Day One: Thumbs Up!

The Experiment: Students

I begin the experiment with the concept of “I like,” “Let me comment,” and offering a thumbs up when I approved of a person’s statement.  Students recognize the experiment within the first five minutes of class.  A few roll their eyes. Most of them joined in, if for nothing else, a little end of the year novelty.

I begin our Philosophical Friday with, “Are people born creative?”

“I think it’s our limitations that lead to creativity,” a boy responds.  Ten students offer a “thumbs up.”

A girl shakes her head and adds, “Just to comment on what he said.  I disagree.  Little kids have few restrictions and they are really creative.  But school and parents are the ones who force us to not be creative.”  Eight students give a thumbs-up and I can sense that she’s hurt.

When we move to our blogging free write, one student writes, “Everyone is acting like Facebook in class today.  It’s so rare to get someone to say ‘I like what you said.’  We’re dying for affirmation, but it’s never there.  Teachers give compliments, but we never get it from each other.”

Another student comments, “I don’t like the fact that I can count the thumbs up in our philosophical discussion.  We shouldn’t quantify ideas like that.”

The Experiment: Adults

During my prep period, I stop by 7-11.  I’m tired and I need caffeine and the convenient store offers enough Diet Coke to kill a horse.

“Good afternoon,” the employee says.

“I like that,” I say with a smile and a thumbs up and, like a yawn, it goes viral.

“Good choice on your chip selection,” a lady tells me.

“Oh, I love adding Cherry Coke to Diet Coke,” a man says.

So it goes, in one of the coldest relational climates, a small dose of optimism reframes the space within minutes.  We talk to one another.  We affirm each other.  In small ways, perhaps, but I leave the place feeling surprisingly refreshed.

I continue the “I like,” thumbs up and “Let me comment,” concept through our staff meeting.  Interestingly enough, nobody figures out the experiment.  However, I notice a few other staff members giving themselves the permission to affirm one another.


It has me wondering if maybe the allure of Facebook is that it meets my primal need for affirmation of both my ideas and my identity.  I want a metric for how I’m doing; just a little quantifiable evidence that who I am and what I think matters in this world.  Narcissistic?  Perhaps.  But sometimes I wonder if people are dying for some kind of feedback in our offline world and yet our social norms prevent it from happening.

What if we asked permission to comment?  What if we gave a thumbs-up or a handshake or even a hug more often?  What if we said verbally, “I like what you said?”

At the same time, a day of living Facebook forces me to recognize the power of in-person speech.  Everyone is “nice” on Facebook.  There’s a “like” but not a “dislike” button.  It’s a place where everyone is nice and everyone likes everything.  Shallow, perhaps, but always pleasant.  In other words, Facebook is Paula Abdul on steroids.

I need interruptions and laughter and body language.  I need stutters and stammers and interrupted speech.  I need the vapor of language that doesn’t hang around in ones and zeroes like ticker-tape for our lives.  I need to go beyond simply “liking” things.

I’m seeing the power in affirmation and the need to speak words of encouragement to those around me.  I’m seeing, too, the need to listen and to pay attention.

I’m not sure where my 40 Days of Living Facebook experiment will lead me.  However, after one day, it’s forced me to examine not only the social media I use, but my own humanity.

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6 thoughts on “Day One: Thumbs Up!

  1. I’m a Facebook virgin (O.K. I have an account, but I’m clueless as to how to “go all the way” on it), and maybe it’s the “niceness” of it that keeps putting me off from taking off my clothes and going all the way with my realness. I’m actually inspired to do more “real-life” “liking”. But I’ll settle for commenting to you that I like you and your post and your project. That you’ve actualized your project inspires me too!

  2. Just read your first day, after reading your teach paperless post. You are truly brave to try this. I have been immersing in learning about social media to develop strategies to market our alcohol education concepts (Party Positive) to college students, so your experiment really intrigues me… I will read on 🙂

  3. So I spent some time on the weekend visiting my neglected Facebook. Perhaps I think way to much about how things work on both FB and Twitter!! I found it interesting that one can even “Like” that so and so and so and so are friends now….! Would it be odd if I tweeted that I like that so and so are following one another…? Somedays I do feel happy about that….! I guess we do that in real life too, but do we say it very often?

    I know you have another post about sharing videos, but I will just go one here with more random thoughts…..Folks seem to share videos in their status on FB a lot. It is probably what I do mostly on there as well now. So I wonder what we are really sharing at times. On Twitter I see tweets that say, “I favourited a youtube video”. I had a silly thought about posting, “I favourited a tweet of so and so’s”. But I guess we are limited to retweeting what we like from others on Twitter…..sometimes I feel like a need a “Forward To” button though 🙂

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