The Importance of Being Liked

Everybody wants to be liked.

When somebody likes you, you feel acceptance. Being liked insinuates that who you are as a person is fine, that your mere existence is worthy. Suddenly when you’re liked, you’re important, even if it’s just to one person.

Working with children in Korea, I was amazed at how much significance being liked took on. All day the children would constantly ask each other who they liked, who they didn’t like. Each child would inevitably ask “Who likes me?” and their mood would be dictated by the response. More than ever, at a young age we seek that acceptance from others. We need to be liked.

The children even had a game they played. They would ask “Who likes me?” and hold out their thumb. They’d begin a count to ten. Whoever was holding their thumb at the end of the count liked them. The lower the child’s self-esteem, the more they hungered for acceptance, the more they’d play the game.

Example:

As we grow up, we start to gain more confidence in our selves and we no long crave to be liked. We still enjoy it though. It’s an affirmation that we’re doing something right, we’re good people.

These days the word “Like” has taken on a new meaning through Facebook, it no longer means that we enjoy something, but rather than we acknowledge it. The decision from Facebook all those years ago to include Likes as a feature is a genius one.

Their problem: people would post on their Facebook pages but without any way for others to show they’d read the post, the original poster would assume nobody had read it. If nobody reads what you’ve written, why bother to write at all?

Without Likes, nobody would use Facebook because everybody would feel their effort is wasted. Suddenly with this one feature, everybody has their content validated. That small Like let’s them know somebody cared to read their words and enjoys their thoughts. This positive reinforcement leads to people making more content, which leads to more dedicated users for the Facebook machine.

Much later WordPress decided to adopt Likes on their website. The reasoning was much the same. Here is a site with hundreds of thousands of users, but many of these users continually write blog posts without acknowledgement. It’s no surprise that many bloggers give up eventually because they lose their motivation. Nobody comments on their blog posts, so they must assume nobody reads them, so why bother writing them?

Bringing in the Like allowed users to easily gain acknowledgement for their work. To feel their effort was worthwhile. As with most forms of communication though, there are ways to exploit the Like.

As I’ve said, when you Like a WordPress post it acknowledges a person’s work. The person feels good and their brain starts ticking. This stranger Liked my work, they took the time out of their day to look at something I made. This person must be a saint.

Curiosity burns in the back of their mind. Who is this glorious stranger?

Fear not, because there’s a way to tell who that Liker is. Go to their blog, read it, find out who they are. Maybe even comment in gratitude. So this creates a bit of a rule:

If you like somebody’s blog content, they will often visit your website.

This is a good thing, we want to gain friends after all, want to build community. However you can easily see how this could be exploited. If you want to gain readers for your blog all you need to do is Like posts. The more posts you Like, the more readers you gain. So we have a process.

Read blog post > Like blog post > Gain new reader

But then, reading blog posts is pretty time consuming and the only reason you’re doing it for is to gain readers. So why even bother to read at all? Let’s change the process a little.

Like blog post > Gain new reader

Now you have much more time to Like posts and you can gain readers quickly.

Of course, the Like has no meaning now, you didn’t read the post, all you did was Like it. That doesn’t matter though, because the blogger doesn’t know this. The blogger still feels good, still feels acknowledged. They will still be curious, they will still come to your blog. So you Like, Like, Like. As much as you can.

What you’ve effectively created is what I call “Like Spam”. You hit the Like button so much that it’s lost all real meaning, it’s now just a button that gains your own blog readers.

However this technique is incredibly manipulative. You’re using the emotions of others in order to get them to your site. I did an experiment for a few days years ago where I did some Like spam. Every day I would Like 100 blog posts. After a few days my traffic had grown by a huge amount. I had comments coming out of my ass. My views were spiralling out of control. Then I started getting comments like this:

Riba said:

I just stopped by to say thank you for “liking” my post, “The Gap Between My Selves.” I love your little story about the title of your blog, and the strong, humorous voice coming through in your writing. Thank you! R.

The truth is. I didn’t know who this person was. I hadn’t read their post. I was gaining lots of readers, but at the same time I was selling a part of my soul. I felt awful with myself.

Although my Likes were making tons of people feel good about themselves, they were built upon dishonesty. The Like spam seemed too unethical to me. The price was too high, I was selling myself out in return for appreciation. I stopped with the Likes.

Recently I’ve started to read some blog posts again. Partly because I’ve got so much free time (unemployed) and partly because I want to connect with other bloggers with similar life experiences. I read a lot of posts tagged with “travel” and “anxiety” as those are things deeply ingrained in me. I can never bring myself to just Like a post, I want to be more honest, so I comment instead. Liking seems cheap to me now.

But do you know what I’ve noticed? Other people picked has discovered Like Spam. Using the power of Like to their advantage. Manipulating the emotions of others.

Can I judge these people without judging myself? I’m not so sure. Can I call them out on their bullshit Likes? No, because Like Spam is something impossible to prove. However if somebody likes your post almost immediately after you’ve posted it, I think it’s easy to assume they haven’t bothered to read it. If a person has liked every blog post under the sun, they wouldn’t have had the time to read them all. They must be spamming.

Is this small act of dishonesty a good price to pay for success? You gain readers, maybe even money and all you need to do in return is pretend you Liked something. For me the price is too high, I’d rather be able to look my readers in the eye.

I’m proud that a handful of you keep coming back, not because I Liked your posts, but rather because you like me.

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7 thoughts on “The Importance of Being Liked”

  1. Well, I come back because I find your writing to be interesting. I’ve never been able to travel abroad much, so I like to live vicariously through others. I’ll continue to “like” your posts — honestly.

  2. I liked this post, however I didn’t “Like” it. I rarely “Like”, I’m a commenter. I “Like” through comments, I hate how the Like button has now taken over as acknowledgement. Every time I see someone nudge that button over a sad post I wince.

    1. “My grandma died today.” 32 people liked this post.

      I do hate how it’s become an acceptable form of communication because really it lacks any human connection. Still, it works online and is better than nothing.

  3. It’s funny how closely related this blog is to your subsequent “I Can’t Get No (Job) Satisfaction.” The idea of quality over quantity, or personal fulfillment over financial gratification. I blog because if I don’t, the post will stay lodged in my head for ages. So I let them loose and clear my mind.

    The only audience I care to reach are (generally) my close friends. They don’t leave comments, because it’s easier to tell me in person (“Don’t ever mention me in a blog again!”). Granted, I may be a recluse as I don’t even promote new blogs anymore, not even by the laziest standard (i.e. posting it on Facebook). Family and friends will find it or they won’t. If they don’t, they’ll have more to read later.

    -Tim

    1. It’s strange how the mind works, because I like to think I prefer personal fulfilment to financial gain. However if that were the case I wouldn’t stress so much about money and constantly take on crappy jobs. If a person truly doesn’t care for money, then they should be comfortable living a poor life with the freedom to do what they want.

      However it’s so easy to get pulled into the rat race and find yourself doing what everybody else does. Which is working for security and putting aside other things.

      I do think that when it comes to writing my blog I just do it for myself more than anything. I’m terrible at promoting my posts, partially because I just think “Why would anybody give a shit about what I’ve written?” It’s very hard to be a modest writer because simply by publishing your words you’re kind of saying “This is worth reading.” But then, if you don’t publish, what’s the point, those words will be wasted! It’s tough for me to find a middle ground.

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