9 07 2011

A recent Wall Street Journal article entitled “The Insidious Evils of ‘Like’ Culture” talked about the effect that this infectious facet of Facebook has had on western culture.

The thumbs-up sign, as hijacked by Facebook, is now a universally recognised, if somewhat vague, i-symbol.

As a Facebook afficionado, I am certainly a fan of the “like” button. On my ipad Facebook function, where I can’t “like” other people’s comments, I frequently type in *Like*. I feel a need to spread the love and connect.

But what does *Like* mean? I am a subscriber to several news services Facebook Pages, and have seen examples where people have “liked” some pretty horrible stories. In this shorthand culture, it is hard to know, but I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they weren’t thinking too deeply about what they were “liking”. It was more a registration that they had read it. I hope.

So maybe it’s less about liking something (although it does still have that function). Maybe it’s shorthand for an acknowledgement, a recognition or on some level, agreement with the sentiments, or at least some aspect, of the post. At its most basic level, it is almost a popularity measure – which are the sentiments that gather the most agreement?

And it was this aspect that the Wall Street Journal Article was concerned with: the effect the popularity contest aspect was having on culture and on our ability to think.

Do we, craving acceptance, edit and re-edit our online messages like Pavlovian dogs, repeatedly regurgitating those aspects of our lives that are positively reinforced, and editing out the less acceptable bits? And, layering onto that our 30-second concentration span, does this mean any thought which takes more than 30 seconds to digest and hence doesn’t collect a series of *likes*, is edited out of our online personalities – and possibly our real lives as well?

How does this build a culture of intellectual thought? Or are we pandering to the lowest common denominator. In a world where ability to delay gratification is linked to success in most areas of life….how is this instant popularity contest affecting what we are exposed to through our online interactions. With Facebook now the most visited site and accounting for more internet traffic than pornography (apparently its true!), it is a significant indicator and driver of our culture. More than a neutral channel, the way Facebook works is changing the way we access information and the way information is presented to us.

And if its all down to a popularity contest…..then we’re in trouble.

Please *like* this blog!

Wall Street Journal July 2, 2011
The Insidious Evils of ‘Like” Culture (Neil Strauss)




3 responses

10 07 2011

Thumbs up, meant as recognition of a fine and well thought out blog post.

30 07 2011
Twit by name, Twitter by nature? « Mud Map to Life in the Modern Age

[…] “like” is having on what we post and hence shaping our thought processes was covered in *like*. One of the more interesting researchers in this field, neuroscientist Baroness Susan Greenfield, […]

4 10 2011
Click-bait! « Mud Map to Life in the Modern Age

[…] then is, how has this affected the quality of journalism? Just as some time ago I wrote about how the like button had turned facebook posts and associated blogs into popularity contests, is that what has also happened to newscasts? Is the quality of the news that we are reading […]

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