The Like Economy

I enjoy getting “likes” on my facebook posts, and I enjoy retweets of my tweets, and so on, but I have discovered a dark side to all this.

My name is Justin, and I am a like-aholic.

There is a severe addictive quality to getting “likes.” The need for connection and acceptance is hard wired into our minds, it is essential for survival, and so expressions of approval from others give us endless shots of dopamine. So its power has to be respected, the same way you would respect any opioid.

That said, in running my “facebook fan page,” I have noticed this propensity on the part of Facebook Inc. to tell me I am getting “likes” and “page views” and “shares” that, interestingly, I am not really getting. I will get a notice one week saying “Justin has one new like.” Then, a week later, I will get a notice saying “Justin has one new like.”  Out of curiosity I will go and look at the actual analytics– and guess what. The notice of the “new like” is a sham. The new like was just a rehash of last week’s like. It is now an old like.

The original like really did not have much real meaning, but then this meaninglessness is compounded by a pretense of there being more than one meaningless bit of digital recognition.  Even so, I am human, and I got a little rush out of it.

Still, Facebook presumably knows that the dopamine shot of “getting likes” is a powerful force, and so like any clever drug dealer, they are giving me inflated data to get me hooked on the feeling.  And of course, if I want another fix of more likes, well, now I have to pay (to “boost” the post.).

Of course, it’s not just me. There is a growing economy of likes and shares. It seems like there is a belief that merely getting liked and shared by itself is a path to real achievement and success. This is equivalent to thinking getting drunk leads to happiness.

Worse, sometimes, clearly false propaganda in my newsfeed is presented as truth because “this has been shared 60,000 times.” I like to think the general population serves as a filter for truth, but this is an illusion. You can fool most of the people most of the time. A lot of people drink Pepsi. This does not mean it is good for you.

All this support for an escapist illusion of connection is problematic on so many levels. It is a new addiction, it is taking over our world, and the addictive behavior it is cultivating is dangerous.


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