I have fallen for it. I admit it. Liking things that people post gets you liked too! Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, etc. all now have features that allow you to "weigh in" to the "discussion" by clicking a button. And you can indicate your emotional state as well - love, anger, sadness, disappointment, etc. How convenient! But why do we do this? In a world full of hate, vitriol and rhetoric that is polarizing, "liking" things is certainly a more positive expression of our feelings, but what happens if it is not reciprocated? We place great value in being "liked" and spend a lot of our time liking things, sharing things and hoping that people will like our likes and share our shares. Or recognize our birthdays. Or comment on something we think is profound. We are hopeful that this will lead to new connections and new opportunities. Or at a minimum, will keep us in good standing with others who expect that we will acknowledge their contributions (or existence). There are some possible unintended consequences to this insanity.
- If we are living to be liked, the lack of a like from someone who we think cares about us can be downright depressing.
- Do you look to see who wishes you a happy birthday? And who doesn't? Admit it. Most people do. This can exacerbate the already dysfunctional relationships of our broader friends and family community where the lack of authenticity about relationships cannot be replaced with a happy birthday or a like.
- Not being liked (or being swarmed with likes) could both be perceived as a very subtle form of bullying. Being denied the attention calls into question the intentions of those who "care" and confuses those intentions with a dismissal of love or caring; being inundated with false likes (or should I dare to say fake likes) creates a perverted sense that people are truly your friends.
- Do friends dismiss you when you stop liking everything that they post? While your intention might be just to spend less time playing this game, others may perceive it as abandonment. Really.
In reality, all we might be doing in this social "media" world is recycling and re-engineering each other's insecurities and hopes for a series of thumbs up, happy faces and hearts. 60 Minutes aired a provocative story on the concept of "brain hacking" on April 9th. Do we feel the need to check in regularly to make sure that we are still loved? As a student of behavioral psychology and Skinner, I will observe, as did Tristan Harris on the 60 Minutes show, that we might just be checking in to seek the rewards... like those rats who were in the Skinner Box did. The reinforcement instead of being pellets are likes.
So the questions are: do I need to be praised in order to feel that I am appreciated? Do I need a ”like” or a “click of a heart” in order to know that my thoughts are good ones. And do I need a thumbs up emoji in order to be validated?
I hope not.