Social media companies experiment with changes


NATIONAL, (WCIA) — Social media companies are conducting an experiment that could change the way you use their sites.

The head of Instagram announced the platform will start hiding “likes” from feeds in the U.S. Facebook is running the same trial in other countries. The goal is to help young people by removing the pressure of competition.

Here’s what some users have to say:

“I feel like a lot of people would be upset about that.”

Maegen Kincanon

“It’ll help people stop focusing on getting validation externally from other people.”

Ray Petroski

“Whenever I’m on Instagram, the first thing my eye goes to is the likes. So it’s almost, it’s a popularity contest.”

Donte Winslow

The original poster would be able to see how many people liked their picture, but their followers would not be able to. If an article catches your eye on Facebook, you wouldn’t be able to see how many people before you have liked it. That leads to the question — will people still click?

“From a user point of view, seeing something’s being liked will more likely cause someone to share it because ‘oh that’s really interesting’ … so by not having that visual cue … will that hinder people’s desire to share?” asks Mike Yao. He’s the head of the Charles H. Sandage Department of Advertising at the U of I. Yao studies social media and the impact it has on people.

“People are now paying more attention to the impact of these big technologies … the technology firms on society,” says Yao.

Some say the experiment with “likes” could help users’ mental health. Studies show spending a lot of time scrolling can cause symptoms of depression, especially in kids.

There’s another side of social media, though. It’s not about competing with your friends to get more attention — it’s about money. Influencers get paid from posts, companies advertise and network and they all use “likes” to track engagement. This potential change would mean some re-adjusting.

“There’s a ripple effect on the strategy, the planning, the kind of data they can gather and to what extent they can use social media as a platform to achieve marketing and advertising goals,” says Yao.

We don’t yet know what Instagram or Facebook will find out from this experiment, or if they’ll make it permanent. Regardless of what happens, Yao says talking about all of this is a good place to start.

“It’s weaved into all walks of life — that a serious discussion on the various social, cultural, political, behavioral issues is important,” he says.

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