Jen Golbeck Shares Thoughts on the Psychological Effects of 'Likes' on Social Media Posts

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Twitter and Instagram Are Starting to Imagine a World Without ‘Likes’

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Original Story by Alyssa Newcomb
Fortune

The “like” is one of the most valuable metrics on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, letting people know that their posts are appreciated while also helping those social media services better decide which content to show first, or which ads a user is most likely to click on.

They’ve also turned social media into a popularity contest, taking the focus away from higher-quality posts and conversations. “Likes” have been shown to light up the same reward circuitry in the brain as winning money or eating chocolate, according to a 2016 study from the Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center at University of California at Los Angeles

During a time when big tech is under scrutiny and is being forced to re-examine some of its core features, Twitter and Instagram have both shown they’re at least ready to consider a world without “likes.”

When Jen Golbeck’s dog died a few years ago, she posted a few photos and a note on social media. She was surprised her friends didn’t immediately “like” her post.

It turns out, Golbeck, a professor of computer science at the University of Maryland’s College of Information Studies who studies social media, accidentally had the post set to private. But she said the experience demonstrated just how powerful social media likes are to everyone, whether they realize it or not.

“I don’t think it is bad or shallow. We want people to like us,” Golbeck told Fortune.

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