Cast your mind back to 2014, and you might recall Mark Zuckerberg mulling the public’s desire to have a “dislike” button on Facebook.
During a public Q&A, the CEO presented button semantics as being something like a Marvel comics battle between good and evil, with the Like button presumably being, to his mind, a “force for good”: There’s something that’s just so simple about the ‘like’ button’ … but giving people more ways of expressing more emotions would be powerful. We need to figure out the right way to do it so it ends up being a force for good, not a force for bad and demeaning the posts that people are putting out there. But now, as a mounting body of research points to the number of content Likes – or lack thereof – negatively influencing some users’ self-esteem, it may be time to question whether the Like button might have turned out to be a force for bad.
Recent studies have linked increased depression, poor sleeping habits, and unhealthy body image in children and teens with higher use of social media and digital devices. To address the mess they’ve made, at this point, Instagram – which a 2017 study found to be the worst social media app for young people’s mental health – and Facebook are taking a serious look at the possibility of doing away with Likes. In April 2019, Instagram announced that it was running a test in Canada: it was hiding Like counts on some users’ photos and videos as an experiment to try to lessen competitiveness on the platform. The idea: to make us feel less envious, less ashamed, and more focused on self-expression rather than like we’re vying in a personality competition. It’s all about getting people to focus on the content they share, not the likes