The Trouble With Being Liked

Anyone who spends even a few minutes a day online will be aware of the “like” concept. Started, I believe, on FriendFeed, then adopted by Facebook, where it exploded, it now features on a wide range of social sites in some form or other. Including WordPress.

I’ll make my stance clear from the outset, and it’s not a popular one.

I don’t like “likes” at all, and I’ve never “liked” anything in my life, in this sense of the word.

So why, what’s my big problem with liking?

Well, first, I see it as a cop out, a way to acknowledge something you’ve read but without making the effort to actually say something positive about the article or to add anything to the conversation.

For me, blogs are all about conversation and community. “Liking” does nothing for either.

Second, whilst I’m sure there are many people who “like” with the best of intentions, I also know there are swathes of others who only “like” you in the hope that you’ll “like” them in return, thus increasing their perceived popularity and/or giving their ego a quick squeeze.

“Liking” to get “likes” back is surely one of the most pointless wastes of time online. And oh, there are many!

Again, nobody actually gains anything, because there’s been no meaningful engagement or conversation.

It’s the equivalent of throwing out snacks of empty calories, offering zero lasting value, and in the process making the recipient crave their next “like” that little bit more.

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When I began 35hunter, the “like” feature was on by default. As much as it annoyed me, I didn’t even know you could turn it off, let alone how to.

Then I realised that some WordPress blogs I read didn’t have a “like” button. I want me a piece of that opting out kind of action, muttered my inner grump.

So I switched it off.

Unfortunately though, it seems you can’t switch the “like” option off in WordPress Reader, so I was still picking up “likes” I didn’t like.

Anyway, some time later, in a moment of now unfathomable weakness, I wondered about reinstating the “like” option on 35hunter itself too, and so tried it, as an experiment.

My theory panned out as expected. Likes went up significantly, and comments went down.

So I decided to disable the “like” once more.

Although you can still “like” a post here via the WP Reader, I would like to request you don’t. Thank you.

Instead, if you really do like something you read, please let me know. Join the conversation. Share your unique perspective. That’s why we’re here, writing our blogs and conversing on other people’s.

It’s like a small friendly town with a host of cafes and parks where people go and hang out for a while to chat with others they find interesting and who share similar interests.

What kind of strange town would it be if everyone just nodded in passing at everyone else (the best metaphorical physical equivalent of a “like” I can think of – please feel free to suggest a better one) and never spoke, never asked anything, never shared anything?

It would be like some sinister future apocalyptic horror movie where everyone’s tongues (and perhaps minds) had been removed and all they could do was nod benignly…

There’s another aspect to “likes” I really don’t like either.

(Aside from the above, and the fact it makes me have to write “like” in quotes every time to make the distinction between the true like and this modern imposter!)

That is, the fact that “likes” were created and pioneered as a way to increase the accuracy of targeted advertising surreptitiously, without many people realising.

Anyone with an account with Facebook or similar will notice how in time the ads that appear seem to be more relevant to you, and more closely related to what you’ve read and “liked” recently.

Rather than the advertisers throwing out ads based at generic gender and age based profiles (a 25 year old male, he must love violent video games, beer, football and fast cars!) they can start to be far more precise, and therefore vastly increase their chances of selling something to you.

So in turn, the providers of those little online advertising billboards can charge companies more and more to run their ads.

(For the record, if I was a prolific “liker” I’d probably only ever be targeted with ads from eBay about old digital cameras from 2004-2012, Star Wars and X-Men films, the kind of sturdy outerwear I would not have been seen dead in two decades ago (think a warm fleece and heavier weight yet comfortable trouser) and Green and Blacks 85% Dark Chocolate. Anyway…)

I greatly dislike ads at the best of times, but when they’re laser targeted at people, often without them even knowing, it just all feels rather controlling, sinister, and 1984-esque.

Enough about “likes”.

To finish, a polite request.

If you read anything on 35hunter and genuinely do like it, in the good old fashioned sense of the word, I’d love it if you let me know.

Even better would be if you added your own thoughts and furthered the conversation.

My posts are more often that not just the starting point for further discussion between all of us. Not just to be read and “liked”.

How about you? Do you vehemently dislike the “like”, like me? Or are you happy to “like” and be “liked” left right and centre?

Please let us know below!

Thanks for looking. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too. If you’re interested, this is what I’m into right now.

29 thoughts on “The Trouble With Being Liked”

  1. I have similar feelings about the like feature. And that times when what is written about isn’t about liking it as that is not the appropriate response but is the short cut online.

    1. Yes, there’s no doubt a number of people try to use it to draw attention to their own blog etc. I have the same suspicion as when I have a new follower called something like “Affiliate Marketing Expert”… Not interested thanks.

      Thanks for your thoughts, much appreciated.

  2. I’ve always thought of the like button as doffing my hat at the author for the article so to speak, so you’ve given me some food for thought.

