What do you like to Like today?

Do you count your likes? Or the likes of others?

If you are a human being who posts things on social media – whether personally or for a brand – I’m do not believe you aren’t counting Likes. 

The first like button was created in 2005 at Vimeo and was meant to be a more casual alternative to “favorites,” and was heavily inspired by “diggs” from the site Digg.com.

YouTube, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn and Reddit have all implemented variations on the Like.

In 2009, Facebook introduced the Like as a hand giving a “thumbs up,” although it was referred to as “awesome” instead of “Like” inside the company.

Likes are popular for platforms because they are popular for users. A Like requires less effort than a comment, less personal equity than a share, and can be given almost mindlessly.

Given the popularity of Likes as an engagement mechanism, there’s a reason Facebook and LinkedIn have added emotions to their Like-ness interfaces (Facebook’s are Love, Haha, Wow, Sad and Angry and LinkedIn’s are Celebrate, Love Insightful and Curious).

These emotion-based Likes are low-impact, low-risk and fast ways to give each other feedback on each other’s content. And they are very popular. But that feedback can lead to negative behavior and emotions, too. Likes are directly impacting our behavior and emotional well-being.

A “like,” for the uninitiated, refers to the positive feedback given to a post on social media. And new research shows that likes appear to be somewhat intoxicating to teenagers. The same reward center in the brain that is involved in the sensation of pleasure and activated by thoughts of sex, money or ice cream also is turned on when teenagers see their photos getting a lot of likes on social media. – NYT: For Teenagers, the Pleasure of Likes

I’m thinking and talking a lot about Likes this week because they could be going away. Not that they could be disappearing as an option to engage, but perhaps going away as a metric of the vanity success and engagement a user gets on their content.

Specifically, Instagram is now running a test that hides the total number of likes and video views for some people in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan and New Zealand.

The United States is noticeably absent from the list, but could be next. And probably should be. With all of the pressure around mental health, bullying and privacy the big social networks are facing globally, we shouldn’t be surprised if Facebook and Instagram simply hide or turn off features rather than directly make substantive change.

But perhaps that’s unfair criticism of any measure of effort to curb surface level vanity and unhelpful social engagement. Personally, Instagram hiding Likes won’t hurt my followers or my following. But it will give me pause when considering what people like versus what I like. Hmm… genuine pause.

Instagram “likes” are a way to feel secure about the way we look. I, along with many of my friends, can become reliant on it to feel good. It’s a confidence boost and reassurance that I am enough, and people find me attractive…. I will often find my friends picking a location based on what will look good or gets the most likes on Instagram. This idea that every moment needs to be captured — therefore everything we do needs to be picture perfect — is perhaps the biggest by-product of growing up with Instagram. Yes, doing it for the ‘gram isn’t just a catchphrase, but our reality. – NY Post: The age of Instagram ‘likes’ has completely changed life for teen girls

Likes are only 14 years old, and they seem harmless. They are a lightweight tool to give each other feedback and extremely popular. But we know from research that many in Gen Z are addicted to Likes and using them in negative ways. And I bet my own generation is the same way.

It’s a long life and there will be lots of change in social engagement tools in our lifetime. What do you like to Like today? Would that change if you didn’t know what others liked to Like?

Leave a comment here and tell me what you think. 

See you on the internet!
Greg

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