To Like or Not to Like, turns out there’s really no question

Great dichotomy here, two very interesting articles, both about liking (or not liking) things on facebook, and what happens if you do/don’t.

“Liking is an economic act.” writes Mat Honan on Wired, in :

The like and the favorite are the new metrics of success—very literally. Not only are they ego-feeders for the stuff we put online as individuals, but advertisers track their campaigns on Facebook by how often they are liked. A recent New York Times story on a krill oil ad campaign . Liking is an economic act.

I like everything. Or at least I did, for 48 hours. Literally everything Facebook sent my way, I liked—even if I hated it. I decided to embark on a campaign of conscious liking, to see how it would affect what Facebook showed me. I know this sounds like a stunt (and it was) but it was also genuinely just an open-ended experiment. I wasn’t sure how long I’d keep it up (48 hours was all I could stand) or what I’d learn (possibly nothing.)

He describes a feedback loop that liking can cause:

There is a very specific form of Facebook messaging, designed to get you to interact. And if you take the bait, you’ll be shown it ad nauseam.

Facebook seems to inherently get more political and extreme when you do this:

My News Feed took on an entirely new character in a surprisingly short amount of time. After checking in and liking a bunch of stuff over the course of an hour, there were no human beings in my feed anymore. It became about brands and messaging, rather than humans with messages.

Likewise, content mills rose to the top. Nearly my entire feed was given over to Upworthy and the Huffington Post. As I went to bed that first night and scrolled through my News Feed, the updates I saw were (in order): Huffington Post, Upworthy, Huffington Post, Upworthy, a Levi’s ad, Space.com, Huffington Post, Upworthy, The Verge, Huffington Post, Space.com, Upworthy, Space.com.

By the next morning, the items in my News Feed had moved very, very far to the right. I’m offered the chance to like the 2nd Amendment and some sort of anti-immigrant page. As day one rolled into day two, I began dreading going to Facebook. It had become a temple of provocation. Just as my News Feed had drifted further and further right, so too did it drift further and further left. Rachel Maddow, Raw Story, Mother Jones, Daily Kos and all sort of other leftie stuff was interspersed with items that are so far to the right I’m nearly afraid to like them for fear of ending up on some sort of watch list.

Think Facebook will stop encouraging this? Think again.

While I expected that what I saw might change, what I never expected was the impact my behavior would have on my friends’ feeds. I kept thinking Facebook would rate-limit me, but instead it grew increasingly ravenous. My feed become a cavalcade of brands and politics and as I interacted with them, Facebook dutifully reported this to all my friends and followers.

And apparently, the more you like, not only the more does facebook suggest to you, but your friends see your obsessive liking:

That first night, a small little circle with a dog’s head popped up in the corner of my phone. A chat head, from Facebook’s Messenger software! The dog turned out to be my old WIRED editor, John Bradley. “Have you been hacked,” he wanted to know. The next morning, my friend Helena sent me a message. “My fb feed is literally full of articles you like, it’s kind of funny,” she says. “No friend stuff, just Honan likes.” I 二元期权 replied with a thumbs up. This continued throughout the experiment. When I posted a status update to Facebook just saying “I like you,” I heard from numerous people that my weirdo activity had been overrunning their feeds. “My newsfeed is 70 percent things Mat has liked,” noted my pal Heather. Eventually, I would hear from someone who worked at Facebook, who had noticed my activity and wanted to connect me with the company’s PR department.

Now, bear this in contrast to Elan Morgan’s , on Medium. In contrast to Mat’s statement “Liking is an economic act”, she writes:

The Like is the wordless nod of support in a loud room. It’s the easiest of yesses, I-agrees, and me-toos. I actually felt pangs of guilt over not liking some updates, as though the absence of my particular Like would translate as a disapproval or a withholding of affection. I felt as though my ability to communicate had been somehow hobbled. The Like function has saved me so much comment-typing over the years that I likely could have written a very quippy, War-and-Peace-length novel by now.

She writes how, despite the Like feature theoretically being meant for learning what you like and showing you more of that, it doesn’t always work that way:

You would think that liking certain updates on Facebook would teach the algorithm to give you more of what you want to see, but Facebook’s algorithm is not human. The algorithm does not understand the psychological nuances of why you might like one thing and not another even though they have comparatively similar keywords and reach similar audiences, so when I liked several videos and images of heartwarming animal stories, Facebook’s algorithm gave me more animal stories, but many of them were not heartwarming. They depicted inhumane treatment. Apparently, Facebook’s algorithm mistook my love for animals as a desire to see images of elephants being brutalized.

In showing me more of whatever it inferred that I wanted to see from my Likes, my Facebook experience included a lot of things I really didn’t like, because its algorithm doesn’t understand the many political, philosophical, and emotional shades of a given topic. Liking a local animal hospital does not equal my wanting to see abused dogs, and liking a post about a sweet wedding does not not equal my wanting to see every inspiring human who ever existed in New York.

As Mat pointed out, Liking things tends to garner more and more extreme responses from the algorithm:

It seems that the Like function had me trapped in a universe where the environment was dictated by a knee-jerk ad-bot. You like yogurt? You’ll like Extreme Yogurt more! You liked eight cute kitten videos? You’ll really want to see to this graphic image of eight kittens being tortured by scientists!

And finally, the sea change begins:

Now that I am commenting more on Facebook and not clicking Like on anything at all, my feed has relaxed and become more conversational. It’s like all the shouty attention-getters were ushered out of the room as soon as I stopped incidentally asking for those kinds of updates by using the Like function.

I feel as though reason has been restored. I can comment on a cute cat photo without being inundated with all the animal videos 800 people shared this week, and I can comment on a post about race relations without then having Facebook trot out an endless showcase of vitriol.

Facebook without the Like appears to be nearly sane.

Turns out that saying why you like something, vs passively giving a digital thumbs up only, brings the humanity back into the equation (whodathunk?):

When I disallowed myself Facebook’s Like function as a method of communication, I was left with this unmet desire to let people know I heard them or liked their content, and I suddenly felt invisible. I was reading, but no one knew I was there, which made me realize that my habitual style of Facebook interaction had to change. Without the Like function to rely on, I had to comment or risk looking anti-social and experience even more disconnection, so I started commenting more than I ever had before on the platform.

I had been suffering a sense of disconnection within my online communities prior to swearing off Facebook likes. It seemed that there were fewer conversations, more empty platitudes and praise, and a dearth of political and religious pageantry. It was tiring and depressing. After swearing off the Facebook Like, though, all of this changed. I became more present and more engaged, because I had to use my words rather than an unnuanced Like function. I took the time to tell people what I thought and felt, to acknowledge friend’s lives, to share both joys and pains with other human beings.

It turns out that there is more humanity and love in words than there are in the use of the Like.

Her conclusion:

It turns out that your friends might actually be more likeable than Facebook’s Like disruption makes them appear, and the growing sense of disconnection that many of us experience might just be due to a tone-deaf algorithm.

When we drop the Like, we might actually like each other. We might actually connect.

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I just wanted to say that my experience has mirrored Elan’s. Liking less and talking more has made my facebook quite human friendly. I actually took the time, a couple of years ago, to go through my “liked pages” section and actually unlike a lot of things. And now I typically try to comment instead of like whenever possible. I see others waking up to this idea and I hope to help spread it. Anything that helps us move away from reactionary interaction, to a more community oriented vibe, is fantastic in my books.

Care to share your thoughts?