    I’ve gotten rid of sidebars on my blog to make it more about reading the post than just clicking away for the hell of it – it does seems to have worked as time spent on my site has increased. I might now consider removing the like button.. But, I do like it being there lol.

    1. I think some people do use it as a “hat doff”, but many don’t. I just think if you like something enough, tell the writer so. A “like” gives the author zero information about what you liked, why you liked it, and so on, it’s a dead end for both of you.

      Oh sidebars are a whole other issue yes! I have a blog post in draft about this, and all the related readability issue with blogs.

      I read years ago (at least 10, perhaps 15) a blogging guru talking about this. To summarise, he said to have an online presence, you usually have your own site or blog, which is like your home, then various outposts, like accounts at Facebook, Twitter et al.

      He explained that the point of the outposts is the same – to get more people to come and visit your own home, rather than just talk with you in the outposts where you have no control over aspects like layout, content, ads etc. It’s like inviting people round to yours for dinner rather than meeting them in a cafe someone else runs.

      Following on from this, he was amazed that so many people seem to make the most visible and intrusive elements of their blog the links to their social media profiles.

      In other words, it’s like once they actually have a visitor on their own site, where you’re in control of the design, advertising etc, they’re then doing all they can to push the visitor away again to someone else’s social media site! What kind of welcome is that?

      Imagine inviting someone around for dinner, then as soon as they set foot in the door giving them menus for McDonalds and Burger King a couple of towns away.

      This has always stuck with me. We want to do all we can to make our readers and visitors welcome, so they visit more often, and stay for longer for each visit.

      Thanks for your comments, much appreciated.

  3. Hi Dan, I have been offline entirely for a bit, which turned out to be surprisingly restful. I didn’t even know it was possible to “like” blog posts, I thought it was just a FB thing, so obviously I’ve never done it. It does seem like a typical modern way to approve of something that doesn’t require much commitment so I can see the appeal. You give a good argument to think twice about it.

    1. Jon, we’ve missed you, I thought it had been a few weeks since we spoke. Glad to hear it was restful.

      Yes, I think you’re right about not requiring much commitment, but really, taking a minute to write a short comment is hardly like a marriage proposal or a five year loan… : )

      1. Yes, I got my new computer up and running, so I am back in the saddle again with my blog reading. I work at night and read to pass the time, and watch you tube videos, I forgot to say that I was interested to learn about the targeted advertising and the “likes”. that is very interesting, I suspect that I am advertisers worst nightmare, if I notice them at all, I make it a point to go out of my way to avoid buying their product or service, I always read comments though, and they are often very thoughtful and interesting. I do wonder about people with blogs and you tube channels that never or seldom respond to peoples comments though, whats the point? Perhaps they only want “likes”, Speaking of comments, I see my “Happy New Years” comment never made it in that post, (there have been some glitches with the new computers) so I wish you and yours a happy and healthy New Year!

        1. Thanks for the good wishes Jon, to you too!

          I completely agree about comments and not responding. I used to follow a really famous (in our circles) film photography blog, and remember leaving an extensive comment on a certain post – as did a number of other people. The blogger didn’t reply to a single one of them. I just found it rude, and haven’t really looked at their blog since. Like you say, why even bother having comments enabled if you’re not going to respond to people who take the time to write?

  4. I like this article. (Am I doing it right? Instead of clicking, I should write the words out?)

    I am so sorry that you don’t like my “like”. I promise I won’t do it again. It, actually, hurt a little (maybe 😉 after spending time reading and making a decision if I “like” the article or not, the receiving person sees it as a cop out. Ouch.

    For me, “Like” serves some purposes. For one, even though it may not tell me how many people like my post, it lets me know how many people have read or glanced at my post. This is particularly important for a new blogger. Can you imagine someone sitting there wondering if he or she has been talking to a wall week after week? (Maybe after several years, after we know someone do read our blog, we can disable the “like” button, just like WP’s disable function. I do think WP should consider taking out the “like” from the reader when someone disable it from the post.)

    The biggest problem I see is that there are so many talented bloggers and so little time. And it takes me a lot longer to read, and even much longer to comment (lots of thinking time required). Making one comment like this means I will have to skip reading 3 or 4 other blogs…

    Have a great day.

    1. Hi Helen, thank you for your thoughtful comments.

      I think as with many things in life, it’s quality over quantity. As a new blogger I’m sure I’d rather have one sincere and thoughtful comment than 10 likes from random strangers who may have read the whole pose, may have glanced at it, or may have just “liked” it to gain attention for their blog.

      “Likes” just give the author no meaningful feedback about the post, when it’s so easy to click “like, it has no weight. What do we do with it??

      Regarding so many bloggers and so little time, yes I absolutely agree, and the same is true for a hundred other things – music, books, cameras, films, hobbies, friends, and so on… With all of these we need to decide which we value most, and commit our time to them and enjoy them as fully as we can.

      As I’ve spoken about repeatedly here, one of the mantras I try to live life by is “do less, do it better”.

