We've been told time and again that social media impacts our happiness, that chasing likes and shares makes us less liked and less willing to share. But what can we realistically do about it? The usual advice, dispensed by a guy with slightly-too-wide-eyeballs in tones of desperation, is to "just delete Facebook" like he did, because he totally never looked back and definitely still gets invited to things. It's just that there have been no things lately. Probably. He doesn't have Facebook so he can't be sure.
The Facebook Demetricator browser plugin offers a different approach to this problem. You can still use the narcissistic network to your heart's content (and I say that as a fan), but without the number-chasing that's become a depressing part of its appeal. As its creator Benjamin Grosser puts it:
No longer is the focus on how many friends you have or on how much they like your status, but on who they are and what they said. Friend counts disappear. ’16 people like this’ becomes ‘people like this’. Through changes like these, Demetricator invites Facebook’s users to try the system without the numbers, to see how their experience is changed by their absence. With this work I aim to disrupt the prescribed sociality these metrics produce, enabling a network society that isn’t dependent on quantification.
Unlike the guy who deletes Facebook and then comes crawling back two weeks later, Grosser has long-term courage in his convictions. Demetricator was created back in 2012 and has been continually updated and improved since then, winning a Terminal Award in the process.
Image: Benjamin Grosser
The plugin is open-source and available free for Chrome, Firefox and Safari. If checking the code doesn't reassure you that this isn't a nefarious Russian invention to steal your fascinating meme chats, the FAQs give lots of details on its security credentials.
Of course, Facebook Demetricator only works for the Facebook you see. It doesn't remove anything from your actual profile, so if you get 500 likes on your pregnancy selfie, everyone else will still see that number. And it only works on machines you've installed it on.
Still, it's an interesting experiment - Grosser asks:
Would we add as many friends if we weren’t constantly presented with a running total and told that adding another is “+1”? Would we like as many ads if we weren’t first told how many others had liked them before us? Would we write as many status messages if Facebook didn’t reduce its responses (and their authors) to an aggregate value?