I’m a bit of a serial “liker” on that well known social media site that a friend of mine calls FutterBucket. “Liking” is easy. In a simple click, it seems that I can fulfil all my social obligations of being present for my friends. I do, though, worry that sometimes people will think that I just click away willy-nilly, without thought, just to be seen. I saw someone today post an image (from George Takei) with a selection of suggested FutterBucket buttons, including one that said, “Like so I don’t have to comment.” I cringed a little bit, because yes, I admit that sometimes I do this. Usually, though, I don’t. Usually I click “Like” if I’ve genuinely laughed, or agreed, or simply want the person to know that I’ve read them, that I’ve witnessed an event in their lives, that I’ve heard their thought or concern, that I can relate.
However, a few weeks ago I read an article by someone who stopped “liking” things on the internet for a period of a few weeks. They wanted to see how this would affect the way they used FutterBucket, and how they interacted with their friends and acquaintances on the internet. That sounds an intriguing experiment, I thought, and promptly forced myself to stop “liking” things too. I haven’t “liked” anything for about two weeks now. Around the same time, I signed up on another site for a one-week blog commenting commitment. The combination of these commitments has made me think about the way I interact with others on the internet.
I had worried that if I stopped “liking” things on FutterBucket, I would lose the feeling of connection with my friends. But in fact, it was the opposite. If I felt there was nothing to say, I didn’t say it, and I didn’t click “like.” But when I did say something, I usually got a better response, on both FutterBucket and blogs. A conversation began or a closer connection was made. I felt more engaged, more thoughtful, more present for my friend or blogger.
I decided too to observe how I reacted to receiving “likes” or comments to things I might have said or posted. Did I shrug and move on, or did I engage? I realised that I do consciously note who “likes” something, and I’m always appreciative they took the time to click. There is an interaction, and sometimes that interaction is unexpected, and makes my day. It meets a need, fills a purpose, however small. And if I notice this, then it makes sense that others might notice when I do it too. And perhaps when I don’t. So I recognise that over the last week or two I may have seemed to disappear to some people. Whether they did in fact notice, or whether they cared, I’ll probably never know. I can only fully engage with those who comment, as they can only engage with me when I say something. For example, I’ve just had a light, fun conversation with a friend in California about New Zealand food. If one of us had just “liked” something, as I probably would have a few weeks ago, and left it at that, we would never have had this brief moment of connection. It made me laugh, I learned something new, and I hope it made her smile too.
And on both FutterBucket and blogs, my latest experiment got me thinking about those who never comment, who never engage with me, who never reciprocate. I feel fine that there are people reading my blogs (especially my other blog, that receives hundreds of hits a day) who never comment. They don’t want (or are not ready) to comment, but they must find something that is valuable there. I’m comfortable with that. Flattered, even. But I can think of a few people – both on FutterBucket and on blogs – who receive comments from me regularly, but rarely, if ever, comment or acknowledge me in return. Maybe my comments/likes are unwanted. They’re certainly unsolicited. Do I do it because I feel I should, because I feel it is the polite thing to do? Yes, to an extent. But now I think that that’s not necessary. So I start to wonder if my constant comments/likes make me appear needy or annoying? That’s not what I should be asking myself though. I need to ask myself if I get any benefit from reading these people. If I do, what should I care whether they reciprocate if I feel moved to comment? I shouldn’t. I should just take it all at face value. (And lo, I see the beginnings of another post.)
In conclusion, as a brief experiment, my ban on clicking “Like” really just confirmed what is common sense. As humans, we want to interact with and relate to our fellow humans. Calling “me too” or nodding or clapping helps. But it isn’t sufficient. It’s better than doing nothing though, and I’ve decided that there is definitely a place for it. So I’ll go back to clicking “Like.” But I will think now before I do it, and will try to type more frequently – and more thoughtfully – than I click.