Analyzing the Like Button

1400px-Facebook_like_thumb

Facebook has become one of the world’s most accessible and enjoyable forms of social media. The “Like” symbol, in particular, has created an easy alternative to express one’s approval of posts or comments from a friend’s or stranger’s status. However, with such an innovative and simple mechanic for social interaction, has this made Facebook, along with other forms of social media, an inadequate space for ingenuity? It seems the “Like” symbol’s original use has been exhausted by comments that have replaced honest remarks of concern or empathetic gestures. Its purpose has become broadened in more ways than the uses of other symbols in the social media. Originally, Andrew Bowsworth created the Facebook “Like” symbol so users could indicate that they agreed with a post, explaining that its features were made simply to signify appreciation amongst others. He states that, “The concept of ‘liking’ things is very old, likely older than the words we use to describe it (TechCrunch 2011)…”. Perhaps he means that the “Like” button has expanded its original, simplistic function to mean much more,or maybe the “Like” symbols original form has become obsolete and bland in meaning. In this article, I will discuss the issues behind the Facebook “Like” symbol and the poor communication skills prompted by this particular endeavor.

Likes of the Past/Likes of The Present
I remember scrolling between comments on my Facebook page in 2010 and seeing the “Like” symbol for the first time. Before its creation, my friends and I would spend most of our time writing a comment in response to a wonderful post. I remember talking to many people about this new symbol, and most of my friends and family admitted that it seemed like a cheesy way of communicating when one could simply type, “I laughed at this” or “This was great!”. They believed that more text displayed more context and connection than using such a vague symbol to speak for them.
A year later, the “Like” symbol eventually became the first thing someone clicked before commenting on a post they found relatable. I believe it was only a few months after a year had past since people really began to divulge the usefulness of the “Like” symbol, that the it began taking over the place of emoticons that usually helped convey tone and empathetic connection. Later, the “Like” symbol’s function began replacing most conversations. Popularity is based upon the “likes” one receives more than the actual comments from readers. From experience, it appears that genuine connections with others for lost ones have became empty, almost thoughtless routine rather than spontaneous effort. Instead of receiving general comments of comfort and support, people seem to have replaced talking with the “Like” icon, preventing people from furthering their writing, communication and interpretation skills. The pictures below represent a typical Facebook post, thoroughly supported only with likes. More often there are way more likes than comments–this suggests that liking has become an easier alternative than commenting on a post.

Analyzing the Like Button

According to the Pew Research Center, Facebook users “like” their friends’ content often but comment on photos relatively frequently, but most users don’t change their own statuses . When asked about the frequency with which they engage in certain behaviors on the site, Facebook users tend to point towards “Liking” content that others have posted and commenting on photos as the activities they engage in most often. The Pew Research Center conducted the poll as part of their larger focus on internet culture and communication:

“44% of Facebook users “like” content posted by their friends at least once a day, with 29% doing so several times per day.
31% comment on other people’s photos on a daily basis, with 15% doing so several times per day.
19% send private Facebook messages to their friends on a daily basis, with 10% sending these messages multiple times per day.
10% change or update their own status on Facebook on a daily basis, with 4% updating their status several times per day. Some 25% of Facebook users say that they never change or update their own Facebook status.”
—–6 new Facts About

Facebook:PewResearch

I have a theory. Perhaps

What do you think?
Is it a short-cut alternative in this fast-paced world that promotes bland, inauthentic communication among people? We are given search engines to help us look up information rather than spending time researching through books at a library. But we lose levels of critical thinking, and exposure to challenging our minds. We can now communicate vastly over seas without so much as leaving our homes. We can network with multitudes of people and cultures around the world, without the time or trouble of traveling. But we lose interaction, experience…insight. Now, not one way is more prominent than the other. Utilizing newer technology allows us to expand our knowledge about people, places and things that one could not normally receive through a textbook. The same goes for reading or researching things without the use of technology; We are actually exposing our minds to a more challenging form of research by finding the right books, reading them to their entirety and seeking out the right terms. They both have their pros and cons. Is the Facebook ‘like’ actually contributing to the lack of creative thinking, as it acts like other advances in technology that have made living easier, and less work for people. Can we argue that because the ‘like’ symbol is such a simple and easily adaptable substitute that it has made the generations—the century of kids born into this era– lazier? Are people often too busy “Liking” statuses rather than making their own. What do you think? I for one believe that liking has become a substitution for regular communication on social networks, simply because it’s an easier method of contribution to a post.

