The Power of Facebook Approval

Posted on July 12, 2013

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed this morning, throwing out a few likes here and there, when it got me thinking about the power wielded by something as simple as a mouse click.

Laugh all you want, but social media recognition is quickly becoming a basis upon which to determine and compare self-worth, confidence and popularity.

So how does one little click have such far-reaching consequences?

According to Facebook, (yes, they actually have a section on their FAQ entitled: What does it mean to “Like” something?) the action is defined as follows:

Clicking Like under something you or a friend posts on Facebook is an easy way to let someone know that you enjoy it

That seems innocent enough. Surely if we enjoy something, there’s nothing wrong with voicing our approval?

After all, we give each other compliments all the time, we tell each other how great we look and praise one another when we’ve done well. How is a “Like” any different?

The watered down effect

With Facebook, the consistency and volume at which we are bombarded with things to like, makes the experience a little different.

For example, maybe you commented on how great your friend’s dress looked when you met up with her for coffee last week. What if the next day she posted a series of pictures of her posing in a range of different dresses?

You feel compelled to like them on Facebook, but would you have complimented each different dress in real life?

Perhaps the ease at which it is to “Like” something, has diminished the value of each like. I mean, doesn’t a real time compliment trump a handful of virtual ones any day?

The cycle of reciprocity

The addictive thing about liking something on Facebook, is the chance of boosting your own profile as well.

In a way, you’re much more likely to get a little love if you’re out there giving it away.

Things starts getting hairy when these “Likes” begin to be tallied and compared. When that funny video you just posted only got 5 likes, but your sister’s new profile picture got 10.

Suddenly it’s not just your choice of video that’s under scrutiny, but your ability to impress and woo your audience.

A record of approval

With Facebook, your approval is numerically recorded in black and white (more like blue and white to be specific) for all to see.

This little tally now become some kind of scorecard, one to be touted to friends and family as a receipt of social recognition.

Is it any wonder that the number of friends, likes and comments becomes something of an obsession to those of us active in the social media world?

To like or not to like?

So where does that leave us? Should we boycott the world of frivolous, instantaneous approval?

Not necessarily.

What we can do, is see Facebook likes for what they really are: transient, spontaneous and largely unsubstantial.

They are not indicators of popularity or predictors of success. They are more like a virtual pat on the back.

The equivalent of a little more than a nod, but less than a full blown compliment.

photo credit: Denis Dervisevic via photopin cc

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