Earlier this year, Instagram began experimenting with hiding likes on posts, where followers of the poster could no longer see the number of likes on a particular post. Part of the reason for this change is to combat brands artificially inflating engagement and purchasing likes to do so. The firm further expanded the test to more markets, suggesting that the initial tests yielded positive results. Now, it looks like the parent company Facebook is beginning to test this feature on its app as well.
Spotted by Jane Manchun Wong, an individual famous for uncovering unreleased features by reverse engineering apps, the Facebook Android app prototype gets rid of the like/reaction counter for everyone else but the poster – similar to how it works on Instagram. This means that users will only be able to see the names of the people that have reacted to a particular post. The reaction count, however, is still available for the comments.
In addition to combating the nuisance of fake profiles and inorganic engagement, this feature would also be a part of the digital wellbeing efforts. Studies suggest that social media engagement and popularity may be linked to mental wellbeing. The absence of the number of likes/reactions would improve genuine engagement.
Thought Instagram has publicly acknowledged the existence of such a test, the feature seems to still be in its very early stages as far as the Facebook app is concerned. Given that Instagram is owned by Facebook, it makes sense that removal of reaction counts may roll out to the Facebook app as well. It will be interesting to see how the company communicates the change when and if it makes it out to the wider public, and how businesses and brands react to this.