Previous post: The Facebook Middleman
As a positive feedback bubble, Facebook is a form of online boosterism that provides little practical benefit to its users. Boosterism on Facebook (as expressed through status updates, the “like” button, and supportive comments) is merely the desire for users to be liked, not in the Facebook sense, but in their need to fit in with the community, get along, be noticed and represent their success and happiness, whether real or invented. While everyone appreciates “likes” on Facebook, for individuals who actually produce something, be it ideas, services or a product, support from a community of friends, with some notable exceptions, ends with a “like.” On Facebook, the “like” for something that takes years of hard work to produce assumes parity with the “like” of someone’s random photograph, off-hand comment, or fact of life. What makes Facebook’s “like” button so pernicious is that it renders all communication trivial and passive.
As the central and defining feature of the Facebook platform, the “like” button is in fact an indication of the antisocial nature of the network; indeed, if it did not exist, users would actually have to communicate and take action. As a function, “liking” something is really just rebroadcasting someone’s post, the content of which Facebook registers as preferences that are used to build your consumer profile. Meanwhile, for Facebook users, the “like” button provides a convenient means of superficially maintaining relationships, and generating visibility or credibility by association, even as it facilitates users “liking” everything as a policy, because the more you “like” the more you are liked. Ultimately, Facebook named the button “like” to exploit human vanity and our need to fit in and be visible and esteemed by the group.