The Culture of Likes and Hearts and Faves

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I rejoined Facebook a couple weeks ago after a long hiatus, and though I haven't posted much yet, it's been fun to see what everyone's up to. I'm terribly horrible at keeping in touch with friends and family, so it's nice for that. It's more substantive than Twitter too, as far as social media goes - less terse, less rapid-fire. I'm glad the game/app fad seems to have passed... or I've avoided it so far. I remember something about farms and little farm animals and... I don't know. Something weird that I kept getting dragged into and had to keep adjusting my settings to opt out. Heh, that was quirky.

The funny thing is how quickly I've gotten back into the habit of checking for likes! I post a comment, I check for likes. Someone tags me in a photo, I check for likes. It's addictive, like 15 microseconds of fame each time. Of course, Facebook isn't the only one that feeds the addiction - all social media sites do it, and even sites that aren't social media.

We're driven to share, and driven to know what other think about what we share. It's all very validating, very reassuring that our thoughts and experiences and opinions matter. That people out there notice us and know about us, and maybe even envy us. Posting a few pictures to share with friends is one thing, but posting dozens and dozens of every vacation, every life event? Is that really because we wish wholeheartedly our friends could share in our joy? What's our honest motivation?

It's has me thinking about how it messes with our psychology - the drive for likes and favorites and hearts and retweets and upvotes, and on and on. At its best, we share something of true value, and those upticks encourage us to share even more value. At its worst, it drives "celebrities" to outrageous, disgusting lengths to stay relevant, and a sitting president to share childish thoughts beneath the dignity of his position. Even though each moment is over in a flash, as the collective consciousness turns to the next update or video or giphy, and the current thought is lost to the next and the next and the next.

When I see the worse side of social media, it all strikes me as a billion people with a billion thoughts, screaming into the ether, clamoring over one another for attention. Not exactly a flattering image. In reality, there's nothing wrong with it if it doesn't ruin other aspects of our lives - if we're able to function day-to-day and are just looking for a little reassurance that we're not alone in our thoughts, experiences or even hardships.

Unlike me, my kids are going to grow up absolutely mired in social media and this new reality of so very many thoughts shared online, every minute of every day. What would I tell them, or anyone, about social media?

  1. Don't tie it to your self-worth.
    The illusion of anonymity drives some people to say nasty things. Ignore them.

  2. Don't get drawn in to an argument.
    Social media arguments never change public policy, and are unlikely to change anyone's heart. If ever there was a case of "a billion voices screaming into the ether", this would be it.

  3. Don't share anything you wouldn't share with your parents.
    If your friends can read it, so can your employer (for the job you don't even have yet), your professors (and the admission board for the college you didn't apply for yet) - and yes, even your parents!

  4. Do treat others the way you'd like to be treated.
    Even when the powerful and famous seem to be in a race to the bottom, busily digging the deepest hole to drop the bar into, don't doubt yourself.

  5. Do take everything with a grain of salt.
    Without the benefit of grammatical inflection and facial expressions, we're reduced to interpreting through punctuation and our own imagination. ("Wow. Thanks." vs "Wow, thanks!")

  6. Do spend an extra minute before hitting post.
    What's your motivation? What's your current frame of mind? You can always choose to share something later after thinking about it. You can't always unshare.

  7. Never be afraid to take a hiatus for awhile - heck, nuke the whole thing. You've only got one life - don't let social media consume it.

This is just my personal list. Take it with a grain of salt too... after all, I probably checked Facebook and Twitter 5x apiece while I was writing this. 🙄

What would you put on your list of social media best practices?

This is post #19 in my personal challenge to complete 30 Days of Blogging (30 random days instead of 30 consecutive, apparently...). My goal is to become more comfortable with blogging in a more frequent and informal manner.


Grant Winney

I write when I've got something to share - a personal project, a solution to a difficult problem, or just an idea. We learn by doing and sharing. We've all got something to contribute.

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