Recently, in what could be departure of its very essence, Facebook announced that the company is actually considering a play to hide likes. Most of the media jumped on the news immediately noting that the possibility of such action would be a welcome way to enhance the mental health of social media users by breaking the stress around what are, basically, validation seeking contests on a nanosecond level. Instagram, owned by Facebook, is said to have started to test phasing out likes as well. However, there’s much more to all this than currently meets the eye, and it could create an entirely new level of play on the social media scene that would impact any brand, personal or commercial.
Indeed, is interesting that Facebook would seek to take such action around something which has actually been a well-entrenched feature of the company for a full decade and that which is an integral part of much of the platform’s usage. And, to be clear about the actual potential change, according to reports such as that of CNET, likes would, in fact, still be viewable by the owner of the feed but not publicly displayed. This means that one could still take a snapshot of that private screen, post it and brag if so inclined, just as a side note.
However, beyond this point, there is much speculations about why Facebook is truly taking such actions. Some, such as TechCrunch, have said that the mental health position is a mere guise in order to conceal what has been said to be the declining usage of Facebook for years. Others have said that the move is a stealth one in order gently encourage users to push their content to Stories, in the case of Instagram, instead of static posts on one’s feed in order to leverage the massive and growing trend of video viewing across the Web.
No matter what the reason, if likes still exist on other social media platforms we utilize, what does it really mean if only Facebook and Instagram drop such metrics? Will new entrants burst onto the scene? Will current ones that offer validation see increased traffic? Or will an interesting, new twist development that ignites a new trend?
Watch for the latter because the fact of the matter is that general human behavior causes us to distinguish and delineate somehow since the beginning of time, no matter how stressful we say it is because the possibility of catching that brass ring of dopamine when we do, is just too luring for most to shun. But it’s also how our mind makes sense of the vast amounts of data it faces second by second. It creates categories and shuffles things into these categories fast. Sure, there’s error but our brain tends to put things into groups to operate as efficiently as possible. Groups and rankings tend to then just go together.
And as a much as we are moving toward an error of decentralization, we haven’t arrived there just yet. Most business offices, government agencies, hospitals and more have some kind of seniority ranking, hierarchy or otherwise pecking order. We rate, we pick sides, we align with political parties, we make decisions about people and rank them in our circles if they chose pop music over EDM, vanilla ice-cream over chocolate. Movie box office rankings for opening weekend, CEO rankings via stock market movements; you name, it’s somehow tied to a rank and a judgment about that rank. We want to know, for the most part, who is in, who is out. For better or worse, this is the level at which human collective consciousness operates at the moment.
So even if likes went away, what about popularity by, say, number of followers becomes even more important? Identity is such a massive and growing trend narrative in our culture that it’s hard not to see some kind of workaround not being created and simply shifting the carrot we horses who use social media.
We are an aspirational sort so that even if the goal moves from say, designer handbags to the more lofty pursuit of yoga practice, there still seems to be some tug toward who can hold the pose longer and at which exclusive yoga studio – and posting it. It is cultural intelligence which should tell us that behaviors that are truly entrenched only shift, they do not disappear given that there is perceived value within them that is very, very deep and perhaps even primal.
Watch For Something New
Though not often discussed there is a massive market, though controversial, where the selling of likes and more is a thriving business. Famoid is, social media services company that, in a rare offering, provides insight into their business, the social media user psyche and a bit of intriguing industry forecast.
Says Daniel Smith, Famoid CEO, “Getting rid of likes on Facebook and Instagram would be a massive change, one that will impact the way people use these platforms. Avoiding self-censorship and ‘like envy’ are supposedly the objectives, but I believe that this change fails to fix what it claims.”
He continues, “Liking content has been the easiest way to show appreciation for social media content. All it takes is one click, and most users love that simplicity. If the update rolls out on both platforms across all countries, this could force users to turn to other means of showing appreciation since they know clicking the like button wouldn’t be seen by the general public. Commenting is the most obvious alternative, but this ushers in problems revolving around language barriers. How can a non-native English speaker leave a thoughtful comment on an English post?”
Indeed, Adina Mahalli, a certified mental health expert and family care expands on this thought and adds another problem, “The potential demise of ‘likes’ from Facebook could mean that the comments section of posts becomes much more focused. Essentially, the mental health benefits of removing your self-worth from the number of likes you get may be promising, but what’s missing from most of these conversations about this topic is that likes aren’t the only factor of posts that harm mental health. Trolling in the comments section is still very much an issue, and there’s reason to believe that the removal of ‘likes’ has the potential to take this to an entirely new level, and these companies definitely aren’t ready for that.”
Smith agrees with Mahalli and feels that there may be some truth in the findings that excessive social media use can be detrimental to the mental health of users, especially among the younger generation, but he too feels that hiding the like count is only a band-aid solution.
Famoid says its most popular services are Facebook and Instagram Growth tools. As a company that has grown exponentially given that, influencer marketing has been increased at an incredible rate, Famoid has a unique perspective and some bold forecasts for what we can all expect next in the social media scene.
“First of all, we believe likes won’t go away for good,” says Smith. “Given that the post author can still see the likes, this means that third-party tools like ours may still have access to the like count even if it can’t be seen the public.” Smith says that means that likes will continue to have a purpose and says that an influencer marketing agency with a tool that can see the number of likes of a particular post can have a better chance of evaluating the fit of a prospective influencer to a brand, fills a business void and could be the next big thing in the social media business world.
“But if this update calls for even more serious change, then we and others will be ready to adapt,” promises Smith. “Perhaps comments will be the next social signal that marketers will rave about because they show involvement. Or it will be something else. And if that time comes, we’ll be sure to be ahead of the competition in offering the highest quality social media commenting service. It’s always going to always be all about the numbers.”