On Facebook, the like button has quickly become one of the most powerful tools for interaction. It's the holy grail, the ultimate symbol for success to get many likes on something. People are generously donating them when it comes to statuses, they're giving them away in abundance for their friends' vacation pictures, and the likes of it.
On the other end of the spectrum, people rarely give their like lightly (tongue twister!!) to big companies or products - even if they really like them. Maybe they fear it would make those companies too powerful, or them, a target for advertisement. But that's not all there is.
Likes are just as well used inflationary, or diametrically opposite, like a dangerous weapon; and sometimes even handled with kid gloves. And that's where the oddity of the whole like-issue comes into play. There are countless reasons and motivations. A like can say so much...
1. The sincere like
I saw a movie a zillion years ago, which I have fond memories of. That movie isn't well-known amongst film afficionados, and it never was a sales hit. I guess most of my friends don't know it, and if they did, I think the large majority of them wouldn't like it. It got a lot of bad reviews. They'd probably be a little embarrassed for me, that I like it. Still, I openly commit to it. But that's just one example. I hardly ever don't care! This is one of those rare and sincere likes, from the earlier days of Facebook.
2. The political like
There are some causes I openly affiliate with on Facebook - although the approach itself is not always something I fully stand behind. Still, I can like it, as a way of nailing my colors to the mast. As a matter of principle, The Newsroom got my like on Facebook - not because I love the series for its entertainment value (actually it could be better in that department), but because it makes some valid, and profoundly American points in regards to the current state of journalism, which I agree with. So it gets my like despite not reaching its full potential. The political like is the most ardent like of all. It says I like, I passionately like. And I generously overlook flaws, because the whole cause is important.
3. The awareness like
Cancer has a Facebook fanpage with more than 20.000 likes. Now, to be clear, these aren't exactly people who run around with Yay for Cancer sweatshirts. They like that page because they are aware of the disease's importance. On the spectrum of negatives, cancer is too important to ignore. Now, the freaky thing is, we needed Facebook to teach us a valuable lesson about denial: in fact, some things are important despite us not liking them, and that's why there is such a thing as a cancer fanpage. It's self-evident that people who like the page aren't sick sarcastic bastards who want others to die. They hate cancer, and that's why they create awareness by liking it.
4. The pity like
One of the worst likes there is, really. Unfortunately sometimes I get the feeling it's the most common and abused of them all. The pity like involves giving a thumbs-up to something you really don't like, but feel sorry for. Sometimes we mean well by pretending to like something. And then there is pity, which is a devious motivation, many a times. Paying tribute to someone for an achievement, although not viewing it as an achievement ourselves, is a flat out lie. The key word is ugly babies. Of course. I'm talking about liking an ugly baby, solely because we care for the people who created THAT. And since we know, they are happy with the outcome, it's no harm done in us liking the creature, right? Right?!!
5. The ambiguous like
There is a seamless transition from pity to schizo. The ironic, and malicious like, such as that pic of a haircut, which we really don't like, but pretend to like because it's so horrible, we're enchanted by its exoticism. Or the badly lit, blurred photo of still lifes, taken by the aspiring photographer, which we don't like but we say we do, because we think it's the best they can do. That like says something even meaner. It wants to express: you peaked, my friend. Better give it up. And the worst thing is, we intend to shut them up with our like!
However, if someone wants an honest or professional opinion about something, the best way is still to ask for it directly. Better than being crushed by a wave of insincere likes that could mean anything.
To like or not to like - there is so much involved in this seemingly simple act. It's just one click, but it can tell us a myriad of things about the person doing it.
Modern-times critics believe that with further advancements in digital media, our humanly setup will change to the same extent as progress goes, in the sense that they expect us turning into socially stunted Kaspar Hausers at some point.
So far, I haven't noticed that being the case. Regardless of why we like or not like, not wanting to openly offend people's feelings still plays an important part in the world of social media, as in real life, and building consensus amongst our group is what we strive for.
Although sitting behind a screen, far far away from other people, we're aware that we are never detached from interactions we take part in. And yet, we fancy ourselves autonomous creatures! But like with any other choice in life, it really isn't an isolated event what we do, or when we do it. There is cause and effect in liking. We're, after all, primates, social animals, playing on the claviature of social complexities all the time.
And since empathy works across long distances - it's a good thing we have those likes being there, saying what they say, the most rudimentary form of communication. Even when they're insincere; Yes or No, that's what we're saying. Everything else is up to idle speculation. It's fun to think about, nevertheless!