Posts Tagged ‘Like’

LiveJournal started it, facebook popularized it, other pages followed: allowing us to “like” things, “become fans”, “digg”… . More recently, LinkedIn joined the likeing industry, and took the step facebook doesn’t want to take: introducing a “pass” button (the equivalent of what would be a “dislike” button of facebook). On all these sites, you also have the option to “unlike”, “undigg”, etc., i.e. you can stop likeing what you used to like.

But when we talk like this, like most people do, we actually blur a frontier that seemed pretty clear before: the frontier between feeling something and expressing that feeling.

When you press a like button, are you supposed to express your appreciation or to actually start appreciating?

As the consumption of content on the web is extremly fast, the temporal gap between actually likeing something (in the mental sense of, say, having a feeling of appreciation) and expressing that you like it can become extremely small, so small that we might forget that we expressed our likeing. The expression can even end up priming, and we can then “discover” that we like something. A friend to whom I suggested to become a fan of Wax Tailor on facebook, first told me he would and then came back saying:  “Actually I already liked Wax Tailor!”

This practice would have delighted Gilbert Ryle, a behavourist, but extremly smart philosopher, who fought against the idea of a “ghost in the machine”, in other words a mind and mental activity (The Concept of Mind). According to Ryle, there are no activities behind the curtain, and feeling comes down to expressing the feeling, thinking comes down to expressing the thought. And as the WEB becomes the ultimate indicator of existence, I must say that I feel this to be more and more true.

Another philospher wouldn’t think that this is much of a surprise: Stanley Cavell. In his essay “Must we mean what we say?”, he ends up concluding that we must.  Adapting this to likeing, we would have to conclude that if we express that we like something, like we must – like it or not.