There are few things in life as fulfilling as seeing a new "like" on a Facebook post. You think I'm joking, but deep down, having people "like" the shit we post on Facebook makes us feel all warm and fuzzy. There's actually scientific proof of this: Studies have shown that not only do we experience a release of dopamine when we post something on social media, but an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens lights up the same way as when we think about fun things like sex and food and money. That dirty blend of synthetic social interaction, a bogus sense of achievement, and the illusion of popularity triggers some kind of pathetic rush—kind of like an addiction—leaving us all thirsty for the next digital thumbs up.
The sad thing is, most of those "likes" are a farce. While you're over there congratulating yourself on breaking double digit "likes" with your latest profile picture, someone else is sitting behind their computer, snickering about the reasons why they clicked the little blue thumb. With the exception of your mom, few people "like" your status update because they actually like it. Hell, sometimes people "like" your shit expressly because they hate it. Trust me, you do it too. Here are a few of the reasons people have been "liking" your posts.
First, I'll start with the good news: People don't always care about the stuff you post, but there are people who genuinely care about you, and they'll "like" your posts regardless. The microscopic slice of your online friends you would conceivably take a bullet for—they get thumbed unconditionally, and vice versa. Hell, they'll "like" it even if they loathe it, because that's what friends are for.
The same goes for people who care about you less, but feel obligated to look like they do. Like that guy you met at the bar that one time, who you shared a heart-to-heart with and never saw again—he'll one day share in the joy of your newborn child.
With some strangers, there's a symbiotic "liking" relationship. The mutual massaging of each other's internet presence has long outlived any real life relationship. If you saw them in the mall, you would probably stop, drop, and roll. But you'll keep 'liking' each other's shit for all eternity, like a joyless game of tag that only death can settle.
Spite, Version One
We've all had that experience where we're lazily scrolling through Facebook and then—BAM. Some pouting wart on your past has resurfaced right in the center of you news feed. But instead of the usual excruciating, sexed-up projection of their lives, they're broadcasting some kind of discomfort. Something like: "Feeling realllllly poorly :( :( :("
Now here's something we can really get on board with. This you like. You like that karma is fighting the good fight against their immune system; you like that it's the perfect amount of suffering for you to "like" it guilt-free; and most of all, you like the perverse satisfaction of picturing them assuming you're rallying behind them in their hour of need. It's a juicy, victimless venting of spite. Thumbs up!
Spite, Version Two
Every now and then, a post pops up so spectacularly cringeworthy that it, too, warrants a "like." This person must be officially recognized for their outstanding contribution to awfulness. A classic case is the chump who rants through unwanted updates on their toxic social circle. They tell of an unforgiving place, where "trust" and "loyalty" are an unstable currency and "true friends" dwindle with each passing day. Anyone who notices what a monumental fuckwit they are, is proudly dismissed as just another "hater" and if pretty much everyone hates you, you've got to be doing something right. Right?
To witness such an exceptional career dickhead is life-affirming. Not in the grand scheme of things, of course, but on a purely selfish, personal level. Even at your lowest, when you are wincing with shame and your morals are taking a sabbatical, you will still have the high ground on this waste of a soul. Really, you are 'liking' what a slightly better person you are. Everyone likes a villain.
A lot of the time, we are "liking" stuff on behalf of our genitals. Up there with religiously favoriting their tweets, it's probably the easiest, least ballsiest way to imply that you wouldn't mind banging someone. In the olden days, there was the Facebook "poke" function, which still exists today, but no one uses it. Now, the subtler "like" can be used to set in motion a series of events, ending with you consummating your Facebook attraction with some good old fashioned, IRL sex.
Scrolling through display pictures is like visiting a cattle market, admirer's carefully study each user and their "likes" are shouts expressing their interest. If the photo is comprised of a non-buddy marketing themselves to a lens, the intention of the "like" is explicit. Those in relationships are treated to a monthly break down of everyone who wants to poach their loved one. Remember: Friends don't let their homely homie's profile picture stay in single figures.
If you're too discrete and debonair for such an upfront declaration, you might inject a little allure in to your cyber-pursuit by instead "liking" a photo your target is tagged in. Maybe, you could "like" a photo where there's something fun going on and they aren't seducing the camera. This way your intent is slightly more mysterious and ambiguous. Like, Hey, I just like the fact that you are having fun. And maybe, probably, I want to sex you? This only applies if the photo pops up on the news feed, of course. You wouldn't want the recipient to feel like you've hunted them out and have been rifling systematically through their life, like a pervert through a trash bag.
For an even more subtle and sophisticated approach, perhaps just "like" some recent success in their life, or a music video they posted. This could indicate that you have the same taste in music (you want to fuck them) or you are pretend-psyched about their exam results (you still want to fuck them). There's still a sniff of underlying intent when "liking" an adorable video someone has shared of a baby goat being a dick.
In the muddled mindset of the drunken Facebooker, all the unspoken codes of conduct go stumbling out the window. Near-strangers just feel like old friends. You "like" with reckless abandon, putting as many thumbs in as many pies as you can: ex-girlfriend's mom's cover photo: Yeah I like that! Photo of yourself looking fresh from two years ago: Damn, yeah I like that! Dude you don't recognize mourning the death of their grandmother: Oh shit. They really need me right now. I like that!
Waking groggily up, you'll find your Facebook presence near the top of your regret list. Your open screen will show an ominous number of notifications, which you decide it is probably best not to acknowledge.
Suspend disbelief a moment and imagine somewhere in the inconsequential swamp of strangers tensing and ex-colleagues venting that you scroll upon something you genuinely like. For whatever reason, you just want to express your straightforward appreciation—no ulterior motive.
Here's the thing, though: Will they interpret your "like" as a flirty declaration? How regularly have you been "liking" their shit? If you recently caught a case of "like" trigger finger, they might assume you are madly obsessed with them. They'll imagine you pawing through their past, chanting a mantra you've created by splicing together their most successful Facebook statuses.
What if you can't even remember the origin of your online sham of a friendship? What if they can't even remember you? Shit, your name will stand out on the list of "likers" like a sore, blue thumb. Maybe it's best not to "like" it after all.
And then, of course, you realize: All these hypothetical repercussions of a "like" are pretty much imaginary. No one gives a shit—we are all happy to be "liked!" When an unfamiliar name shows their appreciation for some vapid insight into your own life, you value it the same as you would from a close friend.
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