Do you remember when ‘Like’ used to mean something?
It meant you liked something. A boy. A girl. Sunshine. Pugilism. A baby farting. Purple eye shadow. Making lists.
It meant something was pleasing to you. The thought of it made you feel good, or at least moderately less shitty than you were feeling before you either had it, or thought of it. It was without exception a positive reaction to something.
It did not mean ‘I’m here’, ‘I agree’, ‘I’m forced to acknowledge this even though I’d really rather not’, or, horrifically, ‘Sorry your mother died’.
Sure, some social media platforms have taken steps (belatedly – in fact, so belatedly, that thumbs-up themselves failed to notice, and thus remain stubbornly and immovably in the upright position) to address this on a half-assed basis.
But no matter what Facebook and other social media giants do with the introduction of symbolic thumbs, stars, plus signs, hearts, smiley faces, weepy faces, frowny faces or speech bubbles, it’s still nothing more than a scale of woefully retarded human experience which doesn’t accurately represent any of what people want to say.
Social Media Regression
And yet, we are constantly being asked day after day to fit painfully square pegs into round holes, by being asked for these painfully restricted reactions to things.
Ten years ago, could you have imagined a world where you were asked 100 times a day to indicate whether or not you liked something?
Outside of being a professional critic, a food taster, or a small child, could you have envisioned a time when your sole contribution to humanity would be to vote for your favourite?
Aren’t you glad we live in that time now? Does it remind you of anything?
Picture the scene. You are 5 years old. You have been forced to spend the day with your Great-Aunt Gertrude. She does not know you very well.
Great-Aunt Gertrude: What is your favourite colour, child?
5-Year-Old You: Purple.
Great-Aunt Gertrude: No, that’s incorrect. The last time we talked, you said it was yellow.
5-Year-Old You: I like pink sometimes. And green.
Great-Aunt Gertrude: That won’t do at all. You have to pick one.
5-Year-Old You: [crying] I don’t want to pick only one.
Great-Aunt Gertrude: Stop snivelling. I already bought you this yellow plastic raincoat, and you’re going to like it.
5-Year-Old You: And so ends my childhood.
Now, then. Who cares, I hear you not asking at all? What’s the point in getting ranty about social media reactions, when nice people are just going out of their way to be polite to other nice people? Isn’t this the only thing right with the Internet?
It’s because, as was pointed out by an astute commenter on Facebook Is Sniffing Your Bottom, if someone is offering you a service for free, then you are the product. The social media reactions currently available don’t suit us, because reactions which would better suit us, would not suit advertisers.
We would all be far better off with a button saying ‘I hear you.’ Because when it all comes down to it, social media is just a platform upon which people say things to be heard, and other people respond in order to acknowledge that they’ve heard it. It’s not about communication, or interaction. It’s about broadcasting and acknowledgement.
And here, look. The button for ‘I hear you’ would be so easy:
The trouble is, you see – not for you, but rather for them upstairs – that “I hear you” wouldn’t feed algorithms with information regarding whether people react to certain keywords positively or negatively. It only tells them that people are communicating, and they already know that. And it doesn’t sell anything for them, let alone advertising.
I’d still like to start a campaign for an ‘I hear you’ button across all social media platforms. It could even be amazingly flexible, and change to ‘I see you’ for Instagram and its buddies. I mean, that shows some pretty impressive flexibility already, amirite?
What about you? Does ‘Like’ suit your needs? How about +1? Or do you wake up every day hoping in vain for a ‘Shut Up’ button (which could be applied on WordPress in general, and on this blog in specific)?