Me: You give it to people on Facebook.
My bro: How do you give it?
Me: You click Like.
This topic has been floating around in my mind when I realized that every time I made a Facebook post, I'd take it down in a few hours if it didn't have any Likes on it. How neurotic is that? So after actually seeing I was doing this (somewhere like 5-10 times in a few months), I got a little self critical and unconsciously resolved to do three things: 1) only post what I thought was the highest quality, 2) not care how many likes I got, and 3) explore deeper what the action of giving or receiving a Facebook Like (or upvote on Reddit, Twitter, etc) really means to figure out why I post and why the Likes feel so good.
As for numero uno, I post less stuff on Facebook now, and only when I really think what I'm offering is either pretty useful or pretty clever. My creative engine is not known for its consistency, so sometimes I'll post thrice in two days and then maybe not for a month. Quality. I've heard that having something published that you really don't like doesn't feel that great.
As for number two, the number of likes I got, let me save that for the end. I know, poor essay planning here, throwing my reader a rope-a-dope. Let's see if it works.
As for the third point, let's see what a Facebook Like is and means and so I can figure out how neurotic I was acting (and by "figure out" I of course mean "harshly self-judge"). And once I realized my neurosis, was I all, "Let's lock this away and forget about it and pretend no one never notices it and I'm perfect now what's on TV?" No. It was whip-out-the-keyboard time.
Years of writing workshops has calloused my capacity for constructive criticism, but it never hurts to channel one's own inner Stuart Smalley:
What you are giving them is the endorsement of your name in the Facebook popularity rankings, and everyone's name means something a little different depending on your relationships and reputation and such. Lending your name and giving them another Like to grow their pile with is, more than anything, a gesture of thought.
And why do people click Like? They want to show support, to recognize you, to praise you for brightening their day a tad. Why do they like things in general? Pleasure, comfort, security, relationships, morals. More often than not, it connects with them emotionally, which is why posting a song usually dies Likeless: music is so emotionally subjective. When I make a post about some random thing like finding a knife on the sidewalk, there are any number of reasons people could click that Like button. And because not everyone on your friends list sees all your posts, it's always a random combination of people viewing them every time. You could get ten likes or zero. And that's not even to get into the whole idea that because Google and Facebook collects all your demographics and gives you content based on that, which may put you into a self-reinforcing ideological tunnel, as discussed by Eli Pariser in this TED Talk:
A Facebook post is a third-person communication; you're putting a message out there in public for a whole group. This means the validation of a Like is also a public action in a public space. Sometimes everyone sees you make a good joke, sometimes you make a post that dies a sad, hugless death.
And that is painful. You think this comment is good, that it's going to reach people and touch them or make them laugh, and yet it just sits there, friendless, like an echo in a cave, like a voice calling for someone just hoping they'll answer. And when that answer doesn't come, you reflect it upon yourself, you identify with the lack of validation. You become the lonely comment, which is a hell of a lot easier than doing that on stage. Comedians deserve respect for their resolve.
A psychological trick, sure, but one that's easy to get duped by. The key is not needing that validation. Learning how to be happy with getting your writing/pictures/ideas out there simply because you put thought into it and felt like the thought/photo/link should be shared with the world. It doesn't matter who else likes it as long as you like it.
And that brings me back to number two up top: the number of Likes you receive for a given post. I just watched a Frontline where high school students where raving over how many Likes this picture got vs. that picture, as if it really matters (we're pretending this post means I'm above this at this point...). But a friend recently told me that we're responsible for telling people how we feel and what we need, and anything they actually give us should be considered a gift.
So to follow that reasoning, any Facebook Like should be considered a gift. None are necessary, but even getting one is a cool thing. My stupid joke got Liked by one person. If I free myself from expectations, I can be grateful for that. Like.