I didn’t mean to use my Facebook friends as guinea pigs, but this weekend it happened inadvertently. I uploaded a picture of Susan Minot’s novella, which is about a single act of oral sex. Few people liked it. Then I came up with the idea of posting a picture of my weekend baking. What do people like more: oral sex or lemon meringue pie? Breathless excitement followed by blissful exhaustion, or tasty baked goods? The answer, after a rigorous scientific experiment, is: pie.
But maybe what people like on Facebook isn’t really what they *like* in real life. It’s very easy to like a picture of lemon meringue pie. It says very little about you, whereas Minot’s novella commits you to something potentially more damning. You are a sensualist, even a pervert, if you like a book about oral sex.
So here’s my theory: Facebook likes are not always about actual interests, but are often about what is easy to like. It’s the equivalent of a platitude or a bland remark at a social gathering: something designed to create harmony between very different people.
On Facebook, it’s easy to like a birthday post, a smiling child bouncing about in the sea or a brag, especially one disguised in self-deprecation (for example: ‘I’m so CLUMSY! – I just spilt wine on my kid’s report’ [picture of kid’s sterling report, all As]). Brags are easy to like, because we’re used to seeing them so frequently. It’s partly what Facebook is about.
It’s harder to define difficult likes than easy ones. Easy likes require very little commitment from us. They say nothing about who we are, or they say that we are like all our friends.
Honestly, though, after my experiment, I have more questions than answers. Another option, and I’m not willing to throw it out quite yet, is that people genuinely prefer lemon meringue pie to oral sex.
Current tally of likes:
Oral sex: 3
Lemon Meringue Pie: 17