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Is The Facebook Like Button Ruining Your Life?

What if every time you hit the Facebook like button you had to call the respective business and tell them their products interest you and then ask them for other recommendations of similar businesses so you could call them and tell them of your impending interest in their products or services?  Sounds crazy, right?  I think so!  So, why are we so apt to dole out this information on Facebook and do we fully understand the impact this can have on our lives?

To start, let me say – “I get it” – the Facebook “like” button can be a sexy beast.  It’s so easy, quick, and mindless.  It allows people to show support, sympathy, interest, approval, humor, or agreement just to name a few.  But something we all need to understand is that every time we click “like” we are sending information back to Facebook so they can alter the algorithm that’s responsible for the information they spit out to us.

The 48-Hour Test of the Like Button

Matt Honan recently wrote an article about his experience and resulting effect from liking everything on Facebook within a 48-hour period.  The results were astonishing and quite disturbing to be honest.  I’ll let you read the article in full (it’s a worthy investment of your time) but in a nut shell his Facebook feed was overrun by everything commercial, even more specifically, news sites.  He saw fewer and fewer of his friends’ posts (despite liking all of his friends posts during the time period) and he found himself pigeon-holed into a newsfeed that would swing from tea-party conservative to the most liberal of left-wingers.  This was because Facebook took the information he was giving them through his “likes” and started pushing more targeted ads to him.  Now, why they removed his friends posts and only showed him predominantly commercial stuff – I think that’s pretty obvious – money talks – and that’s all I think we need to mention on that front!

Ironically, Facebook became a place he didn’t “like” very much and from the sounds of it – it wasn’t very “social” at all….hmmmm.  Even more disheartening was the point that Honan touched on about the potential pitfall of surrounding yourself with ideology that fits so nicely into your little box of personal preferences.  I think anytime you surround yourself with so much of what you “want” to hear you start missing out on what you “need” to hear.

The Like Button Is Not a Good Confidant

Now, if you’re thinking “no big deal if my newsfeed gets overrun with stuff I’m interested in, I’m OK with that” then super for you, but are you also comfortable with those “likes” revealing things about your identity that you don’t feel are necessarily “public knowledge”?  Raphael Satter wrote an article back in 2013 highlighting a study by the National Academy of Sciences regarding the assumptions derived from 58,000 Facebook user’s “like” patterns.  Here are a couple excerpts of interest:

“The study found that Facebook likes were linked to sexual orientation, gender, age, ethnicity, IQ, religion, politics and cigarette, drug or alcohol use. The likes also mapped to relationship status, number of Facebook friends, as well as a half-dozen different personality traits.”

“Among the more poignant insights was the apparent preoccupation of children of divorce with relationship issues. For example, those who expressed support for statements such as “Never Apologize For What You Feel It’s Like Saying Sorry For Being Real” or “I’m The Type Of Girl Who Can Be So Hurt But Still Look At You & Smile” were slightly more likely to have seen their parents split before their 21st birthday.”

While Facebook’s Frederick Wolens downplayed the significance of the study, others applauded it.  I’m sure there’s some truth, or rationale, to both sides but it does beg the question, “Are we revealing too much?”

I think there’s multiple ways to look at this phenomenon and no which way is “right” or “wrong” but rather a measure of personal allowance.  I’m not comfortable with Facebook or BuzzFeed or Kohl’s knowing my personal preferences and for that reason, I withhold MANY “likes” from businesses I do frequent just to maintain a certain level of privacy.  But other people may revel in the fact that their newsfeed is 100% republican news sources or that they always know the drink specials at their favorite downtown bars – to each his own! The main thing we all need to understand is that even the smallest of acts – like hitting “like” – has a BIG impact on your target-ability and may, over time, get you sequestered to a small niche of business and personal information that isn’t necessarily representative of the world around us.  It’s certainly food for thought!

Of course there’s always a “healthy” dose of “likes” to be had and if you’re looking to run a healthy business campaign to attract potential customers, we’ve got you covered in our blog about “How to Get Facebook Page Likes”

What’s your thoughts about the “like” button? Share them below!

By Nikki Blews


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