Earlier this week, Facebook announced that users of its two platforms, Facebook and Instagram, will have the option to hide their “like” counts.
In a blog post titled, “Giving People More Control on Instagram and Facebook,” the social media giant wrote, “everyone on Instagram and Facebook will now have the option to hide their public like counts, so they can decide what works for them.”
“Starting today, we’re giving you the option to hide like counts on all posts in your feed,” Facebook wrote. “You’ll also have the option to hide like counts on your own posts, so others can’t see how many likes your posts get. This way, if you like, you can focus on the photos and videos being shared, instead of how many likes posts get.”
While Facebook’s policies regarding numerous areas impacting American society — most notably, politics — have been vastly inaccurate and arguably damaging, the introduction of the ability to hide “like counts” is a fantastic concept, particularly for those who suffer from various mental health problems which often come hand-in-hand with social media platforms — particularly Instagram.
While much of the early criticism of such a policy was related to professional “influencers” whose business model requires a public-facing gauge of post popularity — in other words, monetizing the question, “how many people liked this picture?” — the “like” feature of almost every social media platform can be an emotional minefield for the average user, and more notably, for younger users.
A “like count” is a deliberately public popularity contest, repeated time after time with each new post. By design, users find themselves seeking the short-lived endorphin rush of receiving one “like,” ten “likes,” even one hundred “likes.” It becomes hard to escape the proceeding belief that self-worth is somehow tied to a pseudo-democratic review determined by how many people press that “thumbs up” button.
This link between mental health and social media usage is certainly a valid concern supported by “the science.” In 2019, the American Psychological Association reported that rates of various forms of mental illness were on the rise among young people, linking “the rise to increased time spent on social media.” The Royal Society for Public Health also suggested that “social media may be fueling a mental health crisis” for younger users in, as HuffPost put it, “an unwinnable game of compare and contrast.”
In fairness to Facebook, they are facing an almost impossible task. The rise of the Internet, and social media more specifically, has triggered an unprecedented number of new societal problems and questions, for which time is a necessary factor in achieving any answers. This effectively makes every one of us a guinea pig in a societal experiment.
By acknowledging that the “like count” can have a negative impact, and offering the ability to shelter more vulnerable users from such impact while ensuring that the feature remains for those who wish to use it, they’re proving that they’re engaging in good faith.
In a world where Big Tech is routinely demonized, it’s important to call out the times when they take a step in a positive direction. This is one of those days.
Ian Haworth is an Editor and Writer for The Daily Wire. Follow him on Twitter at @ighaworth.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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