What is common to a blog post, an article in an online daily or magazine, a Facebook post, a Flickr photo and a news item on the web? In fact virtually everything on the web? All of them place the obligatory share buttons – urging you to share the content via email, Twitter, Facebook, Instapaper or Delicious. When you take the effort to bookmark it or share it (on Twitter or elsewhere) with a comment, there is an element of effort involved. Its a reflection of your interest level about the subject or your appreciation of the content. But there’s another button which is fast becoming ubiquitous and works on another level: the ‘Like’ button.
The Like button calls for virtually no thinking on your part – all it asks you to do is to press a button in a jiffy. And then you move on with whatever you are doing. Brands, celebrities, campaigns, videos, photos, causes, status updates…even ordinary folk can all be ‘Liked’. Someone can put up a status update like ‘feeling sad about my father’s demise’ and chances are their friends will ‘Like’ it. It’s perhaps their way of showing they care – but doesn’t exert them into saying something comforting. Professionals too have Facebook pages with ‘Like’ buttons on their profile (imagine ‘Liking’ a proctologist). I guess it also manifests in us liking ’causes’ – its our way of believing we have contributed. All it takes for you to eradicate corruption in this country is to ‘like’ Anna Hazare’s cause on Facebook. You can then carry on with your usual surfing or even go out for that driving license test (you know what needs to be done to get a license).
I have also noticed that one tends to look for signs of how popular a post, video or comment is by looking for the number of ‘Likes’. So if a video has many ‘Likes’ but if you hate it, you are left wondering if something is wrong with you. In a way, it is massification of opinion. Before the advent of the internet and share buttons, if you read something thought-provoking you discussed that with your friends. You agreed or disagreed – had an opinion. Maybe wrote a ‘Letter to the Editor’. And then blogging took off in a big way and you left comments (IntenseDebate is the name of a popular comment plugin), replied to comments. Now you have the option of retweeting or better still, simply pressing the ‘Like’ button.
Sure, one may genuinely like something – a post, a comment, an article, a brand, a TVC. People may show their affinity towards a brand by ‘Liking’ them on Facebook. But just as fan count isn’t everything, let’s not read too much into the ‘Like’ button.
Now, can you please ‘Like’ this blog post?