At first, it was just something I did. A picture, a link that you’d put up or just a witty remark, if it made me smile, my finger instinctively ran over the mouse. Click and there it was.
I “liked” it, and you knew that I did.
It was simple. There was just one real rule. It made me smile – either because it was witty and humorous or because it’s nice to see you enjoy life and this was a way I could partake in your joy.
It was just that innocuous – self-centered (and I don’t mean that negatively) but innocuous.
Or so I thought.
The anatomy of a “like” is apparently far more complex than I would have liked it to have been. And it all began to unravel with a polite “thank you.”
The “like” on Facebook is unlike any other button. It is strangely amorphous – a creature of context.
There’s first the simple ones: the I-enjoyed-it like; the I-enjoyed-your-product like; the compliment like; the I-support-this-company or endorse-this-celebrity-or-product like; and the reciprocal like.
Then there are the more complex ones: the I-am-so-thrilled-for-you like; the sarcastic like; the I-can’t believe-it like; the I-am-too-lazy-to-comment like; the I-am-too-cool-to-comment like; the even-if-you-don’t-I-like-myself like; the I-like-but-don’t-want-to-get-into-a-conversation like; and my personal favorite – the routine like.
It isn’t exhaustive as a list, but it is a starting point.
And just like the “like,” the responses to a “like” are unlike the innocent words that we take them to be.
While it’s not for one to define what the appropriate etiquette would be – after all Facebook is a flat world without hierarchy and rules – looking at responses can often tell you a lot about the reasons behind posting something and that person’s state of mind and intention in doing so.
Barring the compliment “like” and the likes like the I-enjoyed-your-product like; there are few instances where I can see a reason for one to respond to a like.
For example: a “thank you” for a picture of mine, i.e., compliment like, is fair, understood and probably even the polite thing to do, and so is 0the case for a response for liking a product that one has put out – creative or otherwise.
But even in these cases, just a “like” is perhaps the least that one could like it. It smacks of lethargy. There’s a reason why there is a comment somewhere and at other places there’s just a “like.”
But a “thank you” for liking a thought I had; a general wonderment; a statement of fact etc, is just absurd. At its best, it suggests the intent of exhibition – a kind of performance or a show wherein the “likes” are treated as the response of an appreciative audience.
While that may seem harmless, it’s intoxicating. And it would take a strong will to not get engaged in a cycle of performance and related anxiety – you need to keep outdoing yourself or your stock dips.
At its worst, it probably hints at a serious need for acknowledgment; a sense of being thankful for being heard. And it perhaps even suggests a reality that isn’t fulfilling enough, thereby creating a need for deriving gratification from the virtual world.
So the next time you “like” something or respond to a “like,” think again. What’s the real reason? Do you really like it, or is the cycle of “like” concealing far more than it reveals.
Remember, the seemingly innocuous is often a mask for something deeper – and perhaps darker than we’d like it to be.
(BTW: I really hope you “like this” :))