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Facebook Wrestles With the Features It Used to Define Social Networking


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Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

As Facebook has confronted crisis after crisis on misinformation, privacy, and hate speech, a central issue has been whether the basic way that the platform works has been at fault.

Credit: Mel Haasch, Tom Brenner/The New York Times

In 2019, Facebook researchers began a new study of one of the social network's foundational features: the Like button.

They examined what people would do if Facebook removed the distinct thumbs-up icon and other emoji reactions from posts on its photo-sharing app Instagram, according to company documents. The buttons had sometimes caused Instagram's youngest users "stress and anxiety," the researchers found, especially if posts didn't get enough Likes from friends.

But the researchers discovered that when the Like button was hidden, users interacted less with posts and ads. At the same time, it did not alleviate teenagers' social anxiety and young users did not share more photos, as the company thought they might, leading to a mixed bag of results.

From The New York Times
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