We’ve all done it - grazed through our Facebook news feed and updates,and impulsively hit like. But beyond the fact that it’s so easy to use, what exactly is it that we find so irresistible about this tiny, seemingly innocuous function? And why are we so compelled to like people, updates and media online?
According to Facebook's Help Center, a like is “a way to give positive feedback or to connect with people you care about.” The giant recently released statistics indicating that over 65 million users like things daily, and although it’s generally more popular among younger users, people of all ages seem to enjoy pressing the like button.
The fact that it’s such a popular element of the platform’s functionality goes a long way in showing how important it is, both for the people sending it, and those of us receiving it.
What lies behind our obsession with like?
Like has become much more than just a positive reaction toward a post or update; it has evolved into a feedback toward the person her/himself. As a rule of thumb, the more likes you get, the more loved you’ll feel. In fact, according to anthropologist Krystal D'Costa, the like button has become so influential as a tool, that it can boost or shatter one’s ego – in effect, it has become "an extension of one's digital personal". Not only that, but other researchers have shown that like-based communication actually decreases the feeling of loneliness,3 as it conveys a sense of empathy and caring.
From the sender's perspective, sending a like can have the same effect as smiling or saying a kind word to someone. It is basically a really easy, low-cost way to communicate positive feedback.
So why do we like things?