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Back in grade school, liking someone was a big deal—even more so if you like like someone. In those days, liking wasn’t taken lightly. If someone somehow caught wind of who you liked, your life would be over. No hyperbole intended.

These days, we’re more generous about who or what we like. Look at any social media profile and you can quickly learn about a person’s interests based on what they like and share. Status updates, articles, pictures, videos, GIFs—we like them all. We like things like it’s going out of style. Is it possible to like things so much?

I’ve got a few questions for you.

  • What was the last post you liked on social media before you stumbled upon this blog post?
  • Was it an article, tweet, or picture?
  • Did you do it on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram? Was it none of the above?

If you were able to quickly answer these questions, you get a cookie. I’ll give you another cookie if you can tell me exactly why you liked that post. Here’s a few more questions to consider.

  • Did you agree with the post?
  • Did you laugh (or exhale quickly out of your nose)?
  • Did you want to give someone the magic 11 in Instagram?

I’m curious about our relationship with the Like button. This little user interface button is so ubiquitous in our digital experiences that I don’t think twice when I hit that button. I can’t even answer my own questions above. I think it was an Instagram post, but I’m not 100% sure. That scares me a little bit.

The Like button entered our culture in 2009 after Facebook acquired the original creator of the Like button, FriendFeed. Since then, this button has cemented its way into how we communicate not only on Facebook, but all over the web. Giants such as YouTube, Google, and Twitter adopted the Like button as an internet standard.

We’re even starting to see Like buttons spread to our text messages.

When I downloaded and the latest iPhone update, iOS 10, I immediately regretted it noticed its focus on message design. Apple added a bunch of stickers, animations, and other features in iMessage that remind me of the days of yore in instant messaging.

iMessage Like buttons

The feature that stands out the most in iMessage is the Like feature for individual messages. Instead of taking time to type out a response to a message,  I can hold down on a message and tap one of five symbols that represent:

  • love (heart)
  • like (thumbs up)
  • dislike (thumbs down)
  • emphasis (!!)
  • question (?)

These responses are handy for situations where I don’t necessarily have a response but I don’t want to seem like I’m ignoring someone. These buttons also let me express myself without an empty “lol” or “cool” when someone sends me a funny picture or a link to a video. These buttons can be a solid way to end a conversation—if I don’t send a message, you won’t feel obligated to send a message back.

Now that I think about it, this is exactly how communicate on Facebook. I don’t know if that’s necessarily good or bad, but it’s different. I’ll have to keep track of when and why I use these buttons in iMessage. The way I use Like buttons changes depending on the website I’m using.

In Facebook, as I described earlier, I use the Like button to let my friends know that I saw the post they tagged me in. In Twitter, I Like tweets that I think are clever or tweets I want to reference later. In Instagram, I tend to Like the majority of my friends’ posts because it just feels right.

As always, the medium is the message. Not all Likes are created equal—it depends on the platform a Like takes place. What does a Like mean to you?

I’m sure some would consider communication through Like buttons an abomination and they’ll make references to newspeak, but it’s an old argument. Did you know that Socrates was against the written word? Yeah, we only know his opinion because of the written word.

We’re witnessing the constant evolution of the English language. The more our lives revolve around digital text, the more we’ll adjust to its affordances. Keep this in mind when you like something or Like like something.

These changes will happen whether you like it or not.

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