The Social Media ‘Like’ Phenomenon

Recently Facebook’s founder, Sean Parker, has warned of the dangers of the social media platform in an interview with Axios. Sean stated that,

“When Facebook was getting going, I had these people who would come up to me and they would say, ‘I’m not on social media.’ And I would say, ‘OK. You know, you will be.’ And then they would say, ‘No, no, no. I value my real-life interactions. I value the moment. I value presence. I value intimacy.’ And I would say … ‘We’ll get you eventually.'”

“I don’t know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying, because [of] the unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or 2 billion people and … it literally changes your relationship with society, with each other … It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”

I find it interesting that someone who built his fortune on the proceeds of this social media company and other interests, should now speak out about its dangers. Maybe it is because, as a father of two young children, he now realises the very different world that his children are growing up in and the potential dangers that will befall them.

Sean went on to further explain the reason behind their (Facebooks) desire to capture the attention of so many people,

“The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them … was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’

“And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that’s going to get you to contribute more content, and that’s going to get you … more likes and comments.”

“It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”

“The inventors, creators — it’s me, it’s Mark [Zuckerberg], it’s Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it’s all of these people — understood this consciously. And we did it anyway.”

And there it is in black and white, for those of us who had not really thought about it, Facebook is, “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology”.

What is this vulnerability? Affirmation and the desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves.

God created us with these two desires within all of us because He is the only one who can fill our hearts with His love and in doing so we are part of His family. As Sean Parker has pointed out, social media is the perfect replacement for these desires. And better still, you don’t need to go anywhere or make any special effort in order to be part of this network. All you need is a ‘smart phone’ and time.

I’m sure we all know of people, or you’ve had this experience yourself; you post something on social media and then, hopefully, wait for the ‘likes’ and comments roll in. Having other people ‘like’ your social media post gives us a certain amount of affirmation and verification other people think like us. They agree with us and therefore in ‘liking’ our post, we feel that they are connecting with us. We feel affirmed because there are friends, family members and sometimes, if you’re a really popular blogger, vlogger or celebrity, complete strangers are ‘liking’ our posts and therefore by extension; us.

That vulnerability in our human psyche is that we all want to be ‘liked’, not just in the virtual world but also in the real world.

And at times, even when the real world is bad and we’ve had a bad day, we can post something and be ‘liked’; the virtual world making us feel better about ourselves.

God said,

“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

And in 1 Peter 5:6-7,

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

As Christians our affirmation and therefore our purpose and identity, is in His Son Christ Jesus. Only through a real relationship in Christ Jesus do we get the real affirmation and real love that we so desperately need.

So can I encourage you, if you are a Christian, to invest time in your relationship with God because time spent in His presence will truly encourage you because He is the one that truly loves you as you are and will lovingly discipline you when you’re wrong.

One final thought.

Since we are all Ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) we should therefore at all times think about what information we post on the internet.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6