As one of the people who initiated the hidden likes test on Instagram, I can confidently and authoritatively say you're incorrect. There was no ill intent. It was solely to see if we could make people feel less self conscious by decreasing social comparison. Our hope was to decrease the pressure normal people feel about sharing their lives with their friends and family. We thought this might improve some long-term metrics, but once we discussed the rationale for the test with leadership, the well-being opportunity trumped any impact on metrics--positive or negative.
Also, we [IG] did this first, and we started it for the right reasons. Blue followed our lead. Believe it or not, there are people who give a shit about well-being at FB.
[edited because jazzy was right that I was too harsh]
Besides, even if it was proposed with good intentions there could have been other, aligned agendas that helped it make it into the product
Reddit has been fuzzing scores for years to trip up bots, it’s a good strategy, prevents your enemy from having accurate information. 
Also demetricating was conceived 7 years ago (!) by Ben Grosser 
[edit Thanks for the edit]
This is undoubtedly true of most maligned corporations out there, they are enabled by many well-intentioned people, but the physics of the situation remain. If something makes a meaningful dint to the bottom line (in a way that can't be offset by intangibles like public-relations wins etc.), someone at a higher-level is likely to veto it. This is where organized labor can be a force for good by facilitating internal protest.
Also there might not be any explcit intent for your team to impelemt the above but sometimes these things emerge as slow influence that comes from the guiding hand of top level influence over time. A healthy dose of skepticism regarding social media is more than warranted, you can't be upset that anyone would be led to think that after the 2 decades of such decisions made by social media giants
Especially given Facebook's atrocious track record
I don't presume to know the full story of how this feature came to be inside your company, I'm assuming from your comment that this initiative was created organically by employees for noble reasons. Do you admit the possibility that management may have had different motivations to agree to this idea? There's no reason why both of us can't be correct. You might have your own incentive behind this idea, management might have another.
Under the assumption that you place yourself among them, I'd suggest not writing "you are full of shit" when you disagree with what someone wrote. They simply stated that it was their suspicion, and went so far as to highlight that it may sound conspiratorial.
edit: comment has been edited - appreciated
My question is: do you honestly think that people should share their private lives with their friends and family through a public, global platform owned by a giant corporation? Maybe that's part of the problem.
You can have your IG posts set to private and only those who follows you see them. You just have to make sure those you accept their follow request are people you want to share with.
Same for Facebook. One can't have 5,000 Facebook friends and worry about their content being public when you chose to accept friend requests from thousands of people you don't know.
For a very very long time, my Twitter feed was my private journal for things I didn't want to forget because my account was private and wouldn't accept follow request from anyone while I'm able to follow accounts that interests me.
This isn't Facebook's problem as far as I can tell.
While I trust and respect your stance, you may have been just a "useful idiot" in this.
It'd be a good thing, if it's left to stand. You _should_ be happy/proud about _that_. But I'd not waste my life going out of my way to advocate for the rationale behind it.
I don't agree with a LOT of what Facebook (and Instagram) does, but I also don't think everything they do is with the intent of evil.
However, I think I was pretty clear.
"It was solely to see if we could make people feel less self conscious by decreasing social comparison." - the main goal
"Our hope was to decrease the pressure normal people feel about sharing their lives with their friends and family." - if we achieve the main goal, this ~might~ happen.
"We thought this might improve some long-term metrics" - on the off chance this happens, we ~might~ benefit in the long run.
Is this really different from "I suspect that the recent trend of social media platforms hiding engagement metrics has less to do with fighting 'envy' than simply allowing for more authentic looking proliferation of promoted content" ?
I think so. Seems like a pretty indirect way of driving user engagement.
Yup, I've found its a typical reaction from Facebook employees on this site to attack commenters and rationalize any time negative critiques are brought up, although the extreme defensiveness is pretty telling
I don't know what makes you certain you know the answers even though you've looked at none of the data. Do you have some other sources?
As somebody who followed the stories about FB and it's practices in the recent years, I can confidently tell you that by now it is obvious that FB as a company is acting like a sociopathic entity. Even if the individuals working there believe they are doing good, the outcome as a whole always tend to look the opposite.
So even if GP is full of shit, it is way more believabe than what you are saying simply because fits the general narrative about FB - every single thing FB does is about exploiting pesonal data and human behaviour.
If people really cared about the well being of others, they wouldn't work at Facebook. I'm sure the fat checks are nice though
When I realised what this thing is, I realised it's a nothingburger for me.
Pity I can't control the monster instead of having some decisions, made in a remote conference room, that are no use to me, rammed down my throat.
You have your feature turned on? Well that's because you're a big shot and you feel you'll get the likes to show it off.
You have your feature turned off? Well that's because you know you simply won't get any likes and we all know that. Now you're 'depressed'.
I'd say it also helps the platform hide a potential fake users problem. For instance, you can no longer see the low engagement on users' posts who paid for followers.
