Did you like that headline? It’s a good headline, right? I spent a lot of time thinking about what the title of this post should be, and that’s what I came up with. I mean, it’s not perfect, but not bad. Likeable.
Now, I don’t mean to be presumptuous, but it’s possible – possible! – that it’s your favorite headline ever. There aren’t a lot of truly superlative headlines – Headless Body In Topless Bar, etc. – so it’s possible that this one enters the pantheon. People are different, have different tastes. Maybe you’re the one out there who sees the title up there and says, “Wow. Yes. Best one I’ve ever seen. My favorite.” That would be pretty cool! For both of us, really.
Anyway, here’s my point: almost everything you “Like” or “Favorite” online, you don’t really like like and almost certainly isn’t your favorite.
Likes and favorites are often shrugs of approval, or status plays, or bookmarks. They are to passion what a “heh” is to a stand-up comic: better than nothing, but not anything special. They’re handshakes, not hugs.
Yesterday, writer Robin Sloan addressed the philosophy of the online “Like” with the release of what he calls a “tap essay.” “Fish” is an iPhone app that asks a reader to progress through a short manifesto which addresses the question above: how deep does our affection run on the Internet? In the course of our liking, how do we know when we fall in love?
His proposal is that we show (or uncover) our love through repetition. Like a favorite movie that we watch repeatedly, our favorite essays and videos and posts online are ones we return to, mull over, dive into more deeply. Love breeds familiarity.
In some ways, our “Likes” and “Favorites” and “read laters” online have become a starting point, a first sifting-through that we return to when we have more time to dive a little deeper. It’s what makes a tool like blogger Jason Kottke’s Stellar useful; instead of following people’s posts, you follow their favorites. Just as Google revolutionized search by looking at links to pages, Stellar identifies the wheat from which others online have already sifted the chaff. It’s recognizing the “Like” for what it is.
Thank you for reading this, which you might just think is the best post in the history of the Internet. And even if you don’t, feel free to click the Facebook “Like” button on your way out.
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