About a month and a half ago, a friend of mine posted an article on Facebook written by a woman who stopped using the “Like” button on social media. I found it to be an interesting idea, especially since I was growing weary of Facebook.
I’d contemplated deleting my account, but just couldn’t bring myself to do it–what about all my connections! I didn’t want to lose touch with people. And yet–I was hardly connecting. And that was what I’d grown weary of.
I’m also a marketer by trade–a professional communicator, if you will–and you can’t just up and walk away from Facebook when you’re in the business of marketing.
Still, my feed was full of pointless videos and quizzes (oh, the quizzes!) and advertisements. I felt like I had to scroll through miles of sludge to find the stuff that actually mattered to me. But after reading the article, I wondered … what if I took back the reigns of my feed? How would it change my experience?
At first it was incredibly difficult. During those first few days I would, simply out of reflex, click the Like, and then quickly unLike it when I realized what I’d done. I had no idea I used it as much as I did. Essentially, the Like button is the proverbial head-nod on social media–an attempt to say, I see you. I acknowledge you. Oh, cute baby–Like. Congrats, you got engaged–Like. Way to go, you got a new job–Like. Cool vacation photo–Like.
But why not just say those things? It’s almost like we need to be told, like toddlers, “USE YOUR WORDS.”
So that’s what I did. When I felt compelled to Like something (on Facebook or Instagram or a blog), I’d quickly think about why I wanted to Like it and then I’d write a comment to that affect. In the beginning this was actually harder than it sounds. Sometimes it really took effort to craft a comment. And of course it took time. And sometimes I felt all introvert-ey and didn’t want to “talk” to anyone. But I tried anyway, to find my words and use them–to walk across this digital room and symbolically put my arm around my friends and say, “Great job.” “I like this.” “Thank you for sharing your life.” “Your family is beautiful.” “What an amazing experience that must’ve been.” “What an interesting idea.” “You are kicking butt. Keep it up.” “That’s hilarious.” “That must’ve been difficult. I’m sorry you’re having to go through that.” “I think you’re incredible.” Because, good grief, isn’t that the point? To stay in contact, to connect, and to communicate?
This experiment also meant I had to stop Liking comments my friends left on my posts. This too was difficult. I didn’t want them to think I’d ignored what they said. So I had to either trust that they knew I saw and appreciated their comment or take the time to engage in the thread with them. I do both. I just don’t have time to leave every comment I want to or respond to every comment left for me and I’m okay with that.
In addition to swearing off the Like button, I cleaned up my feed. Whenever someone shared what tropical flower or mythical creature they were, I’d click on that little arrow in the upper right corner of their post and tell Facebook to never show me quizzes by that company again. (This routine actually applied to any website or company I don’t want in my feed. And you guys, I like quizzes and self-realization as much as the next guy, but seriously–Why do you want to take a quiz called “How Bitchy Are You?”, let alone share the results with the world? Not EVERYTHING needs to be shared on Facebook. Furthermore, with every link you click on, your data is stored. Google follows you all over the internet. So does Facebook. Be a little more mindful, and careful, about where you’re walking and spending your time. Okay. Soapbox abandoned. For now.)
When ads would appear, I would tell Facebook whether I liked it or not. I still get ads of course, but Facebook is getting better about serving me relevant ads for products and services I’d actually use, because I’m telling it what I like and don’t like. But in general, my feed now has more humans and less ads, more stories that matter and less junk.
I also went through my friends and made sure that the people in my feed were the people I wanted to see. I didn’t have to delete anyone because I’m pretty choosey about who I “friend” to begin with, but I did categorize the list by 1) really good friends I want to stay current with on-the-daily, 2) so-so friends I don’t talk to regularly but would still count as meaningful relationships in my life, 3) acquaintances I want to check in on every now and again and don’t want to lose touch with, but we only kind of know each other.
Here’s how things changed with this experiment:
Since quitting the Like button, I’ve found myself volleying comments with friends I haven’t spoken to in years. The number of private conversations I’ve received via Facebook’s messenger has increased. I actually like checking in on Facebook now. And it’s also bled beyond the boarders of my social media profiles. The number of text convos I’m engaged in is greater. I’ve had more actual conversations with friends, voice to voice, over the phone. And when I’m in person with others, I find that I’m more apt to ask questions and involve myself more fully in the depth of the conversation. In general, everything is more conversational, more acutely focused on the people in my life.
Which, for this professional communicator, was the whole point. (I’m pretty sure my love language is good, deep, real, conversation.)
All this to say–I quit the Like button and I’m not going back.
*I would like to add, however, that I don’t hate the Like button and bear no judgement toward anyone who uses the Like button. It certainly can be a helpful tool when browsing social media. But what if we all paid a little more attention to how much we used it, and instead, talked to each other more?–just an idea.