'Like' they do...the Facebook way!

Suddenly Facebook is so much in your face. And, whats up with WhatsApp?? It seems like a furor reigning over all age groups.While some faded traces of BBM still lingers, the WhatsApp fever is raging hot! It is not unusual in today's scenario to receive a WhatsApp text from your milkman informing you that he won't be coming to deliver milk to you the next morning.

But what has me really intrigued, is the gradual shift in the 'Facebook behavior' of people in the past few years. There was a time not long ago, when Facebook was just a platform to remain in touch with friends who were out of touch or to keep your current lot of friends and relatives updated on your whereabouts and few other impersonal details. I would change my profile picture maybe once in 6 months or more. The status message would be a one liner or a super short one which probably spoke about my thoughts or mood of the day.

But gone are those days. At least for people who are active participants on Facebook and not just mute audience to the others active on Facebook with their regular posts and conversations. Yes. There exists this breed of Facebook users who believe in logging in, scrolling through the news feed, like one would scan the  magazine section of a Sunday newspaper for interesting tit-bits on whats happening in the world.It takes great amount of self motivation for this lot to put an effort in responding, if god forbid someone leaves a direct comment on their wall.A lot of ego hassles also come in play here. But its not about them.Its about this new culture of active Facebooking that has set me thinking.

The profile picture changes almost as frequently as their clothes. And with the cover picture option coming up, we come across some great ingenuity and creativity in the way people have a profile picture and a cover picture complementing each other. These pictures at most times have gone through a deeper beautification action with the help of smartphone apps that do wonders to your pictures. Suddenly you see spotless blemish free skin with a complexion three shades lighter than original and you wonder what that person suddenly did to him or herself! Not to speak of the never ending status message which has got lengthier and more descriptive than ever!

There was a time when 'liking' or getting a 'like' for an update on Facebook was no big deal or rather went unnoticed. My oldest profile picture on Facebook probably got 3 or no 'likes' at all-for all I cared. But in this age, of fierce competition the 'likes game' as I call it, has become a contagious disease of some kind. It is common these days to hear people talking about the number of 'likes' fetched on a particular post of theirs. I see people getting 500+ 'likes' on the ugliest of profile pictures and the most ridiculous posts and I really wonder what made so many people actually like those posts. Sometimes you do wish there was an 'unlike' button too, for the sake of some utterly atrocious and overrated posts! After some candid reflection and discussions with a few of my heavily Facebooking lot of friends, it was reaffirmed that it wasn't the post or the picture that they liked for the content it carried but for some reasons other than that! It remains an unsaid truth that all of us live with, yet very few admit it. I did have a vague suspicious realization about this trend, partly since I find myself guilty of practicing a teeny weeny bit of it at some point. So here's a little insight on the theory...in case you already have not noticed it yourself or have not reflected on it. People these days 'like' a person's Facebook post not necessarily because they find it interesting or for liking it genuinely. Well, the genuine 'likes' are there too. But after filtering those genuine 'likes'....there are various other categories of 'likes'.

1. The 'Obligatory Like' - Oh this one always likes my posts, so whenever they post an update it becomes obligatory to return the 'like'. Sounds more like a return gift...doesn't it?!

2. The 'Best Friend Like' - Its your best friend and you HAVE to lift their morale or be encouraging and hit the 'like' button customarily if they post something.

3. The 'Hopeful Like' - This 'like' is with the hope that, the person MIGHT in turn like all your future posts. So you increase your potential of getting more 'likes' that way!

4. The 'Good looking/ Popular/ Funny/ Intelligent Geek/ Well-Read/ Traveled/ Talented/ Socialite/ Rich Like' - Possessing any one of these attributes could induce a shower of 'likes' for their posts, not for the quality of the post...but just for the fact that they are lucky to be blessed with one of these traits, which they flaunt with all the fake modesty they could muster. The post could be as cheesy as it could get...but who cares,when the girl posting it is a hottie or the guy posting it owns a swanky condo in LA!

5. The 'Sympathy Like' - Poor thing, no one liked that post of his, let me be the first one to make him feel better. Although this is the least popular reason to 'like' a post.

