Like My Status

(which, right now, is ‘bloody tired’)

Hey there, you wanna be friends on Facebook? Well I don’t; you might be that bot in Kenya that saw my post that one time, and therefore be incapable of any of the deeply emotional and meaningful interactions that take place on that most personal of websites. However, some of you are already ‘friends’ with me on that site, and it is to you that this post’s title is directed.

Basically, I’m addicted to Likes on Facebook.

Yesterday, I spent a good half-hour scrolling down my own timeline, looking at all my hilarious statuses from years passed, and checking the number of Likes on them; and this wasn’t out of nostalgia or curiosity of the ideas I once felt were important enough to bash out onto a keyboard – I didn’t read any of the comments, or check who had like them – but out of pure narcissism.

I suppose I feel validated or successful by a well-received status update; on one level it’s the old idea of objective versus subjective success: reading comments about a topic and the debate it brings (a topic’s subjective success) is messy and difficult and often requires me to get involved, as it’s on my status, but the sheer number of Likes (a status’ numerical, objective success) is a much easier way of reaching the conclusion that what I said was worthwhile.

And the ambiguity of this objective success is helpful too: I can take the generically ‘positive’ reaction of getting a few Likes, and impose my ideas of what their specific reaction is, if I am not to read the comments. Essentially, I don’t care that you think my status was funny, I wanted it to be thought-provoking, and so by ignoring your comments, I can tell myself that I provoked a good few thoughts in posting it.

I think a part of this is down to the desire for recognition: we want to have our work appreciated, not in an egomaniacal sense, in that we can only do work for the explicit purpose of attracting the attention of others, but in a sense of fairness: I put a few hours into that thing, so I’d like people to spend a few hours looking at it.

However, the narcissism of the Facebook status comes from the nature of the status itself: it is a short form of content, and so cannot accurately reflect any truly profound or meaningful ideas (without linking to a Wateraid advert which, while a very nice thing to do, is not really your idea), and there is the illusion of intimacy on Facebook.

I jovially mentioned this earlier, but seriously, Facebook is very clever in making us think we are being close and personal with people that we really know bugger all about: the uniformity of the term ‘friends’ means that my closest companions and eleven-year-olds I met once at a youth club are of the same rank in my mind. Google Plus tried to combat this with its ‘circles’ idea, a concept which I approve of, which failed because people were used to the singular rank of their associates from Facebook, and because most people lack the skill of being enough of a heartless bastard to accurately make such divisions.

As a result, Facebook statuses become deeply personal to us: pictures of people posting embarrassing illnesses or situations on the site isn’t down to mere idiocy, but because the site actively encourages us to think that we are only interacting with our real-life friends: those on our chat box are now ranked, so we can talk to those we know personally that much easier. Therefore, paying attention exclusively to lots of Likes on a status means that people approve of your status in the exact way to want them to, and they are approving of a very personal reflection of your character: they don’t just like that pun you made, but they like you.

So while it is nice to get lots of Likes and Comments on your oh-so-funny observation about the nature of napkins or whatever else you people find amusing these days, bear in mind that they probably didn’t enjoy reading that for the same reason you did, and they certainly don’t think you more of a person because you pointed out that fancy folded napkins at seafood restaurants look strangely like the clams one would order at that very eatery.

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