The Language Of The Like

That chirpy Facebook thumbs-up is undermining our use of language, one happy click at a time.

Anna Sheinman communication Facebook facebook rape Internet language lazy media procrastination social networking

We all love to moan about Facebook. How it aids procrastination, has made both ‘stalking’ and ‘(f)raping’ into fun phrases, and will store THAT picture of you for eternity.

And to add to this list of crimes it has developed a whole new level of communication: the ‘like’. Don’t be fooled by its apparent upbeat nature. That chirpy little thumbs up in blue and white is undermining our use of language, one happy click at a time.

I discovered this on my return from travelling this summer, when a man from my more recent past ‘liked’ my status. WHAT DOES IT MEAN HE ‘LIKES’ MY STATUS?! Does it mean he wants to see me? That he’s just pleased that I had fun? Or happy I was gone? Are we talking now? Or only at the ‘liking stage’? Maybe he was just ‘liking’ a lot of stuff that day?!

I once thought a ‘like’ was some general expression of positivity toward whatever preceded it. Oh how young I was. Because like beauty, sexuality and potatoes at a farmers’ market, the like comes in all shapes and sizes.

There’s the sarcastic like: you have a new girlfriend and I’m still alone? Whoop-dee-doo. LIKE. The mocking like: you went out with your other friends and had a shit night? LIKE. And the equivocal like. You say you LOVE YOUR MUM, is this frape, or fo’ real? Commenting means deciding, which could be awkward, so instead let’s use that four letter word.

It’s useful, but it’s lazy, and it’s stifling conversation. Like a postcard with tick boxes, or a soldier sending a standardised telegram home from war, we are resorting to standard forms to communicate. But, fascinating though it might be, we are not on Brighton Pier in the 1950s, nor in the trenches of the Somme.

Somehow progress has taken us backwards. Far, far, back, to when we were grunting at each other like cavemen. EurghgrLIKE. LIKE. LIKE.

Illustration by Esther Harding