The Dangers of ‘Like’ Culture

Who doesn’t want to be liked?

Apart from Holden Caulfield – and that’s up for debate too.

On Facebook, as in most of life, it can be difficult to take a position that may turn out to be unpopular. If you post something many of your friends don’t ‘like’ it increases your sense of isolation. Even more intimidating, it can make you feel as though people are judging you for your dissenting opinion. And you’re right, they probably are judging you.

An interesting article by Neil Strauss on the Wall Street Journal website compares mining for likes to stand-up comedians practicing jokes:

A status update that is met with no likes (or a clever tweet that isn’t retweeted) becomes the equivalent of a joke met with silence. It must be rethought and rewritten. And so we don’t show our true selves online, but a mask designed to conform to the opinions of those around us.

A mask is such a good metaphor in this instance. We do so often hide behind our on-line personas like revelers at a masquerade. Me included.

But what are these things that people ‘like’?

Videos of cats doing stupid things.

Videos of babies laughing.

Photos of a person that needs you to ‘like’ it to make their life better: I need 50,000 likes or my dad won’t stop beating me. (Ok – that’s a bit much, but you get the idea).

Moderately clever sayings that are a twist on a traditional/well-known saying. Even I have to admit liking the “I Don’t Always…” meme:


Plus pseudo-scientific feel-good BS. The kind that usually starts with ‘energy’ and ends with ‘power of love.’ To which I say:


And if you follow George Takei, anything about being gay. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Which leads me to my main point. People who ‘like’ the above things are not wrong to do so. And their friends – gasp, even their friends – are entitled to point out an opposing point of view without being vilified. Unfortunately, people get ‘called out’ for saying they dislike something, or find it offensive themselves, or anything that is not a positive endorsement of the original post. There’s no point in getting into endless arguments about things that don’t matter, but what’s the harm in friends having a back-and-forth discussion (sans name calling) about the merits of a certain post?

For example:

First Kiss video


First Handjob video

Sure, the handjobs video is a bit crass. Yes it’s mocking the first one. But you know what? Funnier for me, and many others too. In many ways it is a more telling window on society than the first, carefully crafted, kissing video. And I am allowed to think this way. It’s a little something we used to call opinion. While I like to think there’s intelligence behind my opinions, these types of calls are all subjective – I’m not disputing a universal theory of everything by disliking the kissing video.

It’s not about being anti-social. It’s about being social with people who have a similar world-view. Which is not likely to include ALL of anyone’s Facebook friends. Unless you are very lucky.

So what’s a well-meaning Facebooker to do?

I’ll let Neil Strauss make an eloquent call to action for me:

Share what makes you different from everyone else, not what makes you exactly the same. Write about what’s important to you, not what you think everyone else wants to hear. Form your own opinions of something you’re reading, rather than looking at the feedback for cues about what to think.

In other words: be yourself.

I like that.

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