Imagine you had a friend who spent every moment asking you: “Do you like what I ordered for brunch?” “Do you like my new shirt?” “Do you like my dog?”
Before you could even answer, she’d rattle on: “Do you like my haircut?” “Do you like this weird face I’m making?” “Do you like what I’ve done with my house?”
And just when you’d start considering stealing away to the ladies room, she’d blurt: “DO YOU LIKE THAT I WORKED OUT TODAY?” “DO YOU LIKE MY POLITICAL VIEWS?” “HOW ABOUT MY NEPHEW? DO YOU LIKE MY NEPHEW?!”
This has become our daily digital existence.
Ever since Facebook installed that little thumbs-up button, we’ve been mainlining the “like” dopamine — and we’re addicted. Perhaps you’ve noticed that the swiping-down motion that causes your Instagram feed to reload, giving you fresh content and an update the number of “likes” on your post, is eerily similar to pulling a lever on a slot machine in Vegas…
News flash: That’s by design. (See: Cal Newport’s TedX Talk “Quit Social Media”)
And because that little heart or thumbs up feels so good to get, we’ve started changing our behaviors to get more and more of them. “Wow, people sure seem to like pictures of hikes. Guess I’ll post more of those.” Or, “No one seems to like pictures of my mom. I’ll stop sharing those.”
And it’s not just any “like” we’re after. Sometimes, we’re trying to impress a girl crush or a Twitter celebrity, and their “likes” feel more important than others. It’s the equivalent of the most popular girl in high school saying that she likes your jeans versus, say, your Great Aunt Anita telling you that you look pretty.
Giving “likes” covers an emotional spectrum as well. Thumbs-upping an ex’s post generally takes more emotional energy out of you than absent-mindedly liking your high-school best friend’s son’s first birthday photo (no matter how cute he is).
Black Mirror got it right (again) in the premiere episode of season 3 when it depicted a not-too-distant future where offline social status was defined by the number of “likes” you earned online. To an, extent that’s true: If you know anyone with enough of a following to garner free swag, it’s already our reality.
But what is a “like” really worth? What would happen if suddenly Facebook and Instagram and Twitter all rolled out new features that blocked you from seeing how many followers a person had or how many “likes” they got? How would that change the way you valued a piece of content? If you thought a tweet was funny but couldn’t see who else thought it was funny, would that change whether you retweeted it?
If none of your photos on Instagram could receive “likes” or comments, what would you stop, or perhaps more importantly, start sharing with the world (I’m talking to you, girl, who took down that photo that wasn’t getting the “likes” she thought it would, out of “Insta-shame”.)
For a week, I’m challenging you to try and ask yourself only one thing before sharing anything online “Do I like it?”
Let us know what happens. And while you’re at it, would you mind throwing us a like or a comment? We could really use the dopamine hit right about now.