The ‘Like’ Phenomenon

I don’t know about you, but I love the ‘Like’ button on facebook. It is so convenient. Fan of a business or product? ‘Like’ their page. Find a friend’s posted picture cute? ‘Like’ it. A colleague’s facebook status made you laugh? ‘Like’ it. Who would’ve thought one little button could be so versatile. It’s popularity is evident from the fact that it’s become a known expression now… Tell anyone to ‘like’ a picture and they’ll know you’re talking about the facebook button (well, aside from the almost extinct population that has yet to own a computer or smartphone – come on, even every grandma I know is on facebook these days). And the best part about the ‘like’ button is it eliminates the thinking factor. If I like a picture one click allows me to indicate this.I Don’t have to put into words any thoughts or feelings about the picture.  So I don’t need to think about what exactly I like about the picture. If the picture appeals to me in one glance I hit the ‘like’ button and am ready to move on to the next thing that interests me. Such a time saver!

To further convince you that I’m addicted to this button, let me tell you about how much I miss it when it’s not there. For example, on twitter – very often I’ll see a tweet that I just like. Now if I retweet it, or reply to it, I have to think about what to say about it. Sometimes you just don’t have the time or energy to do that. It would be so convenient if I could just hit ‘Like’ to let the tweeter know and then move on. But since there is no ‘Like’ button I often end up leaving off the reply for later, and then of course it never happens (should mention here that I’m kind of new to twitter so may the twitter phenomenon hasn’t hit home yet). Similarly if I read a news article sometimes all I want to do is hit ‘Like.’ And happily for me many sites are now adding the ‘Like’ widgets 🙂

Now this is all well and good as long as I’m on the ‘liking’ side. But how does this affect the writer in me? and the mommy in me? It’s great if someone ‘likes’ my blog post, or my story. But it is so much more exciting when someone leaves an insightful comment. After all, a ‘like’ is hardly a conversation starter. In fact, it is more of a conversation killer. But even as a writer, I find myself taking the easy way out if I see the ‘Like’ button. So why wouldn’t others? And how much worse would it be if this phenomenon spread to other parts of our lives. Imagine how it would feel if your child just hit ‘like’ after you told them about your day or read them a bed time story. I thus find the mommy in me asking, is technology making us lazy? and our kids lazier?

Take the GPS as another example. I LOVE my GPS. It is such a life savor, especially for me with absolutely no sense of direction. Gone are the days of MapQuest and Google Maps where I’d have to give myself an extra 10 minutes before going anywhere to print out directions. Even farther gone are the days of asking for directions. Back in Pakistan where GPS’ aren’t available yet because of the complete lack of road signs and grid street structures, believe it or not, people still ask for directions. I remember as a kid before going to any birthday party I’d have my dad speak with my friend’s dad for directions. And these would be dependent on landmarks – the green Defence library, the submarine roundabout, the Eagle house… Then the ride over would be quite a bonding experience for my dad and I. He would tell me what landmarks to look out for as I peered out the window pointing out whatever I thought made sense. Sometimes we’d spend hours looking for the right house (and this was before cell phones). My daughter will never experience this – unless of course our GPS breaks, and at the same time both our cell phones’ batteries happen to run out while we’re driving…

And then there’s the Kindle or similar e-book reader. Now that’s one bus I haven’t gotten on yet. I just don’t get the same pleasure from an e-reader that I do from turning the worn pages of a good classic. I keep reading about how babies are good at imitating us – how the best way to teach them is to model the behavior we want them to adopt. So we’re supposed to read to them as early as possible. But what if they never see us reading? They only see us with an e-reader, or an iPad, or a blackberry? How then do we expect them to develop a love for books and reading instead of video games? I was  deeply saddened by Border’s demise. Will Barnes & Noble (in store form with actual paperbacks) still be around when my baby’s older?

Do you have similar fears or do I just sound paranoid? I’d love to hear your thoughts – preferably in ‘comment’ form, though ‘likes’ are also appreciated 😉