So far as I know, Facebook was the first to introduce the concept of the ‘Like’ button to user posts and comments, and it’s such a good idea that it’s been adopted by others as well. Google+ uses the ‘+1’ button instead, but it’s the same idea. The folks at TED.com used to give users the ability to up vote or down vote another user’s comments, but they changed that policy so that only up votes are possible. The people at 50opx.com have both ‘Like’ and ‘Dislike’ buttons on the images displayed there; I suggested to them that they remove the ‘Dislike’ button but the choice is of course theirs.
Why is this so important? Well, in a pre-internet world (yes, I’m old enough to remember such a time), personal interactions were less frequent and more intimate. People waited days, weeks, even months sometimes to hear from a friend or loved one, and as such contacts were treasured. People exchanged long notes, thank you cards and more. Today we live in a much different world. Long letters are hardly ever written, thank you cards are almost forgotten, and even e-mail has become passé, especially among the younger generation. We’re swamped with ever more information, almost all of it short and almost all of it impersonal. The internet is largely considered anonymous and while on one hand that gives people the freedom to express their ‘true’ feelings behind that mask of anonymity it also distances the connections we have with those who are close to us in different ways. Internet friendships can be as strong as any ‘personal’ relationship, but without being face to face we lack inflection, touch and more. Apparently studies have shown that people are more likely to ‘trust’ links that their friends have ‘liked’, but I think it’s much more than that.
As bloggers, Marcia and I face this anonymity every day. Every comment on our posts is appreciated; in addition we check our page statistics every day or two. While we don’t know 99.9% of the individuals who come to our site, we can see trends in terms of someone from a place in India or the Czech Republic or _____ who visits frequently. We see (sometimes) whether they’ve come from another site, and what pages/posts of ours they’ve viewed. We feel connected to them in some way.
On one of the spiritual forums of which I am a member there’s a facility to ‘Like’ people’s posts and comments. I use the feature ubiquitously. Frequently. Even often. I do the same on Google+ and other sites, although I’m there less frequently. I only ‘Like’ posts I truly appreciate, but I cast a pretty wide net with that. And in return I’ve received a number of messages from people thanking me for ‘Liking’ their posts. They feel connected, supported, appreciated… and more. To me, that’s what it’s really all about. So, the next time you’re scrolling through your favourite sites, take a second with the mouse to offer an up vote, a +1, a Like. It’ll make you feel better, and you’ll never know how much such a small action will be appreciated by others. We might even start a new trend!!