We all know the word ‘like’ has changed its meaning. Ever since Facebook allowed us to ‘Like’ an update, photo or link from a friend, ‘like’ has come to mean ‘agree’, ‘acknowledge’ or ‘appreciate’.
Where Facebook users used to reply to a friend’s update with a remark or opinion of their own, a simple click of the Like button now does the job of conversation in a split second, allowing us to move on to the next stimulus.
And then Facebook set its Like button free, so the ubiquitous blue thumb has been allowed to flourish on blogs and sites all over the place. Any content on any site, a song, a photo, a video or a blog post can be Liked, as Facebook continues its attempt to position itself as the common ground between all our online identities.
Now it looks as if Liking has gone a step further.
I noticed this morning, while paddling around in Facebook, a clutch of updates from friends that follow a new format. An update shows that a friend has ‘liked’ a sentence, linked, and followed by a symbol such as ♥ or ☯.
These words aren’t the words of my friends. They are others’ words they have ‘Liked’. Clicking on the linked text goes to a site hosting a list of statements – many of them trite, crass and arguably of minimal real value. In five short minutes, I have followed links to three sites – YouLike, LikeEverything and LikeMyThought – all virtually identical. They are just lists of sentences, scored, ranked and, of, course, with each given its own Like button. Anyone can add a line of text, without even logging in, and these words can then be Liked by anyone with a Facebook profile.
With this new development, Liking has become an end in itself – not just a way of responding to others’ content, but as a way of achieving, or borrowing, credibility. Liking is no longer an opinion you have of content. Liking is content. Oh dear.
Facebook’s Like button allows us to be lazy when responding to other people’s opinions. Now this new trend allows to extend this laziness to the creation of our own opinions. Not content to automate our responses to our friends’ opinions, we’ve now been granted the freedom to refrain from even having an opinions of our own. Why bother, when you can simply borrow someone else’s?
I’m giving up Liking for a while. Seriously. I’m as guilty as anyone of this new shorthand. Let’s see if I can genuinely like things without Liking them. You never know – I might just like it.
What’s also a worry is what ‘liking’ a page opens you up to. If you want to create an ad for Facebook (which anyone can do), you can search for people who ‘like’ specific pages and events. This data can then be broken down by age, sex, relationship status, education, other likes – basically anything that you’ve ever placed on your profile. So with a few minutes filling out a form, I can target my ads to show up on the pages of men who:
like mountain biking and transport for london,
live in Middlesex,
are university educated
are aged 39
work for barclays
have a birthday in September.
One little click, one little like, one powerful marketing tool.
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