Like Minded People
What does it mean on social media to click the “like” button? Liking something may not always mean what you think.
Everyone wants to be liked.
On social media, likes are the metric used to measure popularity. Likes are an affirmation of mass approval. Admit it — we’ve all checked to see if someone liked our posts. When you see a dozen likes, it feels pretty good. When you see zero likes, it kinda’ hurts. Social media has become a coterie of high school cheerleaders.
So what exactly does it mean when we like a tweet on Twitter or like a post on Facebook? Are we agreeing with the content? Are we praising the person who tweeted or posted? Or, are we simply saying — I find this post pleasing, amusing, interesting, or comforting?
This isn’t rocket science. I think most can agree on a common definition; To like something means “thumbs up” to the poster and the content.
The last few days, I’ve engaged in a few private conversations through Facebook chat about my liking of various posts. I’ll keep the names and specifics out of this discussion because they’re irrelevant. Let’s just say I liked one post which contained a strong religious narrative. I liked another post which contained a political statement that I believe is wrong, but which nonetheless I found to be both crafty and provocative. One person messaged me alarmed that my Facebook account had been hacked.
Since my Atheism and Leftism are pretty much a matter of public record, why would I ever like a post by a Christian proselytizing biblical scripture, or like a statement by a Trump supporter? Such actions do seem odd for someone so passionate and seemingly set in his ways. Isn’t liking the post an “affirmation of approval,” as I suggested earlier?
Not necessarily. I like just about any post — indeed, anything I read — which is thoughtful. I especially like posts where a friend, an associate, or even someone unknown to me appears have taken considerable time to prepare and then share an opinion. I like people who think and are willing to pressure test their ideas within our town square known as social media. Contrast this with re-posting memes, which are typically antithetical to honest discussion and debate. Re-posting memes are for lazy people who are unwilling to do their own thinking. I wish there was a DON’T LIKE button for memes. I’d pound the hell out of it.
So, why would I ever like a pro-Christian or pro-Trump post? The reason is simple. If someone takes the time to post a comment about a topic I introduced, particularly if that comment is original and thought-provoking, I say that post deserves my respect. Hence, that’s what the like button is for.
Unfortunately, I think way too many of us now use likes as stripes on a sergeant’s sleeve. We divide ourselves into camps which have become more like bunkers. Likes are weapons to be used sparingly. We reserve our ration of likes for what our allies post. Given the lack of a scoreboard, most arguments come down to — the post with the most likes wins.
In these often combative times on social media, one way to encourage more civility is to break away from our comfort zones and echo chambers. Sure, it’s not easy. We feel safer among our tribe. Still, I increasingly try to search for common ground with adversaries whom I disagree with on issues (admittedly, some instances are futile). Finding common ground can be a mutual beachhead where everyone wins. Perhaps the other person will increasingly come to see things my way. There’s also the very real possibility that I might change my mind about an issue if provided with enough evidence.
The bottom line is — it’s okay to like someone with an opposite persuasion. It’s also okay to like their counterargument even if we disagree. We need to start liking far more people who are smart, engaging, and open-minded — and start ignoring people who are dumb, divisive, and close-minded.
Now, can I please get a few likes? Otherwise, I’m going to be devastated.