“How about liking it?” he suggests.
“I already gave a thumbs up at the beginning of this process,” I explain.
“This is different. You’ve given the thumbs up and liked comments, but this is a whole different thing. Haven’t you seen how it works? You get this update saying that George likes paradox and sweet potatoes.”
“Okay, that’s different enough,” I respond. “I like nuance and bubble wrap and Blue Bell ice cream. I like time with my family and In-N-Out hamburgers and the San Francisco Giants.”
“Too bad I can’t unlike something for you. I’d unlike the Giants and Sufjan Stevens,” Javi explains.
“It’s possible to unlike something you like, though. Kind of a passive-agressive Facebook thing. But I guess that’s how life works. I remember I really like Jack Johnson until every one of his songs sounded the same.”
“So, your turn,” I tell him.
“I like getting all my work done early so that I can have fun later,” he says.
* * *
There’s a lot of liking on Facebook. I get it. It’s designed to be a pleasant environment. It’s an emotional gated community, a relational Disneyland, a candy shop for social interaction. It’s Mr. Rogers. A land of many cardigans. A place to play nice.
Play: a place to have fun. It’s social media. A medium for being social.
Play: a place to wear masks and recite other people’s lines. It’s social media. A place where we become the entertainment.
And yet, it’s human and human’s aren’t always nice. It’s life and life isn’t always pleasant. So we find ways to sneak cynicism into it by using *dislike* in comments or sending sarcastic messages or posting angry messages. We reach that long-line-in-Disneyland moment where we simply can’t play nice. We grow weary of sounding like Paula Abdul, incoherently liking everything.
Sometimes I wish they had other buttons beyond “like.” I wish there was a “meh . . .” button with an apathetic glance or shrugging shoulders. Or maybe a, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t paying attention” so that your friends know that when you were on Facebook you weren’t truly present.
Sometimes when I yearn for authenticity, I get bitter about the pleasant side of Facebook. Like a moralistic, chumpy Ned Flanders, I want to answer, “What are you thinking?” with something snarky. I start thinking that deliberately pleasant environments might actually make people less pleasant.
Then I watch my kids laugh at a pleasantly goofy Pixar short and the happy side of Facebook makes more sense. I need Mr. Rogers and Disneyland and candy shops, because the world can be dark and cynical and I yearn for a place to be better than myself. I yearn for a playground. I crave intimacy and identity and affirmation and thought it is imperfect, Facebook provides that.
I call up a former colleague and say, “I just thought you should know that I like the moment when you collect the entire dryer lent in one rectangle.”
“Me, too,” he says.
“Yeah, it’s like a work of art. In the wintertime, it’s abstract. I wish I could frame it.”
“You’re odd,” he tells me.
“I know. Hey, Javi likes getting his work done early so he can hang out with people later. What do you like?”
“I like fresh cut grass.”
And so it goes again. We go through a process of sharing what we like. Simple things. Popping dry rose pedals. The first note of “Stairway to Heaven.” Laughter. I hang up the phone in a good mood. Maybe I need to do this more often. Maybe the real mask is my sarcastic humor. Maybe I need to make more room in my life for gratitude.