Getting Past Facebook’s “Like” Button

by on October 3, 2014 · 0 comments

in Culture, Media

By Lori Saldaña

Like button“You like me! You really LIKE me!” – paraphrasing Sally Field, winning an Academy Award for her lead performance in “Norma Rae” in 1979, pre-Facebook.

I recently posted on my Facebook page about taking a sabbatical from clicking “Like.” I encouraged people to share it, not just like it, and had only a few results.

I suspect, as far as Facebook is concerned, I’m dead. I haven’t “liked” anything in weeks — but my human friends know otherwise.

I’ve complimented them, encouraged, them, discussed things with them in the comments section. Based on these interactions they know I’m alive and thinking, somewhere in the real world, unlike Facebook, which only considers a user active if he or she is clicking that simplistic <like> button.

After all: that’s how they generate ad revenue. No clicks, no investor dollars.

But, really- what does it mean when we click? Let’s say one of these items comes up on our Facebook stream. We click. What does it mean?

Cute, precocious (name that animal)- LIKE!
Congress approves a new war in the Middle East- Like?
Dolphins being heartlessly slaughtered in Taiji? No no no– do not like at all~ what do I do now?

Frankly, I think it’s time for a more sophisticated lexicon, but the Facebook algorithms might need tweaking to keep up with all our various human emotions.

Let’s face it: the human brain operates in a massively parallel fashion. That is, we are usually capable of processing and managing many different things that demand attention, all at the same time: hunger/joy/fear/delight/happiness/dread…. the list of physiologyical and other demands on human being’s attention span is long and complex.

Most of us can handle these things without giving it, literally, much thought. That’s what the autonomic nervous system is for. Breathing: check. Heart beating: OK. Kidneys filtering waste: good to go.

Time to write a musical composition while all those things are also taking place: no problema.

Ask a computer to manage just a few of these things in the time the human brain does and you are asking for heartbreak…. another concept a computer would never understand.

Simple, serial processing computers are at a disadvantage when it comes to understanding, predicting and acting on human thoughts, emotions, physical needs etc. But they try to count one human clicking “Like” as a reflection of a choice, and that leads to advertisements, revenues, stock options, etc.

But what is it really? Happiness? Agreement? Empathy? Can a simple, discrete human action- clicking <like> — communicate all those things?

1 or 0. Yes or no. On or off. Processors and most programmers like the KISS theory: Keep It Simply Serial. And so, we have one option on Facebook: <like>

Even requests for a <dislike> link were (perhaps understandably) rejected, for fear people would feel excluded from the <like> fun.

Are there other options? What if, like me, you want to continue using Facebook to be truly “social”, but would like to create your own personal “media” style?

That’s what I’m working on. I’m not a sophisticated programmer by any means. Twenty years ago I did manage to teach myself “HTML In a Week” using only a Toshiba notebook computer, a 14.4 modem and a 1994 era book. I progressed from there, using that first step to eventually work my way into a teaching contract for Information Technology.

So, based on some of that ancient code, (not quite carved into clay tablets, but close) I have created my own keyboard shortcut terms that I use in the comment section when reading posts on Facebook. So far these include not only <like> but <brilliant> and <amazing>.

I also use <noted> for something that is interesting, possibly educational, but I certainly don’t <like> it.

My goal: to take moment to reflect on what’s being posted, and how that post effects me.

Is it offering an <ah-HA!> moment or a <cringe>?
Do I think <hmmm….> or <HA!>?

It also clears the clutter out of my news feed. The Facebook algorithm is, I suspect <confused> by my actions. It doesn’t know which product, campaigns or stores to pitch (until I start using Google, but that’s another problem).

Or, for all I know, using <*>, where “*” is a wildcard, sends some message out to the Facebook universe that says “ignore this user.”

Who knows. Perhaps not even Facebook programmers.

But if you like using technology in non-traditional, creative ways, try writing your own code and see what happens.

Meanwhile, here are some links to articles on other reasons you may not want to keep using the simple <like> click.

I Quit Liking Things On Facebook for Two Weeks. Here’s How It Changed My View of Humanity.

How to make Facebook work better for you: Quit the ‘Like’

Just stop ‘liking’ things on Facebook

Our Impatience is Making us Victims: Why We should Stop Liking Things on Facebook

This originally appeared at our online media partner, San Diego Free Press.

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