The Likes (Band Name. Called It.)
by Dan Jordan
I am very tired right now. I got into bed around 2am after a gig last night, then I spent a couple hours reading The Wise Man’s Fear. I was hoping to finish it but sleep overtook me. (It’s the second book in an as yet unfinished trilogy. I’m really enjoying it. If you dig fantasy you should check it out. It’s also got a touch of Zen in it which I’m always a sucker for.)
Now I am sitting at my kitchen table drinking a concoction of coffee, coconut oil, and butter because the internet says that will jumpstart my brain and I believe strongly in the power of the placebo effect. I mixed in some chocolate syrup and sugar too because if we’re going to pretend that putting random foodstuffs in your coffee will make it better for you then let’s not halfass it.
I sat down to meditate this morning but after only getting a handful of hours of sleep I wasn’t able to focus on my breath very well. What’s interesting is where my tired mind went when it wandered. You can learn a lot about yourself when you are sleep-deprived and your brain won’t easily do what you tell it to.
As I sat to meditate, my mind kept going to my phone and to Facebook. It wanted to see if any of the pictures that will inevitably be posted from last night’s show have been posted yet, and it wanted to see the ‘likes’ that said photos will hopefully get. (Maybe there will be one of me looking cool or fun with a guitar that I could make my profile picture!)
I feel embarrassed even writing those sentences because it’s not something we’re supposed to admit, but I’ll say it: I want The Likes.
That is clearly a silly thing to want.
I guess it does make sense to a certain (very small) degree, since as social animals we will always seek the approval of our community. But Facebook is not exactly a community. It’s more of an algorithm-based data-mining website that lets you share your photos – along with nonsense “news” stories and misattributed quotes – with people you only vaguely know, in exchange for your personal information.
In fact it’s exactly that.
Putting it that way, it seems that The Likes really serve as the hook to keep you coming back so that Facebook can keep mining you for data. The Likes are the caffeine in your coffee or the alcohol in your beer. You say you like the taste but you wouldn’t be there if not for the drugs. Sure, you can use Facebook to stay in touch, but that’s not why anyone really uses it. We’re here for The Likes.
Facebook has tapped into a primordial urge to be loved and accepted and they’ve been kind enough to quantify just how loved and accepted we are, using a little blue thumb as a unit of measurement.
I have good friends and a loving family. I like to tell myself I don’t need the approval of other people. And yet! It feels good to get that notification that someone liked a photo of me, no matter who that person is.
What does this mean exactly? As tends to be the case when I write here, I have no idea*. It’s such a uniquely modern problem. I couldn’t even explain it to someone who lived just ten years ago if I tried.
I do know that this compulsion is not a good thing though, because compulsions never are. I often find myself impulsively and unthinkingly checking my phone, especially on a day like today when I know it’s more likely to deliver The Likes, and being impulsive and unthinking is no way to live a life.
This compulsion also takes me out of the world around me. That isn’t a bad thing in and of itself; this morning I am being pulled out of my world by my writing and last night by my music. But writing words and playing music is fun and beneficial and feels good. Creating is good for your soul.
Facebook takes me out of my world for bullshit.
I haven’t logged on for my fix of likes yet. I will though. There will probably be some photos of me with a guitar. Maybe there will be some photos of me with a pretty girl. (Photos with pretty girls in them always deliver more of The Likes. Bunch of perverts, the lot of you.)
None of that will affect who I am as a man, or as a friend, or as a musician or writer or general human being. It will just mean that more people clicked on a little blue thumb below a picture I happen to be in.
And even though I know I shouldn’t, I’ll be glad they did.
Or maybe, heaven forbid, I’ll go to check and there won’t be any likes at all.
*[I vaguely remember reading an article somewhere about the effects of social media on your brain. Hell, there’s probably a ton of them. Maybe I’ll find one later and share it, but 1) This blog tends to be about my personal experience, and 2) I am very tired this morning so you can do your own damn research.]