My brother-in-law put up another cute picture of his granddaughter on Facebook, the fifth one within the week. My cursor hovered over the thumbs-up icon. I was about to click on it when there was a pause — an infinitesimal pause — which stopped me from proceeding with this robotic action. Another “like”? Hadn’t I already clicked on “like” five or six times over? Not that I wanted to be petty-minded. But, I have to admit, I just felt a little sick of the whole thing, this constant attempt to please.
And that, my friend, was the beginning of my awakening, or, if you want to look at it another way, the beginning of the most profound question to beset me: To like or not to like a Facebook entry.
I’m sure many of you have experienced something similar. There are people, even organisations, who use FB as a propaganda tool and “attack” you with photos, quotes, sage saws, jokes, etc. etc. each and every day. Haven’t you sometimes been guilty of “liking” the entry, but not really meaning it?
This innocuous little icon has become a time-waster and worse still, a tool for dissension. It is perhaps the one tool that should be done away with or else refined. I think some people just like to collect as many “likes” as possible. It panders to their ego. It’s like saying: “Hey, look how popular I am and see how many people like my comments!” (I know because I’ve been there!) Even worse is that vague feeling of dissatisfaction (envy?) you feel when your entry doesn’t merit a single thumbs-up, but someone else’s gets 50. This icon makes grown men and women into teenagers; they want to be like the teen queen or king, the most popular person on FB.
Granted, the thumbs-up icon is just a way of letting people know you’ve read their piece, or seen their picture. But what happens when you’ve fallen into the trap of constantly “liking” people’s comments or pictures? When do you stop, or rather, how do you stop? Of course, we all exercise free will and all we have to do is to just stop. But this is easier said than done.
Then what about those entries where you want to say you’ve read it, but it seems strange to click on the “like” icon? For example, a friend of mine who recently moved to Phuket, described the creepy-crawlies she had to contend with on a daily basis within her house. Do I just click the “Like” to show my approval of these slimy creatures? And what about some of those whiner friends of yours who want to get some attention and say: “I am down with the viral.” If you click on “like” do you actually mean to say, “serves you right, you ole whinger, stay sick”! Do you see what I mean? This icon doesn’t really mean anything, or worse still, it distorts your intentions.
Perhaps some of those creative geniuses or icon specialists should make another icon or two which brings out your true feelings, like a sad face when you empathise or a thumbs-down to show disapproval. But hey, I forget, FB is supposed to bring friends together, not make enemies of people.
So, my dear friend, I am left as nonplussed as I was in the beginning. I procrastinate as much as our old friend will: Shakespeare’s obsessive character Hamlet. Indeed, the “Like” icon has raised in me, and I am sure in many others too, these profoundly fundamental questions. In fact, in a recent article, I read that Facebook itself is shedding false likes and upgrading its site! So, before you mindlessly click on that “Like”, think twice!
Padmini B. Sankar is a Dubai-based freelance writer