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Would the internet be healthier without 'like' counts? (2019) (wired.com)
58 points by headalgorithm 15 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 23 comments

Addicts never want you to cut their supply off.

Social media is a video game as much as World of Warcraft is. There's no value judgment there; I enjoy video games. I liken it to video games to suggest that perhaps playing video games 5 hours a day constantly isn't healthy, that you probably shouldn't be playing video games while on the clock, that real life usually has a more lasting impact on your well-being than video games, and that, like other addictive behaviors, they often mask a void in a person's life that may be better being addressed directly.

Also, I'm still salty that the general public would've snubbed private Internet use as nerdy in the early 2000s and now has no problem being addicted out in public to the point of awkwardly ignoring real life conversations.

As someone who worked at a rather popular social media company through the transition from "we're helping people connect" to "we're making all the money in the world" — not really.

In my opinion, it's not the likes themselves that ruin the internet; the like count is simply the number of people who agree or empathize with something. It's the algorithms that boost content that is likely to get more interactions and demote everything else. When I started, we didn't have much in the way of recommended anything. Your newsfeed was literally a list of posts made by the people and communities you follow, in a reverse chronological order, and nothing else. You had complete control over it. There were likes and reposts, but there was no way for something to be surfaced to a large audience without a bunch of people intentionally sharing it to their followers, retweet-style.

Without the algorithms meddling with what they see, people (usually) don't tend to chase like/share counts as much. There were civil discussions. People were simply talking to their followers by posting things — with no incentive to abandon everything human and become a "blogger". It was beautiful.

Yes absolutely. People are not able to draw accurate conclusions from the demographic of viewers vs voters to draw meaningful conclusions from like counts. It breeds thoughtless support / activism. “Why learn about a topic of concern when I could just like Sarah’s post and everyone will know that I’m down for the cause.”

Coincidentally I was reading about this yesterday in the journal Science. They discuss concerns about "clicktivism", symbolic actions such as liking social media content. In short, you don't need to worry that people are substituting low-effort liking for real political action. Research shows that online political activities are positively correlated with offline political engagement. People who are strongly interested in politics tend to express that interest both online and offline. They also state that even low-cost digital activities can sum to substantial efforts.


Well, except that like counts alone don't make it so that "everyone will know" you support a given comment or cause.

This site, for instance, used to have like counts, but you could not see who liked (or disliked) a given post or comment. You could only see the number.

I personally liked it that way, although I understand why the site admins decided to do away with the visible # of likes for comments.

Well you can’t tell the number of likes in the positive direction but based on the shade of grey you can tell how negative it is haha

Healthy way to use social media is to avoid anything that garners likes. Don't post things that are approval or attention seeking. Just use it for exchanging messages with people you know, or asking genuine questions. I stopped posting to my Instagram feed, but I do use Instagram Stories which aren't likeable. Also, stop liking others' stuff. When you avoid the "social currency," you cease to be played and deprive these companies a little of their data feed on you.


A few years ago I installed a browser extension that removed display of likes from Facebook posts. I could still like things, but when I made a post or a comment I wouldn’t be able to know how my friends reacted.

I didn’t expect this, but it made me feel way more free when I posted. A lot of my anxiety went away, and I posting or commenting felt more like an act of personal expression rather than a performance that would be judged by my friends. I highly recommend giving it a try if you can.

Cool! Maybe HN could add a feature that hides your own like-number (in the top right corner) so that even the last remnants of "gaming" your likability can be eradicated from HN? (at least for those who then do hide their number in their config options) edit: o wait, there's already a discussion about this :)

I mostly use the app Materialistic, which does not show vote numbers on your comments. Went through a phase of using the website more (I'd really rather use a pc than phone), but found that the existence of the page that shows your comments (/threads?id=username, I think) warped my behavior in ways I didn't like (compulsively scanning for new replies, thinking about how upvoted different of my posts were. The app has a similar page, but notably it doesn't provide a way to see replies to your comments -- without scores or replies, there's not much incentive to check it. I also enabled email notifications using hnreplies.com, so I wouldn't have to worry about missing replies I might care about, overall it's worked out well and I I'm back to just commenting when I feel like it.

