A single Facebook “Like” is a mini pledge of allegiance. It’s a reassuring touch on a shoulder or a smile from across a huge silent room of blank stares. It’s that one hearty laugh when no one else seems to get it. Sometimes it’s the slow, loud clap of two hands before the rest of the audience is brave enough to jump in.
I’ll admit it; my own predilection for positive feedback is getting annoying. I already fight an unhealthy concern with the opinions of others. Now I find that this, combined with some mild OCD tendencies (which, for the record, my shrinks assured me were not manifestations of the disorder) is making the urge to regularly check my Facebook notifications uncomfortable.
“Andy! My post got three Likes. Except one of them was from my mom, so, that doesn’t really count.” It beats the converse, “No response. Has everyone hidden me?” But why do I care about this at all?
It’s embarrassing. You’d think I was thirteen again looking in the bathroom mirror at school angsting over a bad hair day.
“Oh my god! I look awful today!”
“No you don’t. You’re so cute.”
“You’re just saying that. I wish I could’ve stayed home; my hair is so frizzy! I love your shirt.”
“Aw, thanks. But, I’m the one who’s ugly today, not you.”
“You’re pretty every day, really. Is there food in my braces?”
“No, how about me?”
I’ve gained some self-confidence in the interim decades; yet, I still find myself untagging unflattering pictures and insisting a little too loudly at parties, “I get veto power over that photo!” (How on earth did I let this one get out?)
I’m relieved to discover (inconclusively and unscientifically) that this is not a gender thing. The terminally cool comedian Marc Maron spoke to Conan O’Brien about it recently (3:50 in at this clip).
Marc Maron: How are we all on Facebook and Twitter? . . . How is that? Why? We’re grown ups. Are we not grown ups? Are we seven-year-olds emotionally? . . . Oh my god, every status update should just say, “Would somebody please acknowledge me?” [Pause.] And then you just wait it out. [Applause.]
Conan: Yeah. That’s not a bad idea. Mine would be . . .’I’m still alive.’ . . . just send that out to people now and then.
Marc Maron: But I just sat there waiting and then all of a sudden it’s like, “Like.” Yay!! I win.”
All of this has been examined by researchers far and wide and, no doubt, boils down to our biologically driven need to propagate the species. Right? But between here and that bottom line, I find the spin off topics mind-boggling.
In addition to exacerbating Look@Me-Habits, Facebook forces us to make choices about the feedback we dole out. Many of my friends have successfully resisted the urge to go on like-frenzies (or so it would seem). I, though, have questioned my tendency to “Like” posts too often. What’s the saying? To like everything is to like nothing? Am I shamelessly pandering? (Is there such a thing as pandering without shame?)
Consider the “Hate” button.
In her January 2011 Slate article, The Anti-Social Network; By helping other people look happy, Facebook is making us sad, Libby Copeland points out, “the presence of a “Like” button, without a corresponding “Hate” button reinforces a kind of upbeat spin doctoring. (No one will “Like” your update that the new puppy died, but they may “Like” your report that the little guy was brave up until the end.)”
Sure, I might exercise the convenience of speedily offering condolences with just one keystroke, but let’s hope it’s never called a “Hate” button. I just don’t think even my new and improved self-esteem could handle such a thing. I might hate that you broke your leg and collarbone boarding in Sun Valley, but I’d rather not leave the door open for someone to declare their hated of my latest photo series.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are many times (depending on my mood and blood sugar level) when “Like” doesn’t feel enthusiastic enough. I want to express my “Love!” for that photograph of your pet rabbit (but may withhold even a “Like” of the same bunny pic if you introduce him as wabbit). It’d be great to shout out my “Love!” of learning about exciting things to do, like having a sound bath at the Integratron (thanks, NotGoth!). And really, only “Love!” will do when it comes to Junot Díaz’s author page.
What’s more, I want to be able to “Like” other people’s “Likes”. I “Like” that you “Like” my blog post. And I want at least three of you (not including my mother) to “Like” that I “Love!” Junot Díaz. Because when I “Love!” Junot Díaz, I’m defining myself, right? And when you “Like” that I “Love!” Junot, you’re defining yourself.
Or maybe just a little.
Do I have food in my braces?
If you’ve read any interesting articles on the topic, please shoot them my way. I’d love to like them.