Friday, July 08, 2011

the insidious evils of "like" culture

WSJ | If you happen to be reading this article online, you'll notice that right above it, there is a button labeled "like." Please stop reading and click on "like" right now.

Thank you. I feel much better. It's good to be liked.

Don't forget to comment on, tweet, blog about and StumbleUpon this article. And be sure to "+1" it if you're on the newly launched Google+ social network. In fact, if you don't want to read the rest of this article, at least stay on the page for a few minutes before clicking elsewhere. That way, it will appear to the site analytics as if you've read the whole thing.

Once, there was something called a point of view. And, after much strife and conflict, it eventually became a commonly held idea in some parts of the world that people were entitled to their own points of view.

Unfortunately, this idea is becoming an anachronism. When the Internet first came into public use, it was hailed as a liberation from conformity, a floating world ruled by passion, creativity, innovation and freedom of information. When it was hijacked first by advertising and then by commerce, it seemed like it had been fully co-opted and brought into line with human greed and ambition.

But there was one other element of human nature that the Internet still needed to conquer: the need to belong. The "like" button began on the website FriendFeed in 2007, appeared on Facebook in 2009, began spreading everywhere from YouTube to Amazon to most major news sites last year, and has now been officially embraced by Google as the agreeable, supportive and more status-conscious "+1." As a result, we can now search not just for information, merchandise and kitten videos on the Internet, but for approval.

Just as stand-up comedians are trained to be funny by observing which of their lines and expressions are greeted with laughter, so too are our thoughts online molded to conform to popular opinion by these buttons. 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.

Conversely, when we're looking at someone else's content—whether a video or a news story—we are able to see first how many people liked it and, often, whether our friends liked it. And so we are encouraged not to form our own opinion but to look to others for cues on how to feel.

"Like" culture is antithetical to the concept of self-esteem, which a healthy individual should be developing from the inside out rather than from the outside in.


Big Don said...

BD suspects that WSJ writer wasn't actually around in the early days of the serious net, circa 1990, after Real People rather than just academic and military types got on board.  Before Netscape...before Windows Explorer was stolen from Netscape.  Way before Google and widespread blogging.  The sense of Belonging, and awareness of what various folks Liked and Disliked, has existed on the Internet from the earliest days on Usenet newsgroups.  Even with frequently-dropped 1200-baud dial-up connections, there was a great deal of fun to be had and potential to enlighten folks who needed enlightening.  No advertising either...

Dale Asberry said...

Hate the game, not the Playa!

Hey, can ya'll hop over to my blog and as you go through each blog entry, hit the Google +1 for me? ;-)

Dale Asberry said...

And don't forget to click "Like" at the top of the comments here on this page for our Playa CNu.

brotherbrown said...

There should also be a "dislike" and "-1" button.

umbrarchist said...

Oh no, it's cybernetic conformity.  AHAHAHAhAhAhahahahahaaaaaa....

You will like me OR ELSE.

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