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Facebook is rolling out a test to hide your likes

Posted at 7:06 AM, Sep 27, 2019

For the past decade, "likes" have been the chief currency of Facebook. It's the way we've determined how many people think our babies are cute, believe our jokes are funny and recognize our new jobs are impressive.

Facebook itself has been so synonymous with likes that the thumbs up icon for the like button was placed on the sign outside the company's headquarters.

Now, Facebook is rethinking this feature as part of a broader effort to make the social network less stressful to use.

On Thursday, the company said it will begin a test to hide the number of likes, reactions and video views from posts in Australia. The author of the post will still be able to see those metrics, but other users won't.

The test applies to posts from users and pages, as well as ads across Facebook. It will slowly roll out to the majority of Australian users.

"We are running a limited test where like, reaction, and video view counts are made private across Facebook. We will gather feedback to understand whether this change will improve people's experiences," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.

Earlier this month, the company said it was considering hiding like counts on the platform.

In April, Facebook-owned Instagram announced it would begin testing hiding like counts in Canada, in a move to help reduce pressure on the platform. It has since expanded the experiment to several other countries, including Ireland, New Zealand and Australia.

"We are testing this because we want your followers to focus on the photos and videos you share, not how many likes they get," an Instagram spokesperson said earlier this year.

Similarly to Instagram's test, it will say "[name of user] and others" under the Facebook post where likes and reactions would normally appear. Users can then click to see a list of the other Facebook users who have liked it, although they won't see a number saying how many.

Facebook and Instagram may see different results from their respective tests. On Instagram, users may feel more pressure to rack up the likes in comparison to Facebook.

But both tests could give the platforms insight into whether users feel more comfortable posting without public-facing likes, or whether that will hinder engagement and interactions.

CNN Business spoke with users in countries with the Instagram test, and most of them felt positively about the effort to improve wellbeing on the app.

"Likes are powerful because they are immediate feedback," Renee Engeln, a psychology professor at Northwestern University, previously told CNN Business. "In a way, likes give you the same kind of hit like a gambler gets at a slot machine."

However, some social media influencers who have built a business on Instagram said they have concerns about the test. Instagram personalities working with brands on sponsored content are paid, in part, based on the engagement of their posts, which includes likes.

Kamiu Lee, CEO of influencer marketing platform Activate, said the impact of Facebook hiding likes will likely be less of a concern for influencers.

"Instagram is a much bigger platform in the influencer space," she said. "A lot of influencers do post on Facebook, but more as a secondary amplification [of their content]. They really view Instagram or YouTube as their core channel."