Instagram and Facebook Let Users Hide Likes. What’s In It for You?

And what’s in it for Facebook?

Key Takeaways

  • Users can now hide likes on all posts, or just on their own posts.
  • Likes help make social media “more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol.”
  • Influencers depend on likes to prove their worth.
Someone holding their thumb up in a "like" gesture, focus on the thumb.

engin akyurt / Unsplash

Instagram and Facebook now let you hide "likes," but what’s the point?

Facebook and Instagram users now have two new options. They can remove the likes display from their own posts, so nobody can see how many they have received. And they can also disable likes entirely, so the user cannot see them on any posts at all.

But will this make any difference at all? If likes are like crack to validation-seeking teens and adults, then what use is self-regulation? Surely there must be something in it for Facebook, itself?

"I suspect the reason they're pulling back is they've found enough people have become too sensitive to likes, to the point of fixation," Eli Holder, founder of psychology- and data-based designer company 3iap, told Lifewire via email. "If like counts completely substitute your other reasons for sharing, other more intrinsic motivations become less compelling."

Psychological Stimuli

Likes in social media serve many purposes. One is simply a way to bookmark a post. Another is to show the creator that you saw and/or liked their post. It’s when you get to the other side that things become more complicated.

According to a report by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), "Social media has been described as more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol," and is linked with increased anxiety in young people. Likes are used as a measure of social validation. 

"If like counts completely substitute your other reasons for sharing, other more intrinsic motivations become less compelling."

"The number of likes we receive relative to others affects both our social perception and our self-perception," Eric Dahan, CEO of influencer marketing agency Open Influence, told Lifewire via email. "If someone is getting less likes on average than their friends, that will cause them to feel less connected and less valued by their community."

Likes also are used as a metric for businesses to measure the success of promo campaigns and the reach of the shills, or "influencers" they use. 

"With social media now being major touch-points through which businesses and individuals can interact with the audience, 'likes' have become an important metric in their social media marketing strategies," blogger Tim Sutton told Lifewire via email. "A high number of likes proves your credibility, expertise, and authority."

What’s In It for Facebook?

Like any addiction, we enjoy it even though we know it’s bad for us. Without the feedback from likes, what’s the point of social media? Might we just stop posting? 

"Once that fixation [with likes] happens, then posting becomes an expectations game," says Holder. "If users don't expect a post to be well-received (e.g. not 'worthy' of mountains of likes), they won't post it."

This could be the reason behind Facebook’s semi-withdrawal of likes. People who don’t want them can turn them off. Teens with body-image problems, for example, might prefer not to play the validation game, while social media shills need those sweet likes to prove their value. 

A closeup of social media icons painted on a silver surface.

George Pagan III / Unsplash

Likes have turned into a complex ecosystem. Yanking them would cause far-reaching damage to Facebook’s platforms, but at the same time, keeping them has its own problems.

"I suspect the reason they're pulling back is they've found enough people have become too sensitive to likes, to the point of fixation," says Holder. "If like counts completely substitute your other reasons for sharing, other more intrinsic motivations become less compelling."

Dahan agrees, adding, "I think that Facebook is torn about removing likes."

"If they do, they risk alienating the creator community that depends on the social validation from likes to grow their following and validate their content to others. If they don’t, they risk discouraging some people in their regular user base from being active on the platform."

In some ways, this hedging around the issue of likes is pointless. It really doesn’t change anything. On the other hand, it’s like an excellent upgrade to user preferences. Now you can choose whether or not to participate in the whole "like" rat race, just like you can choose light or dark mode.

Was this page helpful?