Dear Little Miss Social
I confess to being genuinely at a loss when it comes to social media engagement in the form of liking other people’s posts. Should I be liking anything and everything from everybody, or just the ones I actually like from the people I know?
Dear Gentle Reader
Whether to publicly like another’s social media post – or not – is a vexing issue, and one which is fraught with misguided intent and endless misinterpretation. The modern ‘like’ is a spring-trap which lays in wait for the uninitiated and where the consequences of a misstep can be socially fatal. But adherence to a few simple and commonsense rules will see you through.
Whenever you like a post from someone within your inner-circle you are ipso facto liking the person who posted it. This is its most popular use and serves the purpose of social bonding between one’s peers. But if you are liking the post of someone from an outer-circle or that of a complete stranger, you are most certainly indicating approval of the post itself – and not the person who published it. In either case, by liking a post you are signalling that you have at least seen the post. It is the digital equivalent of making eye-contact across the madding crowd and tipping one’s hat. In some instances this may be the precursor to a blossoming online relationship.
On occasion you might be inclined to like a post because you genuinely do like it. This should be made manifestly clear with the inclusion of a supporting comment or contextually relevant emoji. Care must be taken however when liking the post of a person who is expressing heightened spiritual, cerebral or physical agitation – for example, a picture of their freshly stubbed toe. To like this without a supporting comment or empathetic emodji would be considered very poor taste indeed.
Liking a shared post performs a dual action. You are both liking the person who shared the post, and liking the post of the person who originally published it. All parties generally understand this to be the case.
On receiving a like one should never overtly acknowledge it with another like or comment – it is unnecessary and often leads to awkwardness.
Liking the last several posts at once from someone should be avoided if possible, as the value of a like diminishes in direct proportion to the elapsed time since it was published. Conversely, liking a post within 5 minutes of its publication is a mark of social excellence which is generally reserved for one’s inner, inner-circle connections – your besties.
It is both unacceptable and churlish to ever unlike a post. The exception to this rule is if the like is withdrawn within 30 seconds of granting it, providing leeway for an inadvertent like which happens to us all on occasion.
From time to time we are obliged to discharge a debt or balance the social ledger when a person has liked your last several posts with scrupulous consistency and rapidity. But care must be taken here, as a perceived haste to repay one’s obligation is a kind of ingratitude of itself. Yes, such debts must be paid with reciprocated likes, but in instalments.
So as you can see Gentle Reader, a like is not always a like – although of course sometimes it is.