The Meaning of Like

As the web becomes more Facebookified, does it change the meaning and function of the seemingly simple Like button? How could it not?

An emerging Facebook fad is to require a Like in exchange for viewing content or filling out a form to receive a “free” item. A few lines of code added to your app is all it takes to create a Like Wall. As this trend becomes more widespread, it transforms what was previously a friendly recommendation into something more akin to a financial transaction. Is Like the new currency of the web?

The Facebook developers page explains that a Like button “lets a user share your content with friends on Facebook.” The network effect has quickly taken over, increasing the value of Like. It is becoming the Google Juice of the 2010’s.

Placing content behind a Like Wall creates a content provider/viewer transaction. Recommend this content to your friends and I will let you experience it. The odd part is that in many cases the user must recommend the content before they see it. It is like writing a restaurant review from the parking lot. This diminishes the original intent of a Like, as it transforms it into cold, hard web cash.

Or does it? The viewer does have recourse. Just like the old street corner gag of tying string to a dropped dollar bill, then yanking it away as an unwitting passerby reaches for it, the viewer also holds a string. The Unlike button.

“Sure I will pay for your content. I have an unlimited wallet of Zuck-bucks, so I’ll throw you a Like. Now give me the content. Nope, sorry, I did not really like it, so I am reaching into your virtual cash register and unpaying.” Does this create a mini-moral dilemma for the viewer, or is it just analogous to sending back the food at that previously mentioned restaurant – after eating it?

As usual, emerging web trends raise more questions than they answer. Time will tell us the answers, but in the mean time, tell me what you think in the comments below.

As president of Tracy Evans Productions, Inc. for over 18 years Tracy splits his time between being an animator, director, producer, stage magician, graphic designer, art director, programmer, editor, consultant, speaker and writer of third-person autobiographical blurbs.

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