By November 8, 2012 0 Comments Read More →

Guilt and group think: a single click makes you a cool member of the mass

Pressure on the word ‘like’ began when Facebook claimed it as a one-click declaration that something digital had meaning.

Back in the day we were independent thinkers. We clicked on Like because, well, we liked something. We learned to exercise our ability to ‘Unlike’ something we already ‘Liked’ if the click was accidental or if the person behind the content crossed us. We’ve never clicked ‘Don’t-like’ because that option isn’t available. We never considered Like as being the equivalent to Trust since that’s not what liking is. But, it’s a safe bet there would be far fewer clicks if the button was labeled ‘Trust.’

In many ways, Like jumped the shark when advertisers asked us to Like their brand, service, product or idea. Retailers have taken to proudly taping posters of the familiar thumb-up icon to their storefront windows. Hmm….

The worst thing happened to Like when it was hijacked as a tool of guilt. The result is people mindlessly, perhaps dutifully or even accidentally, clicking Like to declare respect for fallen soldiers, pronounce they ‘hate bullying’ or belief that ‘nurses rock’ (see collage, below). At the risk of sounding cantankerous, Liking an image does not send a ripple through the world. But, it may help the content get mentioned by a journalist as having ‘gone viral’.

As an aside, this next example was a result from a Google search… a woman is asking people if they would Like her facebook group as a way of pledging $1 to help make her a mother.

Retweets (RTs) have gone a similar same way. Advertisers ask us to RT their promotions. How come they never asked us to buy a few extra copies of the newspaper and hand them out so others would see their ad?

Even Barack Obama asks people to RT him to encourage people to group-identify. And people do. Lots of people. And why not? The President told them to.

So, after all my compaining about the assault on two well-meaning features (both of which I still use, by the way), let me share a perfect example of why telling people to Like or RT something to group-identify devalues the act.

The most popular tweet ever didn’t tell people to do anything. It just struck an emotional chord with people. It contained only three words and a picture. And people RT’d it of their own accord.

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About the Author:

Mark Blevis is a digital public affairs strategist and President of FullDuplex.ca, an integrated digital communications, public affairs and research company. His work focuses on the role of digital tools and culture on issues and reputation management. He also leads research into how Canadian opinions are shaped through online content and interactions.