Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Amy's Guide to Like Button Etiquette

As we all no doubt know by now, some time ago Facebook gave us the option to "like" posts. First this was just on the posts themselves. Then, it was added to comments. At first, I thought this was great. I could just "like" a post if I found it cool/amusing/interesting but had nothing specific to say. If someone posted on my status update and I wanted to show I appreciated that they took the time to comment but couldn't think of a clever response, I could just click the "like" button. With the passage of time, however, the "like" button has become increasingly annoying to me. It has started to seem gratuitous.

So, today, I got the idea to come up with a list. A list of Facebook "Like" button etiquette. I don't claim to speak for everyone, I don't claim to be presenting a social norm. Rather, I present you with how, in my own inner Utopia, the Facebook "like" button would be used.

1. If you'd like to congratulate someone, please use the "like" button.

So, someone you kinda sorta know has a new job/spouse/house/locale/career aspiration/creative pursuit. They want to share their latest milestone. You see it. They have 57 likes. You, however, don't know them well enough to be privy to the finer details. So, you leave a comment asking some question or other about this new thing in their life. Within minutes after you do, though, ten people feel the need to, rather than like the post, type "CONGRATS!!!!!" which means that you now have ten notifications, and your phone is going crazy. What do you do? Do you just grit your teeth and endure or do you unsubscribe to that post? If you unsubscribe to the post, though, you won't get to read your friend's response. All of this could be solved if people would just use the "like" button. Trust me, the OP will understand that "like" translates into "congrats" and you won't run the risk of annoying other commenters needlessly.

2. "Like" means "I like this" not "I read this."

Only "Like" a post if you actually like the post. For the love of God, if your old high school friend makes a distraught post that says something along the lines of "I was raped at the company Christmas party and now I need to have an abortion so I don't give birth to that Bastard's demon seed" do not, I repeat, do not hit the "like" button! You can leave a comment. Say, "Oh my God, are you okay?" or "You are pressing charges, right?" or "let me know if you need to talk." Because, while everyone will probably understand your intent, they will no doubt realize that by clicking the "like" button, it could be interpreted as saying that you actually think your friend's severe trauma is a good thing. I'm pretty sure you don't want that.

3. You can "like" a reply to your post, but again, you probably should only do so if you actually like it.

A "like," as I've said, is a nice way to deal with those times when you either can't think of a response or the comment is a stand-alone where a response would come across as forced. However, if you actively dislike the comment, then you probably shouldn't click "like." For example, if someone comments with a difference of opinion (say you just made a political post with an accompanying link to a news article) don't click "like" just because you're afraid of getting in an argument. Unless you're notoriously malleable in your opinions, it will be rather obvious that you're just trying to avoid a debate. If you really don't want to discuss it, just ignore the comment entirely.

4.It's not necessary to click "like" on replies to your replies.

Again, just "like" it if you really did find it cool/amusing/clever/etc. If you commented initially, then the other person replied to your reply, it's okay to let the discussion drop. Let's not play a 21st century version of "Who can hang up first*," okay?

5. Don't click "Like" just to end a protracted dispute.

This is related to some of the above points, but I thought it deserved its own category. Sometimes, stuff gets out of hand on Facebook. For example, once, I briefly had someone on my friends list that added me after seeing a few posts in another discussion. The person wasn't on any of the other sites I use more (LJ, Twitter) where I often disclose more than I do on FB but, in a short span of time, she started telling me all about who I was as a person. The comments were very flattering. This is particularly ironic since those that know me well know how much I hate being told "who I am" by people that don't know much about me...especially when it's positive feedback that I consider to be inaccurate. Anyhow, at first I tried to correct the person but when it persisted, I finally had to be firm in pointing out how untrue it was.** She then "liked" the comment. I thought this was, well, weird, because I knew she couldn't possibly "like" what I had said. Sure enough, the next day, she sent me a message explaining she was unfriending me. If you're "liking" comments that bother you enough to unfriend people later, then you're probably too conciliatory.

In summary: the like button is for, well, when you like something. It's especially useful when you like something and where a "like" can communicate that sentiment more readily than a comment. It is not, however, for circumstances where you don't actually like something nor is it to simply say "I read this."

*The game some of us played as kids, before we learned to use the phone properly, where both parties said "'bye" incessantly until someone finally hung up.

**In this case, it was done in the context of trying to convince me to make a major life decision that was something I had, many years before, vowed never to do. It didn't help that the personality attributes she cited were traits that I'm acutely aware of lacking. So, the bluntness was part irritation and part a desire to curb expectations that I knew I couldn't live up to.