RSS and Reference Links

6 new facts about Facebook. (2014, February 3). Retrieved October 1, 2015.
http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/02/03/6-new-facts-about-facebook/(6 facts about Facebook){In RSS Feed}
Facebook Likes Survey: Thumbs Up Symbol Very Well Known. (n.d.). Retrieved October 1, 2015.
https://aytm.com/blog/daily-survey-results/facebook-likes-survey/ (Facebook Like Status){In RSS Feed}
Facebook’s “Like” Button Used To Be The “Awesome” Button. Tech Cruch (n.d.). Retrieved October 1, 2015.
http://techcrunch.com/2010/10/05/awesome-this-post/ (Tech Crunch Awesome)
Social Networking Fact Sheet. (2013, December 27). Retrieved October 1, 2015.
http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/social-networking-fact-sheet/(SocialNetworking Fact sheet)

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5 thoughts on “Analyzing the Like Button

  1. As I’ve already mentioned a few times now, I don’t really have much experience (or interest) in social media, and I only have a Facebook account so I can access various websites in place of making entirely different accounts. However, I like that your article alluded to the concern that people’s increased focus on “Liking” online content in place of giving detailed response might be undermining substantial/meaningful communication between people interacting on the web.

    On the one hand, I largely agree with this sentiment, and have very similar feelings about emoticons and “net speak” (i.e., LOL, BRB, and so on): there’s something about these shorthands that just strike me as being really obnoxious. On the other, I still respect that you bring up the counterpoint that such shorthands are meant to accommodate writing for the generally faster pace of modern life, which would thrive on shorter, “to-the-point” exchanges.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for your thoughts on this, Lauren! Your article reminds me that users can be pretty inventive, and they can often imagine and perform rhetorical practices that go beyond the intent of the interface. For example, Twitter users who initiated hashtags and @ mentions. Similarly, what do you think about people who use Facebook’s “like” and commenting features to take polls and build arguments? For example, “click like if you agree and comment if you disagree!”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the like button and find myself liking things all day on Facebook. However I do feel awkward sometimes liking a status like “Xxxxxx’s funeral service will be held at 3pm.” because 1. that’s just awkward and 2. should you really like bad news just to show that you acknowledged it??? But until there is an unlike button I will just keep liking away…LOL!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with you. I think that the like button is used as another form of communication. I think its similar to when we use an emoji or make a text message instead of a phone call. I don’t think that it is harmful in any way so long as we still interact with people offline and in person. Its just a sign of the times;as a result, we all are finding shortcuts to express ourselves in a fast-paced environment. Context matters, also. A couple of times I had to go back to unlike something that I don’t think I should’ve liked. Recently, on Twitter, there was an uproar because Twitter replaced the star button for a heart for likes. I didn’t like it too much because I am used to stars, not hearts and because of the connotations. Nevertheless, I don’t see the harm in using the like button on Facebook as long as it is used appropriately.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. If you’re not a fan of the like button, then I wonder how you feel about Facebook’s plan to introduce the “dislike” button! I’m with Ricci — I like the like button. It’s simple and casual, and though it isn’t always appropriate, it’s an easy way to show someone that you enjoy what they have to say.

    I don’t think that takes away from communication! I don’t know that I’d be able to come up with something interesting or useful to say for everything I like, and to some extent, I think people have started composing for this sort of interaction.

    Liked by 1 person

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