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Insert cute/funny/controversial photo here

Like this if:

if you want to end childhood cancer
if you love your dad
If you think Jesus is just alright
If you like babies
If you think sunshine is pretty
If you put milk in your cereal
If you disapprove of Hurricane Sandy
If you wear pants, on your legs, with the zipper in the front

Today, I was asked by my social media friends if approved of a new car design, how I feel about women in their forties having babies and whether I like the new scent of some detergent. I was asked to weigh in on the exact level of annoyance I experience with election season. (It’s high, BTW.)

I think we can all pretty much agree that the hurricane was devastating and that kids with cancer is a kind of heartsick I don’t wish on anyone.

We live in a new world. One in which the homogenization of opinion is central. We must know where others stand on these vital issues so that we can assimilate, separate and properly order ourselves into the right communities.

Clicking the like button or RTing a tweet is the new shorthand. It means “I approved this message.” Cats are good, babies in flower pots make me squee and I love New York. Awesome. Is anyone talking anymore?

I don’t like the driveby “like,” especially If it’s important enough for me to “like” in the first place. I want to back up my amiability with reasons and qualifications if necessary. I don’t love everything about any single issue or idea, and I think some of these ideas are worth exploring. I can’t just approve or disapprove a candidate or a program without some thought.

I’m concerned that our new shorthand shortchanges us. It can rob us of a chance at a conversation, an opportunity to experience a change of mind, or at least a way to be exposed to another perspective. I worry that the “driveby like” sorts us into categories that line up in a pointless opinion war. That while we are busy circling the like wagons, we have forgotten how to listen, how to engage with respect and thought.

I’ll like your cute babies and your pithy sarcasm, but I’d also like to listen and to learn.

Think I’m overstating the case? Think there’s an easy solution? Think that unicorns are stupid and that gnomes are way better? Talk to me.

  • Kelly Kinkaid

    I totally get what you’re saying. I always feel a little dirty myself when I throw up a simple minded post on my Facebook page or wherever because I know the “likes” will increase engagement. And sometimes I see some posts like mine written by others designed to bring engagement, and I think to myself, “This? This insipid post is what people are interested in?” And the answer always is yes. I don’t know why. But it always seems to be yes.

    I tend to be one of those people who like to learn and study myself, but lately it seems that those people are in the minority. OR…they are having these conversations now in private groups online as they are too worried about public perception and personal brand building.

    • http://jenniferluitwieler.com/ Jennifer Luitwieler

      Well, I’m all about the frivolous pos, because I think I’m hilarious and my homeschool students say funny things, and sometimes I feel isolated and want someone to laugh with.

      Then, like you, I see people getting all up in here about something dumb like…idk…peanut butter or whatever, and I think, this is what it’s come to? The lowest common denominator in all things. Ing we can’t agree on what color the Disney princess tutu should be, then we surely won’t agree on other, more pressing matters, like, idk, healthcare reform. And so we dismiss people. We don’t engage in conversation so much as opinion throwing.

      I like to sit with ideas and take my time replying. Anyway.

      Private groups are a good idea, but I know that I like to be surrounded by a variety of ideas and outlooks so at I can grow my perspective. Then again, that private group *wink wink nudge nudge* you and I are in are also valuable. And safe.

  • http://twitter.com/PensieveRobin Robin Dance

    :)

    I’m an active user of social media; I’m glad when people interact according to the medium, whether it’s Likes, RTs, replies, comments, whatev.

    But that being said? Overall, it’s a cheat. It’s vapid. It’s not an accurate representation of what anyone really THINKS–because face it, is thinking even required?

    I’ve seen an interesting shift where Tribes support their members (which I’m not saying is bad; I’m guilty on varying levels); but sometimes the throw a quick heart or like or share when it’s not a thing about which they’re passionate, or really care…or even “matters”. But it’s a FRIEND and we want to love on our friends and all these measures are a way to reach out and touch.

    It lacks engagement. Thinking out loud. Listening, responding, contemplative thought. We’re cheating ourselves, our online relationships.

    Holy heck, what if that’s how we handled all our offline relationships?

    I dunno…I’m a social media enthusiast but I prefer the days when blogs stood alone. When readers READ and engaged and comment threads were the bomb. I’m beginning to fight this path of least resistance, to read smart writers who challenge and inspire me, who teach me by the things they say and do.

    Good start to an important conversation, Jen…..

    • http://jenniferluitwieler.com/ Jennifer Luitwieler

      Robin, I’m especially thankful for your last comment. It is only a start.

      And of course, a like is perfectly fine on cute baby photos. I do miss the sort of give and take. Where people could disagree without being jerks and it didn’t mean “I’m taking my ball and going home.” Then again, I often don’t know what I’m saying at first, or what I want to say, or I want to be brief, or not stir up trouble. I find myself weighing carefully what I sprite and where. Which I suppose is a good thing.

      In the social world, there seems to be little room for clarifying statements. That anything we put out there is the summary of all our opinions. And that’s just not true.

      Even I writing this comment, there are about six different threads of yours I could follow. Like the friendly but ill-informed share. Read it first, maybe? Oh dear.

      It’s like social media have made it necessary for people, not just brands, to have a clear policy for how we engage. It’s…weird. But I love it all the same. Like that crazy uncle no one ever wants to sit near but who must be invited anyway. His jokes are off color, he never shuts up, and we can’t get enough of him.

  • Margi

    I’ve been mostly inactive on Facebook lately, though I still have a profile. I have a couple of Facebook (and IRL) friends that “Like” everything. I’ve gone so far sometimes as to see how long it’ll take them to “Like” something I post. (The record was something like 6 seconds.)

    I have also seen the under- or un- informed share. I’ve clicked the link and thought to myself “oh, this person didn’t actually read this link before retweeting.Yikes!”

    I retweet things that make me think, make me laugh, or that I think one of my friends (followers? ugh. I prefer friends. Twitter friends? Twit friends? Hm.) will enjoy, or that speaks to a conversation we had recently.

    Side story: I saw your tweet that started with “Click like for unicorns and rainbows” and it reminded me of a goofy thing I said last week to Marie. We were talking about gratitude and blessings and I said “Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all raincorns and unibrows.” The terrible thing is I used to get paid to talk to people. Like, in front of the room and stuff. Perhaps this kind of thing is why they’ve positioned me behind a keyboard.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jenferguson1 Jennifer ‘Miner’ Ferguson

    I love all conversations about authenticity. And I hear you about the issue of whether we have lost some our ability to engage in real ways. And anytime I’m on FB and I start thinking about my Klout score, perhaps it’s time to just close the computer and think about where I really get my worth.

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