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The Weird Science Of The ‘Like’ – #SocialMedia

July 6th, 2018 · Tags:Arts · Satire




“There is more to life than making apparently obvious observations”

– Jerry Seinfeld


Before this blog is read, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, etc., will have reworked something new into their social media blueprints for world domination (just when we thought we had this whole thing figured out.) But we play right along …

How has this happened? Why has social media taken over the world? I suppose lots of people still talk on the cell phone, at least they do when they are in a quiet restaurant or coffee shop where it is considered to be gauche. (Are gauchos ever gauche? … I digress …) But most people I see are finger typing away, or dictating spoken word into their cell and letting the device figure it out.

For me, it’s a natural thing. I think faster and convey the message more efficiently if my fingers are involved in communicating … you know writing, not “shooting the bird.” But everyone else — lawyers to sanitation workers to computer network engineers and pastry chefs and cowboys are also pounding out the letters right there beside the writers of the world.

Of course I have a theory. All about social media and “The Science of ‘The Like.’”

Social media is that elusive fountain of youth. Texting appeals to our inner adolescent. Remember passing notes in class, back when kids used paper? I think texting is like that. Just as, back in the day, a clever multiple-choice note scribbled on a folded piece of paper was the way to catch someone’s attention, now a clever text speaks volumes. It’s relatively private, delivered on a need-to-know basis, ha … unless you really screw up. Thank goodness there is no teacher/monitor to snatch up our texts and read them aloud …

Yep. Social media …the texting part anyway … it’s like passing notes in schools for the new millennium!

OR … option two … social media posting is of course total competition … whoever gets the most red numbers wins.

Imagine a scenario where “the provider” in a household comes home to their spouse, after a long day at a social media agency. “Man, I crafted two thousand tweets, instagrammed fifty-seven pics and added a dozen “my stories” for clients and only got twenty ‘red numbers’ all day.” Long day.

Remember when “like” was just a meaningless word at the beginning of a hipster’s sentence? As in, “Like dude, you totally overshot the putting area with that approach shot with your flying disk.”

Like is so much more, now. Likes are the currency, the riches, the spoils, the plunder of social media. So The PingWi-Fi research team has put together an account of the things we’ve observed — techniques, strategies, trends and the like.



Meanwhile, what’s with replacing the little red numbers on my Facebook app. with dorky little Taco Bell-shaped notifications? Yah, what’s with the red bells? … bells hell … I implore you FB. Keep those red numbers coming … I digress …

As scorekeeping goes, I rather like what Instagram does to get my attention when I have just scored a point — a floating red number hovering over a white heart, with a red-dot footnote. In my opinion, Instagram “kicks out the jams ‘expletive’” when it comes to showing your most recent scores.

Of course it’s not just Facebook. We all look for our daily numbers on FB, Twitter, Instagram … Snapchat too, I presume.

Whoever has the most red number totals at the end of life wins. Period (or you’d think).

Perhaps the most manipulative of all, some people may strategically stay off of FB for a while, then post the most uninteresting thing and get 300 “likes” due to their absence/fondness quotient or AFQ.

Sometimes, there’s no rationale for why one post “had roast beef and another had none.” The haves/have nots of likedom. For instance, maybe you climb a mountain in Timbuktu and plant your great grandmother’s shawl and the family Bible that her great great grandmother brought over on the Mayflower high upon the peak … and the photo you post gets a mere 25 likes from your 2,700 friends.

Meanwhile …

Alice posts her 567th photo of Boots The Cat sleeping, and her 2,700 friends “like” the candid shot 750 times, and share it with their friends 335 times. (You look immediately to see who the dumb asses are that you count as mutual friends, don’t you? … Just sayin.)

Where’s the rhyme and reason?



What’s the deal? How does this popularity-vs.-merit algorithm thing work? To get loads of “likes” does one just need a better deodorant? Does one need to post more puppies? Is one — shall we say —a little too “outspoken” on Facebook, affecting their scores?

But, even if a person overposts every day, by keeping their nose to the grindstone and pounding out 300 posts in four days — with only a few “likes” — they can get just as many total as a more tasteful poster … And at the end of the day … it is all about quantity, right?

Maybe some of this is making sense … Then out of left field, suddenly the red numbers are just not what they once were. Now Facebook adds in what I call diluted numbers. I am starting to see red numbers on my scorecard when certain friends merely “scratch their head online,” or so it seems. “I didn’t do anything to deserve that red number. I don’t take charity!” Come on Facebook. Don’t devalue the red numbers, like some third-world krugerrand.

And besides the scoring … whatever it is that has fueled the popularity of social media … there are so many new rules of etiquette and questions of acceptable behavior … and many grey areas … even strategies … with many important decisions before we just rush in hully gully and start throwing our “likes” around like an NFL player “making it rain” at The Kentucky Derby with hundred dollar bills from their latest bonus.

Let’s talk about the flip side of collecting red numbers. The act of doling out the red numbers — the liking and therefore making someone’s social media stock go up. It is the equivalent of your vote — in a yes-or-abstain format. How selective are you when you like? Do you practice discretion at all?

Don’t get me off on a pure “like” compared to a mouth gape, a red face or a heart “like” …

Do you sometimes just see the source and/or the topic and “like” something without reading it? And have you seen some of the poorly written crap that people on both sides of the polarized, politicized world “like” and share when they see a rough version of one of their speaking points? And how about politicians … for two hundred years, politicians knew to kiss babies at political rallies. If politicians would post and tweet pictures of kissing babies these days, it would be a better world — but they would also probably be arrested by some pop-up lynch mob.

Are there certain friends who can do no wrong, so they get a near-automatic “like,” no matter what they post? Conversely, are there people who couldn’t squeeze a “like” out of you with a vise?

Would you admit it if you had fallen into a “like” stampede, lemming-“liking” along with the trend and hitting whatever else, whoever else “likes?” And what about when you notice a friend has already beaten you to the cheese? Repeatedly? Is there a point where you have to stop “liking” things in their wake? How long before the friend and others think you have become a “rubber stamp” liker? “If Janey likes it, then Kent likes it …

Some just jump into the 10K “like” posts, just to feel part of a group, I suppose. But what does it accomplish?

Are you one to take the “liker’s leap” … Maybe you see a post that is somewhat questionable, but you kind of like it. Do you boldly jump out ahead of the herd and “like” a post that has been up for a while, but has no skins on the wall yet, so to speak?

Do you ever suffer from “liker’s remorse?” … changed your mind about what a friend said, but waited to take back your “like.” Be careful with, but also realize the power in friend “liking.” IF you want to curry favor with your friends, you need to get in the game early and “like” their post when they have only a few “likes.” They will see you, early on, when you like your friend’s soon-to-be-viral post … like in a pyramid scheme, if you get in early, it’s good to be you. Once your friend has big numbers, your “like” gets lost in the shuffle, and you get very little friend points. Another way to think of it — “‘Like’ low, sell out high” — liking a friends post early to be seen by said friend, but removing after the numbers swell because you actually thought their post was silly.

Have you completely lost your soul to the red numbers games of social media? Do you find yourself calling out numbers like at a dice game, when you are looking to see how many red numbers you have … “Come on five. Come on five.” The “like.” The social barometer … isn’t it fun? Do you wake in the middle of the night to look at your phone for little red numbers beside your name on Facebook. It’s so addictive … competitive … perhaps Pavlovian. And fun!

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a primer, to de-mystify the social media magic that is “The Like!?!” Well, here’s some of that, but also some telltale signs you may have a problem with the red numbers or that you have gone astray …

For openers, I give you the “breakup like.” It’s when two people are no longer in love, but they continue to dole out friendship, “moved-on likes” to be civil. P-LEEEEEEase!

Do you donate “likes” to worthy causes … or on the other hand, do you ever stop short of “liking” because the item is so popular already? “Hey they have 27K likes already, they certainly don’t need mine. I will go find some other well-deserving post who could use a helping hand.

Yep. I confess. I have been guilty of the sympathy “like,” because no one else has “liked” a friend’s post … But also, I’ve done the empathy “like” because whatever is described in the post, has happened to me.

Social media prods us “be the first to like.” Yes, now that’s when you feel a sense of accomplishment, when you are the first to like a video of a poodle doing laps in a jacuzzi.

Being first is big. But there are other red numbers that I find more interesting. NumberSpotting — jump on the “like” button if you can be the No. 500 “like” … ha … Example: my college recently was #10 on the 10th day of the year … YES! I was “like” number 1010 and I would have been really mad if someone had got in the mix to remove a like and erase my claim to somewhat-greatness. I hit the button with glee when I see I am about to be someone’s 500th “like” on a post. Nice, round, number milestones are important, so I jump on those opportunities … and usually, I will also post that “I am 500.”

OH ha … I was reading another post about Texas Tech in the College World Series, and happened to notice that my “like” tallied number 806, for the Red Raiders. You bet your arse, they heard about it in Lubbockland that I was number 8-0-6 … as in “THE 8-0-6” … the territorial nickname for the school, based on the area code, yo. Be on the lookout for those obscure numbers too.

Slightly related, what do you call this? Does it deserve a name? Maybe “stepping on someone’s line?” Has this happened to you? When you get in a thread where people are contributing one-liners or their best pun … and so, you’ve racked your brain and finally you post a really good pun. Then, as soon as you post, you realize you have not read all of the previous posts, including the three times your joke came up previously. Hate that. No choice but to delete in shame.

So many new phenomena in social media. This one — one of my friend’s term — is borrowed from other walks of life. It’s “the death announcer” — you know that person who always calls you up when a not-so-close friend has passed. “I got it. I got it. And I gotta report it,” as one of TV’s Sweathogs used to say. The social media equivalent of “the death announcer” has to be the people racing to be the first to post that some obscure or even a big celebrity has kicked the bucket. “Funny … just last week, I didn’t care about that actor in the least … then I realized, that by dying, they could get me lots of red numbers!”

As with the “death announcer,” there are so many new things derived from social media. Have you experience a brush with virtual fame yet, in the most insignificant way? I first learned of this euphoric feeling after I saw a small terrier roaming the streets and temporarily sniffing around my backyard. He got away before I could corral the little fellow … but later when I saw the little vagabond on the “social hood” site, NextDoor … I felt just like I had won the lottery and met a celebrity. Yet another wonder of social media.

Final word on “Likes” — “beware The Beastmaster!,” I always say. I refuse to like anything — even if it were the cure for cancer — if there were already “665 likes.”

Know what I sayin?