#33 Shedding Light on the Facebook Like (4/6/2023)

The Facebook Like button has been around since 2009, and it’s hard to imagine social media without it. But just how has this simple feature changed society?

The Like button has made it easier for people to express themselves. Before the Like button, people would have to leave a comment or send a message to show appreciation for a post. Now, with just one click, users can quickly and easily acknowledge a post or photo they find interesting or enjoyable. But the thing that the like button also created was the invisible dislike button. The dislike button isn't something that people can count, but it is rather psychological reasoning behind why a post we made got more likes than another post. If one of our posts got less likes, then we assume that our post is disliked.

The Like button created a new level of engagement on social media, as people can now interact with content without having to spend time crafting a message or comment. This means people can be lazy by not having to fully think about how they feel, what they want to say, and how they want to express their opinions and ideas. They can simply just press a button and move on. And by taking this easy route for a long time and just communicating with a button, we became weak in many areas of communication.

One of the biggest concerns of the Like button is the potential for addiction and validation-seeking behavior. The instant gratification of receiving Likes can lead people to constantly check their notifications, seeking out more Likes and approval. This can become a vicious cycle, with users feeling like they need more and more validation to feel good about themselves. And since this has been around for such a long time, it can be awkward to seek validation in other ways whether it be self-validation or validation from the real world.

It isn’t only the validation that is addicting. The amount of likes we get on a post is basically a little game. We often try to perfect or change what we post in order to get more likes. When we do get a lot of likes, we feel accomplished. This is where we become addicted to the Facebook Like game. The easiest way to break a game addiction is to replace it with a new game. We have to create these new games so that they serve who we are and who we want to be.

Another issue with the Like button is the potential for groupthink and echo chambers. When people see that a post has a lot of Likes, they may be more likely to agree with the sentiment or opinion expressed in the post. This can create a feedback loop where people only see content that reinforces their existing beliefs, leading to a lack of diversity of thought and potentially reinforcing harmful or inaccurate ideas. Facebook’s news feed is designed to keep you on it for as long as possible by showing you the things that agree with what you Liked. It was not designed to be an unbiased and educative source of information.

The Like button has also had an impact on businesses and social media influencers. Likes and engagement are often seen as important metrics for measuring the success of a social media account or campaign. This has led to a focus on creating content that is “likeable” rather than content that is necessarily valuable or informative. It has also led to a proliferation of “clickbait” headlines and content designed solely to generate Likes and shares. It’s absurd when a professional service company tries to grow their social presence by “acting the fool” just because they want more likes.

The Facebook Like button has had a significant impact on society and the way we interact with each other. But the negative long-term impact outweighs the short-term convenience. While the Facebook Like game has been addicting for quite some time, I think it is about time we find ourselves a new game that better serves us in who we are and who we want to be. A game that helps us get to our goals and helps us focus on building who we are, instead of chasing a thumbs up symbol that means nothing in the grand scheme of life.

-Nick Leehy