Don't "risk" sounding conspiratorial. Embrace sounding conspiratorial!
In my circles, what used to be one hundred likes now is a dozen. Most posts only have one or two likes.
If this trend is similar across Facebook to hide the counts makes sense to hide the lack of interest.
Or, it could be that Facebook has changed and they are changing their business model. My bet is that hey really want to hide the lack of interaction and still don't care for the results of their actions.
But I'm not sure what I am experiencing is true for other age groups. My boomer generation parents still use facebook heavily as does my early 20s cousin. I suspect there is just a general move away from social media in certain age brackets, but not in others.
I also feel cognisant that my kid, though they’re too tiny to debate the matter, is too young to give consent to me posting their picture all over social media. So I think something more complex might be going on here.
Or it could be my own cognitive bias reading into the situation and seeing something that isn’t there.
Make some younger and cuter FB friends that have growing social circles because they're in uni and you'll see some impressive numbers on the scoreboard again.
I think this explains a lot more of HNer commentary on FB than people like to admit. "In my personal experience, only old people use FB. My feed is full of parents posting about their children, ugh. FB didn't use to be like this when I was in uni 12 years ago!"
Nevermind MySpace,friendster, Hi5 or xing you had the biggest aol. Then you had messenger programs (aim, icq, yahoo, msn, etc). You had irc.
You had blogging or photo communities like flickr or meetup.com for events.
Facebook, twitter and reddit were around just not as popular.
Friendster was dead, Myspace was in decline (mainly because FB opened up to everyone besides college students), nobody I knew in the USA used Hi5 or xing.
Flickr, meetup, and IRC existed and still exist but they were never the primary social network for the "younger and cuter" college crowd.
If you wanted to connect with your cute classmate 12 years ago, it was almost certain she had a Facebook. It would no longer be certain today.
I actually miss the 2007-era Facebook. No likes, no timeline algorithm, no shares/reposts made for a fun experience at the time.
This is true, but...
> Young people don't use Facebook anymore.
That's an oft repeated trope, but you sure about that?
The level of engagement of Gen-Z is much lower than previous generations on Facebook, but most college students still use it. The majority of non-Gen-Z Americans are still on Facebook.
If my anecdotal evidence does hold true for the larger population, I think that helps to explain why it feels like everyone is saying they don't use Facebook, but Facebook continues to post solid user numbers.
Yeah, they use Messenger to coordinate group projects and homework...
Prolific users tend to hit a wall that paralyses them. As their audience grows, they go from comfortably posting whatever takes their fancy to fretting over metrics and all the gaming that goes on. Is this photo good enough? Is it spectacular? Will it struggle to get stats and embarrass me?
I've seen people go from regular users to just seizing up and posting nothing for weeks on end. Longer they pause, the bigger the pressure to resume. One friend of mine was basically full-time on Instagram as an influencer and then just stopped for months and months.
I think if they're hiding likes, it's almost entirely because it's hurting their overall engagement, not because they care about people.
All the networks seem to be realizing that wasn't such a grand idea and are now experimenting with unraveling these features. It's an implicit admission we've all been wasting our time making the world a worse place.
It's not just a feature, it's the core business model.
All depends on who you follow.
At an AI conference Stuart Russell said mathematically Envy = Sadism
Political disengagement is the modal average political affiliation. Incentives that make partisans angrier and shoutier on your platform are likely to backfire with the politically disengaged.
So maybe in the short run this is true, but over a longer time horizon, fostering an environment where "petty flamewars" proliferate is going to alienate a lot of users, to the point where attrition may outweigh any engagement benefits gained.
I don't know what specifically Facebook did to encourage that level of vitriol, but for whatever reason I consistently saw more rudeness and bickering on Facebook than anywhere else I spend time online. For instance, I was in a group for vintage Ducati motorcycles, and half the comments were bickering about petty details, whereas posting on a forum would almost always lead to helpful information or compliments on the bike.
Facebook may just be starting to reap what they sowed; petty flame wars definitely drive up engagement for a short period until they start driving other users away. The people involved in the argument definitely check back much more often to ensure they got the last word in, and users leaving isn't always as visible.
I don't think you could really do much damage, also because posts themselves (as opposed to comments) can't be downvoted (unless that's behind some other karma milestone I can't reach yet).
Acquiring karma is a game. If you know how to play to game you can get a 1000 in a week easily. Its much easier to gain karma than lose karma though.
Social media metrics deeply influence their behavior (and the behavior of their fan clubs). Too many of them justify what they do because they think the like counts validate it.
So presumedly Facebook has a metric that models a user’s well being and values engagement more.
if you can see a list of who has reacted, you can still tally it up to see what the number of reactions are
Chocolate cake while cool everyone will like it.
Me sharing my dog is missing or I have a garage sale gives actual value to the platform.