Yes. Wish there was a way to disable points and karma on HN

I'm using the following stylesheet to hide scoring on HN:

    /* Hide score */

    /* Top bar */
    #hnmain>tbody>tr:nth-child(1)>td>table>tbody>tr>td:nth-child(3)>span {
      font-size: 0 !important;

    #hnmain>tbody>tr:nth-child(1)>td>table>tbody>tr>td:nth-child(3)>span * {
      font-size: 10pt !important;

    #hnmain>tbody>tr:nth-child(1)>td>table>tbody>tr>td:nth-child(3)>span>a:nth-child(1) {
      margin-right: 20px !important;

    /* Main page and discussion page */
    #hnmain>tbody td.subtext span.score {
      display: none !important;

    /* Profile page */
    #hnmain>tbody>tr:nth-child(3)>td>form>table>tbody>tr:nth-child(3) {
      display: none !important;

    /* Threads page */
    #hnmain .comhead .score {
      display: none !important;
It's hacky, but I have this since ~5 years and it has been quite stable.

It's not on the chrome store, but I have a dumb browser extension to enable/disable: https://github.com/dgellow/hn-no-pressure.

Or you could add a single line to uBlock Origin (in 'my Filters' )


Thanks I'm doing that now, always the person who prefers to spend ma karma instead of hoard it. Bury me deep all you want, got tha fingers in the ears

You got anything similar to keep downvoted comments from being discolored? It’s a bit of an accessibility issue for me.

    .c00, .c00 a:link { color:#000000; }
    .c5a, .c5a a:link, .c5a a:visited { color:#000000; }
    .c73, .c73 a:link, .c73 a:visited { color:#000000; }
    .c82, .c82 a:link, .c82 a:visited { color:#000000; }
    .c88, .c88 a:link, .c88 a:visited { color:#000000; }
    .c9c, .c9c a:link, .c9c a:visited { color:#000000; }
    .cae, .cae a:link, .cae a:visited { color:#000000; }
    .cbe, .cbe a:link, .cbe a:visited { color:#000000; }
    .cce, .cce a:link, .cce a:visited { color:#000000; }
    .cdd, .cdd a:link, .cdd a:visited { color:#000000; }
Whilst those class names can seem somewhat random, they actually refer to the original color names, so should be pretty stable for an override.

This is a silly exercise in scapegoating really that forgets about some of the downsides of traditional message boards. There the most recent posts were what brought it up by default - no likes required. Of course this isn't a measure of how relevant they are. All of those bits spilled for a stupid persistent idea of "the mirror made us ugly!".

The question is not so easy to answer. HN's 'Like' Counts somewhat helps rank content and thus save me time to check out the top stories. It's not bullet proof and many great posts get lost. But it's somewhat of a helpful tool to organise information.

The same goes for Google search results. One could say they are organised by 'likes' (how many pages link to that particular page).

So while on the surface, the gut reaction is YES. Kill the like button. The reality is that it's somewhat of a useful mechanism as well to quickly find what's relevant in the sea of content.

“Likes” are just one technique among many for increasing engagement/addiction. The core problem is the ad-based business model, that incentivizes companies to make addictive products.

What if the rule was that aggregators could not also be advertising platforms? If you’re both linking to stuff and selling attention, it creates tons of perverse incentives, whereas if you’re just creating content and selling ads, the incentives were better aligned. Notice that the 20th century saw a big shift to centerist media because that’s where the money was, and now we’re seeing the opposite.

That rule sounds more geared towards punishing "felony interference with a business model" and gatekeeping than anything else. Content is fundamentally valueable because it gets attention in the first place regardless of who pays for it!

How can the government pass a law that is a felony?

Yeah, too bad there isn't a website that understand this issue, and has never had like counts, and whose participants largely deride the idea of like counts-and have for a long, long time.

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