Facebook’s “Like” – I Do Not Think That Word Means What You Think It Means

Remember when you could “poke” people on Facebook?

Yeah, me either; I was a late and reluctant adapter. But you can Google “old Facebook” and remind yourself that things used to look way different if you want to:

I’m not honestly sure when “liking” things came into the formula. Like I said, late adapter.

But it’s there now, and very likely to stay, more because of the plug-in for other pages than for its usefulness on Facebook itself. People like liking. Put the button at the bottom of your webpage and it is going to get clicked. Everyone who clicks it suddenly starts posting all your business’s updates on their Wall Timeline, for free, so you can see the appeal on the marketing side.

All well and good. On our actual Facebook pages it’s a little weirder, though. I mean, how often have you found yourself “liking” something that you don’t actually like, at all? This sort of thing:

Clearly I don’t like that students aren’t getting to vote. That is not what clicking “like” means.

But that unfortunately means that we’ve complicated the meaning of “like” a lot, at least in the context of Facebook. “I like” now means some vague combination of being grateful that something was pointed out to you, finding it interesting, and wanting to let a friend know that you are paying attention to what they’re spending their time sharing with you.

Quite a mouthful for one little word.

And then when you throw the corporate pages into it things get even more ambiguous. Do 16.6 million people actually like Walmart? Enjoy going to the store, approve of its business practices, etc.?

God I hope not. But there they are all the same on Facebook. And in this case “like” mostly just means “will put up with hosting their ads on my Facebook page in exchange for the occasional deal that I find useful.” Not much to do with personal fondness at all.

(And don’t get me wrong, I realize there are some people out there who genuinely find going to Walmart and puttering around enjoyable. But I hope — pray — that they are the minority of those 16.6 million.)

So I do not think that word means what we think it does, anymore. Or it won’t for much longer if we keep on “liking” things on Facebook.

Inconceivable, no?

Psyche! It’s just a graphic. Did you try to click it?

    • Dr. William Gerald Albertus Magnus Alexander
    • June 13th, 2012

    Like popped up around 2007 or so. I remember thinking it was an asinine feature with a “dislike” button. The real issue shouldn’t be about the alteration of the meaning like. Supposedly Facebook tracks likes for corporate pages/sponsors and money exchanges hands based on how many likes they get. Such a system is similar to how YouTubers get cash for how many views their garbage accumulates. Rebecca Black’s “Friday” made tens of thousands of dollars because of all the idiots that viewed that piece of shit (I was one of those idiots).

      • emissary1985
      • July 19th, 2012

      You realize that you probably just caused a few more people to view that video and possibly scored her some more money (btw, I am not one of them)?

  1. Long ago, there was a caffeine-free cola named Like. At a Chinese restaurant in Iowa City I tried ordering a Coke. They served Like. Hillarity ensued,

  2. Funny, because I had the option of ‘liking’ this post as well and I felt the rumblings of irony, or indigestion, or something possibly witty.

    • WordPress Like, though, right? Or is there a Facebook Like button as well somewhere? You can tell I know my website well…

      • Correct, WP like.

        Excellent post on the non-journalism in the Te’o scandal, btw. They ‘ll have to demonize him until the public moves on so we forget that no one did their job.

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