So here it is: The Social Media Revolution…. isn’t it?
What was hyped in the beginning as a revolution which was supposed to dramatically change the way we interact with people and in which everyone can have a say and will be heard, a democratization of the internet, is far from being true. In fact, the Utopian version of a Brave New World where everyone is connected to everyone surrounded by a system of open dialogue, as Fenton (2010) fittingly points out, could easily turn into a mass of conform “likes”.
I mean that’s what we do on Facebook, don’t we? Scrolling down the ‘News Feed’ looking and scanning for photos, videos, status updates, check-ins etc. of our friends or acquaintances and then, if we like something, we just hit this little button.
Okay well, sometimes it goes a bit further as we even post a comment underneath.
But then: Done.
With regards to this, Sam Fiorella wrote an interesting article about the nowadays prevalent “Culture of likes”. In his view, the “like” phenomenon can be explained by certain sociological behaviour and needs, such as for example the pressure to conform to group thinking or people’s need for love and belonging. Thus, liking the same things or collectively agreeing provides a certain sense of stability and security.
Taking on a rather exaggerated perspective, the promised open dialogue and public debate in social media and on the Internet could in fact be nothing more than the net sum of ‘Likes’, ‘Shares’ and ‘Tweets’.
We actually have to admit: Most people like the “Likes.” If you post something, which generates a lot of likes, you feel – if you’re honest to yourself- quite proud and affirmed, right?
So why do these “Likes” really matter?
In general, agreeing with Sam Fiorella, people’s crave for love and belonging and our need to attach us to people who empathize with us and share the same points of view has found a perfect surrounding on social media.
There have also been a lot of studies with regards to this and one major point, made by Toma and Hancock in their study on Facebook use, is that the affirmation, for example in the form of ‘likes’, supports an individual’s ego and helps to preserve self-worth.
On the contrary, does that mean that no or only few ‘likes’ would make us unhappy?
The author, Alexandra Sifferlin, points out that the findings of a recent study on Facebook use showed that the more time we spent on Facebook, the worse we feel. Among other reasons, she also mentions that people felt frustrated or not that respected when they have fewer comments or likes compared to other Facebook friends.
I would say that this is probably true for some people and Facebook may indeed have a certain influence on the mood of us but the extent of it probably also relates to an individual’s state of mind and his general self-confidence.
Anyway, this makes me think of the fact that there is no “Dislike” button on Facebook. Considering the previous mentioned study, it’s probably a good thing.
However, it also leads me again to the beginning of my post and the apparent lack of different opinions and proper public debate on social media.
Why can we only express agreement, but no disagreement?
It might have something to do with the fact, that we are simply not ready.
Yes, it may sound weird. But actually, if you look at platforms, such as news websites with commentary features, where public opinion and debate is apparently encouraged, almost every discussion leads to a point where people get offensive. Greg Jericho , for example, also talks about this in his book. He highlights that trolling and toxic comments, which are argued to made public conversations and debate impossible, can be found everywhere online, especially underneath news articles. So thanks to the Internet’s anonymity, people seemingly just jump on everyone who has simply a different opinion on a topic – in Facebook’s language that would mean – on people who wouldn’t push the “like” button but rather the “I wouldn’t necessarily agree because…” button instead.
So where does this leave us?
Are we really unable to have respectful and constructive dialogue and accept different opinions online?
Can we handle “Dislikes”?
I think, we probably still have to learn it.
Until we are ready… Facebook will just let us keep ‘liking’ things.
A friend of mine recently posted the following picture on Facebook and I think it perfectly relates to this post.
It makes me laugh because it’s so honestly true.
Fenton, N 2010, New Media, Old News, Sage, London.
- Why Facebook makes you feel bad about yourself (time.com)
- Behold the PR Power of the “Like” Button (mediabistro.com)
- Social Media: Don’t fear negative content (thegazette.com)
- Want To Be “Liked”? There’s A Virus For That (zerohedge.com)