6. The 'Just For The Heck Like'- Nothing interesting on the news feed.So just scroll down and 'like' whatever seems a little bearable, just for the heck of routine.

And it goes on... there are still many more sub-categories to these 'likes'. But lets not spill more beans! With people actually counting the number of 'likes' on their posts....another observation made was that the ratio of the number of 'likes' is in direct proportion to the number of people on the contact list of that person. I mean if a person has 1000+ people on his contact list, 300 odd 'likes' for a post is no big deal. In fact, it never should be a big deal to start with, no matter what the number of 'likes' is, it does not implicate a promotion or demotion of a person in any way.

But wait a minute...1000+ contacts on the list??!!...Are they for real?! I mean, are they people you would honestly want to share your regular updates with? What with people posting an update even when they yawn, besides the food they ate...the weirdest of selfies they managed to click...the fact that the neighbor's pet lab peed on their car yet again...their saccharine sweet undying love notes dedicated to mom/ dad/ kid/ lover/ spouse/ bff/ chacha/ mama, nani...every boring detailed picture of their holiday to Timbucktoo....the obnoxious night out at the pub with the boys-starts with a corny 'check in' update and follows with pictures that testify their piss drunk demeanor...a list of the monstrous qualities of their boss....the proud 'life event' stating the first time their goldfish pouted at them from the fish bowl...blah blah and more! Would you really want those 1000+ people to read and see these private or sometimes downright ridiculous details of your life? Some smart ones resort to privacy settings to control who they share their posts with...but then the point is, why do you have those people on your list for, if you cannot share half the things that you post with them?

I discovered my way out of this dilemma very early in my career. I have two accounts on Facebook.One for all my professional contacts,where every thing I post is within the limits of professional acceptance. It becomes mandatory in today's competitive world to keep your personal and professional life distinctly separate, more so with a lot of companies checking on a prospective hire or client's authenticity by skimming through their social media activities. Not to mention a lot of personal relations also having gone haywire, thanks to the power of social media, which is gradually seeping into every aspect of our lives.

And the second account is for my personal contacts, my friends, relatives, acquaintances, where I could let myself loose and share what ever I wish to,without going through the privacy settings rigmarole. But, on both my accounts I am fiercely choosy about people whom I wish to add and retain on my list. Some ex-colleagues, who have,over a period of time become close friends get the privilege of getting added on my personal Facebook account as well, so they are on both my professional and personal accounts, just because of the comfort level I share with them. From time to time, I correct some mistakes by deleting unwanted people if they ask for it, by the sheer virtue of their 'Facebook behavior' or sometimes real life behavior. So, I really doubt if I would ever have 1000+ people on my list on either of my Facebook accounts!

Wonder how this whole game of 'likes' plays on the psychology of these active Facebook users. Are these 'not' so authentic 'likes' turning out to be the score by which you are validating your self-worth? Is it really worth even giving it a second thought, in comparison to the real life unconditional acceptance, encouragement and love that we receive from our near and dear ones? I hope not, and I wish that this trend comes to an end before a lot of fragile immature minds irreversibly damage their self esteem by the time they reach the threshold of enlightenment.

An interface like Facebook serves as an excellent platform for creating a niche for yourself and expressing your unique individuality by means of your pictures, thoughts, work, talent, interests and other posts that are only unique to you.Instead of making this a playground for pitching fake acceptance and admiration,why can't we just revel in our own uniqueness without getting into the race of 'likes' and enjoy the joy of healthy networking?

Disclaimer: I admit to have committed a few of the above mentioned heinous crimes myself and am making amends for the same in my own way. But again,these facts are based on my personal observations and research done with help of few close friends. None of the above stated examples are directed at any one individual but are generic examples stated in context to the topic.

Read more by others on the links below:
Social media raises teens' anxiety levels.
Social media may feed anxieties of women with eating disorders.
Use of social media like Facebook and Twitter may be feeding anxiety and increasing feelings of inadequacy,
Facebook Anxiety Disorder (FAD)
Celebrating 10 Years of Facebook-Induced Relationship Anxiety
10 Things Not to Do on Facebook when You Have Social Anxiety Disorder

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