Many of you would have received the request from some business or organization to “Like us on Facebook!” If you have a Facebook account, you also get email alerts that promise updates on the ‘status’ of friends and if you click on them you will find that rather than being a significant change in their lives (new job, moved to new city, major relationship changes, etc.), it is often something really trivial, such as that they are ordering pizza. As a result of several such updates, I now don’t bother to click on them. And yet, they seem to garner a lot of ‘likes’ by their friends.
I have concluded that I am a bad Facebook friend. I have a Facebook account but I never post anything to it. I ignore all the notices I get from Facebook. I also never click ‘like’ on the numerous things that people post. If I get a friend request from someone I know, I accept because it seems rude not to, but the requests to be friends with people I do not know leave me conflicted. It seems churlish to not accept an offer of friendship but a borderline misanthrope like me does not seek new friends so I end up ignoring those requests, though I feel guilty about doing so. The constant emails from Facebook telling me that a lot of things have happened since I last checked Facebook are annoying too. Facebook has become a source of irritation to me.
I have frequently thought of eliminating my account but as of yet have not done so. I started the account back in the earliest days of Facebook when it was just starting and was not the huge social phenomenon it now is. Back then I wondered whether it was something that might help the students at my university, especially first year students more prone to feeling lonely and homesick, better get acquainted with their fellow students and so checked it out to see if the university should recommended to them that they use it. Of course, Facebook now has a life of its own and does not need any institutional support.
Despite my later many irritations with it, I have not canceled my account mainly because since now pretty much the entire world seems to be on Facebook, on rare occasions, old friends with whom I have lost touch use it to contact me. This one useful feature keeps me hooked.
But I am intrigued by the phenomenon of clicking ‘like’ on other people’s posts. Why does it matter? Each post seems to garner plenty of likes. Where do people find the time to read all their friends’ posts to like and even comment on them? I just checked and currently have 207 friends, a pathetically low number I am told, and yet I find the number of Facebook notices too many. How do people whose Facebook friends number in the thousands and even tens of thousands manage?
In particular I am puzzled that businesses value being ‘liked’ so much that some threaten their customers if they don’t ‘like’ them, and that there are actually people who are employed at so-called ‘click farms’ and paid around $15 per thousand ‘likes’ in order to generate a fake sense of popularity for some site. Apparently this makes some kind of business sense.
The importance of likes is considerable with consumers: 31% will check ratings and reviews, including likes and Twitter followers, before they choose to buy something, research suggests. That means click farms could play a significant role in potentially misleading consumers.
Click farms have become a growing challenge for companies which rely on social media measurements – meant to indicate approval by real users – to estimate the popularity of their products.
For the workers, though, it is miserable work, sitting at screens in dingy rooms facing a blank wall, with windows covered by bars, and sometimes working through the night. For that, they could have to generate 1,000 likes or follow 1,000 people on Twitter to earn a single US dollar.
I never check the number of likes before using any product but it looks like I may be in the minority and that this is considered a valuable measure of quality. But as click farms proliferate, that may cease to be so.
Clearly the brave new world of social networking is not designed for people like me, who are comfortable having just a few good friends made the old-fashioned way.