      Thanks again for reading and sharing your thoughts Helen, I’m glad you did.

  5. Ha! Great post … I can understand your loathing of ‘the like’. What I can’t bear (apart from your dark chocolate) is when someone ‘likes’ about ten different posts in quick succession, clearly not having read them at all! Now that’s MY inner grump speaking!

    1. Yes Katie! It just further devalues any meaning intended by the sincere “likes” we do receive. If you like it, say you like, and why! As I know we both do on each others’ blogs.

  6. Dan, as you know I like the dialogue. I like it when I post a response I get a response back from the blogger and choose those blogs accordingly. I had another friend on FB complain because people weren’t giving “likes”! I am trying my best with you all and the way you like things differently xxoxo susanJOY

    1. Susan, yes exactly, like you I feel that this conversation is a vital part of blogging – for the author and reader. When this spreads to a network of connected blogs it’s even better.

      This can’t happen if people are just clicking a button to “like”, that just kills any dialogue before it’s begun.

      To me your Facebook story is very strange. I guess to some people a “like” has greater currency, where to me like I said in the post, it’s like a snack of empty calories. Perhaps the “likes” work differently now on Facebook. I haven’t had an account there for nine years.

      1. Dan, we have a mutual friend on FB who gets hundreds of likes on her posts. She also gets many comments which she answers personally. I am sure she wouldn’t manage to respond to hundreds of comments so for her the “like” system works well with her getting feedback but not the pressure of comments.

        1. As with anything, we have to decide how much time and energy we want to commit. If something we do is taking more time than we are prepared to give it, and it’s causing us too much stress because of it, we have to make a change. To some that might mean scaling it down, to others it might mean taking on staff to help manage the workload.

          I currently work full time, so I couldn’t find the time to spend say two or three hours a day extra on 35hunter. That’s my choice, and of course it’s a personal project, I’m not doing it as a business.

  7. I like the likes, I do. Each to their own. I like a post when I genuinely like it. Sometimes I have nothing to add to the conversation, but I want the person to know I appreciate their effort or thought. I guess the problem comes when people use the feature as bookmark, oh I liked that so I must have read it. They are part of the world now, but as long as you are not upset by NOT getting them then that is perfect. Like hunters a problem to us and themselves.

    1. Ha ha, I’m quite happy to not get them!

      If I read a blog post and really enjoyed it, I would say “thanks for this post, I enjoyed it because…” Because that’s what I would like someone to do in my position to my own blog, it’s leading by example I guess. But as you said, each to their own.

      I don’t quite understand your last line, do you mean “like hunters are a problem to us and themselves”, as in people who “like” just to try to get “likes” back in return? In which case yes I completely agree! This is a big reason why I can’t get on with Instagram, there seem to be very few intelligent comments and loads of hearts and silly strings of emoticons…

      Thanks for joining the conversation, always appreciated.

      (PS/ I clicked through to the link in your avatar – https://windswept007.wordpress.com/ – but it says “the authors have deleted this site”?)

      1. I haven’t deleted it but am now paying for cameragocamera.com without the WordPress. It means the old posts have to be redirected. Sometimes there is an issue.
        With the hunters, I mean some people are soooo into likes that it seems to consume them to the point it is all they care about. Not, is this a worthwhile post, but will this get likes. I think people should produce things they love or care about more than searching for likes.

        1. Thanks Peggy, I didn’t put two and two together with the different website names.

          Yes I think what you’re talking about is part of the same topic, but the flipside. Whereas I don’t really understand or care about likes and discourage people from “liking” 35hunter, there are some for whom a record number of likes is the holy grail for each post they publish, regardless of anything else about the post, as you say.

          Long term, I believe that the best written and most interesting content rises to the top, you can’t keep tricking people with “clickbait” headlines just to be “liked” for very long.

          1. I might try it on my next post, “You won’t believe what happens when I tried this old film camera…”

          2. Yes, “One Secret Trick To Remove Excess Fat From Your DSLR…”

            I just thought, why don’t you just update your website in your WP profile? If you click on your face in the top right in the WP bar, then go to your account settings, then in Web Address put in the new website. Then it should appear when you comment on other WP blogs.

          3. Actually I think I might use this variation as a title for a genuine post – “One Secret Trick To Get Rid Of All Those Cameras You Bought With Good Intentions But Will Never Use…”

            Think I need to work on the snappiness (or lack of!) though. Perhaps “…Of Excess Fat In Your Camera Collection…”

  8. People who make money by influencing their followers need likes and they need engagement. They need them to show prospective clients that they are the influencers they claim to be.

    Buying ‘likes’ is easy but buying engagement is not. Clients know that, so engagement is more highly prized than ‘likes’ by influencers.

    1. I agree, and I think “likes” are decreasing in value by the day. There’s so little effort (and it’s so easy to “fake”) that they have no real currency. Thanks for your input David!

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