Of Likes and Lobotomies

Reading this post from Cal Newport sent me careening into the past.

My first university lecture was about the word like.

I was at an orientation session at my soon-to-be school, Western University. Administrators wanted us to taste what was to come. So we sat while a linguistics professor spoke. The topic: How language mutates over time. Our lecturer hitched his premise to like because, like, the word had gone through some ch-ch-changes.

It was no longer a simple adjective. It was a placeholder. A symbol. A signifier. Only later did I realize the complicated interplay between those ideas. That was one of the most important lectures in my life. Ten years later, Facebook made like the digital world’s main currency. And it stuck.

It was a great invention. It connected us in ways only digital prophets had imagined. But its unintended effect was a lobotomy. Likes are too easy. Scroll, Scroll, Scroll. Like. Like. Like. Scroll. A former colleague became a dad this winter, posting his child’s picture on Instagram. My reaction: I liked it. Or did I? I remember scrolling, but I can’t remember what I did.

Facebook to me: You and Adam have been friends for years. Here’s how often you liked each other.

Me: Likes are not a valid measurement of our friendship, but thanks.

So I’m taking a like holiday. I won’t give likes and I won’t obsessive over receiving them.

Because what I value is worth more than a like. I need, like, more substance in my exchanges with humans.

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