The “Like” Society

Written by Austin VanKirk—

Social Media: It’s everywhere. Any website created after 2010 is going to have a “like” button, a “tweet” button, and/or a “share” button of some kind. Social Media logos are on soda cups, on menus, on clothing labels. Companies now have entire departments devoted to managing all the social media outlets they use. There are far too many of these in my opinion: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit (I think it’s sometimes considered one?), Vine, YouTube, Ello, and Tumblr. And let’s not forget the “romance” specific ones: Grindr, Tinder (which you can’t have unless you have a Facebook, by the way—total design flaw in my opinion), Scruff, and too many others. And there are other ones I can’t even think of—there are just that many.

Social media, originally intended to actually keep people together, is now all about marketing and advertising. We are flooded with images and messages. As our generation continues to delve into digital communication, we have certain scenarios where it is impossible to communicate with certain people without the meta-communication provided by the ads within social media. It got so annoying to me that I have deleted nearly all of my accounts.

But what is even more annoying is the way that people are communicating these days. I’ve talked to a few people who’ve had similar observations. Now, let me explain to everybody what a conversation, traditionally, looks like. I say something insightful. Then you agree, disagree, or provide some sort of meaningful response. That response may continue on that same topic or move to a relatable topic. I then will ask a question or give a response related to what you said.

Lately, this is how I’ve noticed conversations going:

Person A: I am making an assertion.
Person B: I am also making an assertion that is in no way related to what you just said.
Person A: I’m making another assertion, that may be related to my first assertion, but is definitely not related to Person B’s.
Person B: Here’s another unrelated assertion.

And it kind of just keeps going on, without anything building from what was said. It’s just like this string of unrelated, nonsensical, and isolated anecdotes and notions. They’re like one-sided conversations happening concurrently.

I don’t know why people enjoy having these type of “discussions.” What is being learned? I can’t imagine that it is much.

My theory for this behavior says that we’ve gotten so used to simply sharing information via tweets and status updates that it’s boiled over into the way we communicate interpersonally (as opposed to digitally). People have become so wrapped up in providing information about their lives (which, objectively and generally speaking, aren’t terribly interesting) that listening to other people has become unimportant. And when we do respond, we can get away with a simple retweet, thumbs up, or “LOL” comment. And let’s be honest: the only reason why we leave these little likes and comments to begin with is because we secretly hope the favor will be returned.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with seeking validation from other people. It makes us feel good to see the likes—but for some people it’s become an addiction and a source of anxiety (“I only got ten likes in the past five minutes. Do you think I should take it down?”).

I can’t speak for everybody else, but talking to my best friend about something good that happened in my life, it means so much more to hear him verbally congratulate me and ask me questions pertaining to the accomplishment. In comparison, the likes I would receive form that on social media are trivial. It also means a lot more to have my best friend commiserate with me when something goes wrong in my life. It’s the human connection that is satisfying.

We keep chasing that satisfaction up and down the social media channels. We’re not going to find it there, though.

But what do I know?

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