Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

That’s, Like…

Optional soundtrack for this post, here.


I was having a conversation with a friend of mine last weekend …

No, I really was! This is not some fabricated story of a fabricated conversation, created in my own head to act as a great setup for a story … or a joke … this was honestly a real live conversation between two individuals!

(My apologies. Got a little defensive there.)

But on its way hither, thither and yon, this conversation looped around toward the topic of online social media outfits and their effects upon civilization. And upon us.

We each were decidedly of two minds. (So we totaled four? Again, sorry.)

We agreed that we were pleased that the invention of Facebook came AFTER we’d been in college. Time-sucker that FB and its equivalents are … well, heck, time-sucker that the entire Internet is … I’m fairly convinced that I would have been burning even MORE midnight oil than I did as it was, in the mid-1980s when the standard writing implement of destruction (or thesis projects) was the electric typewriter. In the case of my colleague, yes, the late ’90s and early 2000s (the “Oughts”, as cable newser Rachel Maddow has occasionally called them) featured an Internet and computers that did better work than the old TRS-80s; but neither of us recalled the online world being quite as quick to relieve a user of their precious time as is the case now.

(On the other hand, social media sites are terrific for event organization, particularly if speed is required. Quick! We need to gather many people at this location for this purpose! And, in my experience, it also can be good for calling off events that need to be called off. Quick! Bad idea!! Never mind!!!)

For a few years in the mid-2000s, I worked with college band folks, and I heard about this curious thing called Facebook. Didn’t really pay much attention to it – during my freshman year in college, I had a Facebook too: it was a book (y’know, with paper pages and hard cover) that was full of faces, specifically many members of the newly-arrived UMass class of 1988. Kind of a yearbook in reverse. I assumed it was an electronic version. And since I wasn’t a student, I wasn’t eligible anyway. No matter: I had eMail for my communication device, which was of course state-of-the-art.

In this space, virtual online ink has been spilled fairly often regarding online comment sections. Nearly no more need be said about how easy it is to lash out at an online writer – and yet here I go – making special note of the ease with which it is now possible to say the most hateful and horrid things about people, because writer and critic not only will probably never meet, the critic need not hold back because screen names create a virtually airtight defense. Anonymity is empowering. If someone lobs a water balloon off the top of the building but the damp person below doesn’t see who let it go … the lobber is perfectly safe.

After the conversation finished and we parted company, I was still thinking about some of my online behaviors. The one about which I got thinking the hardest was that amazing creation of Mr. Zuckerberg and his Facebook invention:

The “Like” button.

In this context, the word Like is, indeed, capitalized. Not just to distinguish it properly as an function of within FB, but because, well, I can read lots of things online and enjoy them, but to click that ol’ Like button means I am registering my official appreciation for a thought, or an event, or a concept. Or a company …

Split-seconds after the Like-clicking, one is offered the opportunity to Unlike something … to declare a mulligan, to pull an Emily Litella. But I’m uncertain: is it better to leave something Liked when the Liking was a mistake (after all, is this Liking an earth-shaking, history-changing event? Likely not) [sorry. Pun]? … or … is the owner of the Liked concept then alerted when the change happens? Is that someone Notified (again, capitalization is key) that “Rob Likes this”, and then later they read that “Rob has Unliked this”?

Seems kinda mean, if that’s the case. But then, Facebook doesn’t offer us an opportunity to click on a Dislike button. Or at least hasn’t yet.

So, the Like button becomes an online comment section – and a remarkably positive one – for people who either don’t wish to (or have the time to) use actual sentences to approve of stuff.

Unfortunately (at least, I can imagine, according to some of its early users), Facebook has now been transformed into just as much a commercial avenue. “Hello, Americans,” bellows political news analyst Ed Schultz, “thanks for watching The Ed Show, and don’t forget to Like us on Facebook.” One could imagine doing so because one actually likes the show … but one can also Like a car company, which the car company likes or even loves because another Facebook user has been opened up to the company’s advertising blasts.

Not, I suspect, what the early users had in mind at all.

I double-checked to see what organizations I had officially Liked, back at the beginning of my Facebook existence. Turns out, no commercial enterprises (something of a relief), but instead: five fine scholastic music ensembles, two publicradio programs, one non-public-radio program, two friends’ home businesses (neither a corporate giant!), the Drum Major Academy, a memorial FB site, my high school alumni association, and this very blog. (But not a partridge in a pear tree. Which is fine, as I probably don’t want any advertising spam from the pear tree lobby.)

Meantime, I have occasionally logged on to Facebook, scrolled down the News Feed and reacted to status posts, news items, concert PR, and all kinds of other contributions, and found myself committing a lot of Like-clickery. Every so often, after a dozen or so Like moments, I’ve been known to post, “I’m Liking things and I can’t shut up.”

But I will admit to feeling a little tiny glow whenever I’ve been Notified that someone used their little clicky mouse to express appreciation for one of my thoughts, deep or shallow. So … if a large chunk of humanity is now caught in a spiral of low-intensity admiration that identifies the admirer … I suppose it’s preferable to one alternative: high-intensity anonymous flame-throwing.


January 9, 2013 - Posted by | Facebook, media, social media | , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Very interesting blog, will re visit and read more

    Comment by stevetaphouse | January 9, 2013 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: