The revenge of the nerds is truly upon us now. Facebook is now so worried about the feelings of the unpopular crowd on the platform that the company is testing hiding the iconic “Like” counts to see if it helps the poor dears whose moods are governed by social media acceptance and rejection.
If their post has lots of Likes, you feel jealous. If your post doesn’t get enough Likes, you feel embarrassed. And when you just chase Likes, you distort your life seeking moments that score them, or censor it fearing you won’t look popular without them.
That’s why Facebook is officially starting to hide Like counts on posts, first in Australia starting tomorrow, September 27th. A post’s author can still see the count, but it’s hidden from everyone else who will only be able to see who but now how many people gave a thumbs-up or other reaction.
That first paragraph is both sad and disturbing. It’s one of those things you think must be an exaggeration but, as someone who spends a lot of work-related time on social media, I know it’s true.
The post is titled “Facebook tries hiding Like counts to fight envy” and subtitled “End the popularity contest.” The fact that those words were written seriously makes me think society is lost already. Also, the only people who whine about popularity contests are those who have never been popular.
As with most of its changes to the user experience, Facebook has reasons that make it seem more like a totalitarian nanny state than a social media platform:
Facebook’s goal here is to make people comfortable expressing themselves. It wants users to focus on the quality of what they share and how it connects them with people they care about, not just the number of people who hit the thumbs-up.
Anyone who has ever spent more than fifteen minutes on Facebook knows that people expressing themselves is not close to being a problem. This is really just about the fact that the fragile participation trophy-era types are always one online interaction away from being scarred for life.
Ever since Facebook got caught letting the Russians have too much fun with it, the brain trust there has convinced itself that it is responsible for users’ political decisions, feelings, and personalities. As such, they also think they can be in complete control of the environment.
One of Facebook’s enduring traits is that virtually every new thing the company does to improve the user experience makes it worse.
This move may end up sending the envious weaklings into therapy.
PJ Media Associate Editor Stephen Kruiser is the author of “Don’t Let the Hippies Shower” and “Straight Outta Feelings: Political Zen in the Age of Outrage,” both of which address serious subjects in a humorous way. Monday through Friday he edits PJ Media’s “Morning Briefing.”