The Like Button: Fast Food for the Pleasure Principle

You can always see it, you just have to look.

Look more closely. Always.

We all do it. We turn on our Facebook or our email, we see that seven people *liked* something we wrote, and we feel good. If three people I never met like one of my blog posts, I’ll admit it, I get a nice little tingle inside.

However.

This situation is getting out of control, people. Not only with the *likes*. Not only with the obscure friend requests, the comments, the ability to *like* a comment. Pretty soon you’ll be able to like someones like, and pardon my lethargy when it comes to adding the stars, but you get the idea.

I think that this mentality is creeping in much farther than we think. Our social interactions, which used to require effort and intention, are now being reduced to a series of clicks and keystrokes. I can tell you that I love you by typing eight letters and two spaces, four spaces if it is in some sort of context. And even a period or a comma if I’m one of those who still remembers their petty and yet incredibly important existence.

No longer do I have to send a letter to you from afar declaring my affections, with the honesty of my words being shown through my pen strokes. I don’t even have to walk to your house or make plans to meet you. I don’t even have to hear your voice over the phone, because I can simply text. This can feel rather normal, but it’s actually insane.

Someone who *likes* your post does not *like* you. Even someone who follows my blog, bless all your precious souls, does not really know me, does not really care about me. I am here, in this room, strangers yelling about a horse shoe game outside, cars passing by in whiry blips of noise, a boyfriend typing away on the bed trying to get the dog to be less lazy; and anyone who follows my blog doesn’t know this. Even though in some sick way, it feels like they do. It feels like when they start to follow my blog, they are actually aware of the whole situation. I feel that if someone *likes* a post I write, that they know what I actually meant. What I was feeling as I left it.

And this is not the case. But it gets even worse.

There’s a pet peeve of mine that is developing a rather intense aggression problem as of late. Look. Facebook doesn’t care what you like or share. They do not give money to things that you like or share. Some organizations have valid offers in which they give you a discount for something or a coupon because you *like* their page. But people that I love and respect are actually thinking that if they make a Facebook post about Southwest Airlines and *like* it, that they are getting free tickets. It’s not even from the actual company. Seriously, people? You really think that the already cheapest airline is going to give free tickets to anyone that clicks a button, to anywhere that they want to go? That. Is. In. Sane.

My point is this. We need to realize that real life-changing experiences are not as easy as clicking on or sharing something. Each one of us needs to take account of our social lives, and sort out the whole-grains from the processed foods. We need to acknowledge how much of our daily social gratification is coming from real life, from people who love and respect us, who see us and hear us; and people who are sitting somewhere else in a room we’ve never seen, clicking buttons to show their affection; regardless of how much they mean it.

The feeling of really relating to someone is deeper than this. It is intense. It involves breaking barriers, feeling empathy and sympathy, and sometimes feeling incredibly uncomfortable. It involves seeing, smelling, and feeling the air. It involves effort. It involves time. It involves intention and attention. It is not instant. It is not getting a cheeseburger from a cow you’ve never seen in a place you’ve never been in less time than it takes to get the money out of your wallet and check your text messages. It is hearty, full-grained, fibrous and all-consuming of your being in the moment. It is not something you do while you are drinking coffee and having a conversation with someone else at the same time.

Humans are complicated and amazing. The food you eat today somehow turns into cells that become your body later. The things you do today lead to memories that affect your consciousness in countless ways that you cannot even imagine. And each time that you click a *like*, or receive one and feel something, you are being programmed. This can be an amazing thing if well-balanced with a social life that has plenty of real and life-enhancing interactions.

We are all affected by this. No baby that has cancer is suffering in a hospital that has staff sitting around seeing how many people “shared” a post of that baby and carrying out the treatment accordingly. No airline is calculating the people who not only shared, but liked their own post about the airline, and doling out free tickets to Hawaii. People aren’t doing this. The fact that many of us believe that the whole world is watching our minuscule contributions to Facebook and giving out money to those in need is sad to me. If you want to help a baby with cancer, donate five dollars to a good organization. Make sure it’s their real page, by the way. If you want free tickets, try to find information on the actual website. Don’t just believe things, don’t just click buttons. That is not how *LIFE* works.

We need to remember this. Especially those of us that are watching it happen right before our eyes, because those younger than us are just eating it up. Sometimes humans like to take the easy way out. We want to drink alcohol to express ourselves. We want to use auto-correct instead of looking up a word in a dictionary. We want to send an email or a text instead of making a phone call. We want to get our protein by eating meat, but we don’t want to get our hands bloody in the process. We want to be healthy and eat quinoa, but we have no idea how to grow it. We want to feel that those who *like* our little posts are telling us that we are good.

I am blessed to be living with a boyfriend who actually sees me. Actually understands my moods, listens to my needs, expresses his own, and loves me. I have never been so lucky, and I am in a position that is different than many people. I feel like I am wearing the sunglasses in They Live, because I am not hungry for the things that are being offered. But to those who are, I feel the need to do something. To say something. To remind people and myself that life has been happening and is still happening, and is never as easy as clicking a button. So please. Do not confuse the two.

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5 thoughts on “The Like Button: Fast Food for the Pleasure Principle

  1. I had to hit the like button 😀

    I don’t know how to respond to this post and it is a solid post indeed. I have extremely high hopes for humanity or I demand much. Although I feel as though it is pointless I nevertheless continue onward. I don’t think we really know how to relate with one another. Such an art has been lost. I think it has something to do with technology and viewing each other as a means to serve or be served…there is no we striving forward. Sounds like a random comment does it not? Yet, somehow it is very linked into your post. I feel like we are all so detached from one another yet we think we are attached and understand one another. I may stop hitting like button now and simply resort to commenting if I like a post or feel a connection to it or ask a question to better understand the author’s intention. Thank you for the idea.

  2. Thanks for the elaborate, response, it really makes my day to hear actual words in response to what I write!
    I think that responses like that, whether accompanied by a ‘like’ or not, are so great, for both the commentator and the person who gets to see and understand their interpretation of the comment. I think the issue is how we relate to the ‘like’, because as you said, it makes it easier to be more detached while pretending otherwise. If a thousand people ‘liked’ this, my ego would inflate for sure, but for all I know they could have been playing a joke on me, and it wouldn’t make a difference. I would have no idea where they were coming from, and it is hard for my mind to wrap around that. As long as you are aware of your own feelings and response to things of yours being ‘liked,’, and increasing mindfulness of when you ‘like’ things, I think that is my biggest wish for this post and the way that it is absorbed! Thanks so much for your comment 🙂

  3. Well written Jennifer and I *Liked* it. 🙂 I have not thought of the sum total of you but I do connect to your picture. So happy to hear you have a nice boyfriend. Lucky girl. I *Like* on Word Press when I read a blog post and actually like it. It does make us feel good when people *Like* my post, my family could care less about my blog, some real friends do, maybe two. So thank goodness for the awesome nice & cool bloggers at Word Press that support one another with kind words and *Likes* I figure it is the least I can do to make someone smile. 🙂 emoticon

    Real life interactions are paramount, people need to get off technology in public and connect to other humans, look them in the eye, listen, care.

    • I agree about people connecting more in public- it’s so interesting how something that starts off as purely fun can turn into something that has such power over how we feel, depending on the day. Now I know the days when I shouldn’t check my blog stats or spend time online, because I know my brain will make the worst of it 🙂 It’s always good to work on those patterns!

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