I was going to write a follow up about an event I attended this past weekend, but a conversation has been happening in my world and coming from multiple directions. I feel the need to write about it. What is the issue: the cultural currency that is ‘likes’ on Facebook and other social media.
Cultural Capital and Currency
We all have that friend on social media who likes EVERYTHING you post. Often they are the first to react to the things you post as well. My friend’s don’t need to be called out, but they probably know who they are. There is an inherent value in being liked and liking shared content. It’s know as cultural capitol. It’s social mobility as defined by our online presence. In a world where our value is increasingly defined by how many friends, fans, and followers we have, I believe there is a currency system behind it: liking and favoriting. This is currency for both the one being liked and the one doing the liking, especially the one who ‘likes’ first.
WTF Are You Talking About Sara?
Yeah, big ideas here. Let’s use being an author and a reader as an example. As an author, the more followers I have on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter is something that indicates my popularity. These numbers are easy metrics for popularity. The more people who follow me hopefully means more people will buy my book. Being liked and followed has potential financial value to me (thus currency).
There is the other side of it, the value of being a fan of something. Remember when you found a band, book, movie, or tv show before it became popular? Almost all of us have it. I have been using Macs as my computer since 1994, well before the iMac came out and made them popular. That helps define me as a fan. It gives me a weird ownership over the company. It says that I am loyal, devoted, or a true fan. It makes me feel important and in some cases comes with some snobbery. For the fan of an author, the early reader, there is value to being seen as the devoted fan. They were there when nobody else was and they are devoted. Yes, it can turn into something dangerous, but for the vast majority of people, it shows that someone has made a big investment and should be seen as important within the community.
I suck at generating cultural capital and spending the currency. I have friends who are quick and frequent with their likes on Facebook, but I am not. I use my currency sparingly because I think it loses it’s impact if you like everything someone posts. Even Facebook’s emotional diversity doesn’t have the same impact if you react to everything someone posts. I only like things that I truly like or impact me. If I don’t click like, many people assume I didn’t see the content and then tell or show it to me when I see them in person. I routinely explain to people that I simply don’t click ‘like’ for everything I see.
Even as the person posting the content, I am inclined to roll my eyes when I see certain people like my content. I would much rather have a comment left than a ‘like’.
Liking versus Commenting
It has been on my mind for more than personal reasons, but because I am preparing to market a book and it’s a lot of work. It could easily become a full time job if I did everything suggested. I would have to monitor all social media systems, develop platforms for ones I don’t use, and still have to do face-to-face promotion. What I am struggling with most is one aspect: commenting on other’s blogs and in Facebook groups.
Commenting is more rare than hitting the ‘like’ button. All those friends who hit the button quickly and often, rarely comment on the post. As I mentioned above, I put more value in a left comment than when someone clicks the ‘like’ button. I only respond when I feel compelled to respond and that’s mostly with the people I am friends with.
I can more often add a comment to a Facebook post than I can a blog. It’s not that I don’t want to say anything, it’s that I have nothing to say. My style of communication is to react to direct questions or requests for information. Most people don’t do this on blogs. I find the simple ‘great post’ style response to be akin to hitting a ‘like’ button.
If you read to the end of my posts, you may have noticed that I have started asking questions of readers. It’s actually something many people have advised doing to give people a reason to comment. I am doing this because it helps me connect better to my readers. Has it had an impact? Not really, but there is a different social commentary there. The key is I am trying.
If you want to see the dark side of Cultural Capitol, I suggest watching Black Mirror’s Nosedive episode. It’s from Season 3 of the series (which is exclusively on Netflix).
So, here is your chance to comment. What do you do with your social currency: Spend or save? Do you agree with me that people spend their currency too easily and that doing so causes it to lose value? Would you rather see comments on your posts than a simple ‘like’? What do you do to connect with people online? Share in the comments!