This may also have been one of the major reasons for the looming change. Weirdly enough, Facebook is almost synonymous to its Like feature, as it made the term a household jargon — and the social phenomena — it is today. The development of more 'Reaction Emojis' in the platform is also a testament to its influence. So what sparked this speculation in the first place and what may be its implications to us users?
It's all in the code
Rumours of Facebook soon hiding its Likes started with engineer Jane Manchung Wong's recent blog post, where she claims that while she's not affiliated with either Facebook or Instagram, she believes Facebook is limiting the Like/Emotion counter to a post's owner.
While the total general reactions can still be viewed, Wong describes the omission of the breakdown as a potential tech development working on its early stages. Furthermore, other iOS and Android users can still see the breakdown from their end post-update, so it was merely a prototype test conducted through a select number of users. This practice has been done by both Facebook and Instagram whenever they're working on a new tech for their apps.
The Facebook Demetricator
Apart from highlighting this discovery, Wong also highlighted in her blog post that Facebook hiding their own reaction emojis is offering nothing new to the table. Apparently, back in 2012, Benjamin Grosser, a then-graduate student at Univesity of Illinois, developed a browser extension called the Facebook Demetricator which allows users to hide all Facebook metrics once installed and enabled. This involves Friends count, engagement count, the number of pokes, waves you got, and so on.
"I aim to disrupt the prescribed sociality these metrics produce, enabling a network society that isn’t dependent on quantification," Grosser wrote on his website, which is still active. The browser extension is also still free to download and use. He continues to explain his decision to develop such a feature saying, "[Facebook's] relentless focus on quantity leads us to continually measure the value of our social connections within metric terms, and this metricated viewpoint may have consequences on how we act within the system."
The good, the bad, and the unlikely (pun intended)
It's safe to say that whether the platform really phases out Likes for good or not, it has played a massive role in today's social sphere. Almost every other platform relies on some form of approval or reaction system, much to Facebook's strong influence. And at this point, just like any other wave of technology that is directly correlated to our daily functions, it's time to weigh in the odds.
On the good side, Facebook hiding its Likes may ease tensions on our dependence for external approval. People might be more compelled to post for themselves again than for others. It will also reduce all those 'one like, one prayer' type of posts that promotes passivity rather than an actual form of action. Plus, it also encourages people to communicate with words again (via comments or private messaging) as a proactive and participative way of reacting. The removal of Likes might just bring true and actual engagement back.
Moving on to the flip side, many content creators and business entities have become reliant on Likes and Reactions as an actual key metric for success. After all, numbers are numbers and they're easier to measure quantitatively than vague words and comments. It also plays a big supporting role against Facebook's other functions like advertising, information amplification, and even measuring quick wins on certain personal ventures, which may affect many of its users.
With that, we can't help but ask if Facebook would really push through with potentially removing their Likes. After all, they did the same thing with Instagram. They were meant to roll it out to other regions, but we still see our Like functions on IG today. Facebook poses similar, if not more extensive, challenges and issue surrounding the removal of Likes, concerning not just individuals but bigger entities dependent on such features. Even Instagram's advertising functions are carried by Facebook.
Whether the reported move is a good or a bad thing is up for debate depending on who's listening, but at the end of the day, the power these Likes have over us, its users, should not be as controlling or manipulating as it seems to be.
While contemplating your two-cents about on this issue, what do you say about Facebook also wanting to pay you in exchange for your privacy?