Out of the Box – The Facebook Phenomenon of the Super-Like

It’s a humorous reflection on culture when changes online?the place where we might expect ceaseless change anyways?become a cultural meme of their own. I’m referring, of course, to the much-hyped and much-maligned Facebook layout changes. The newest set just rolled out this week.

It starts out with a new look for the news feed or profile page. First come the complaints: I can’t find anything on here! Massive fail, FB. Then the anger: Share this ?I hate the new layout? photo if you agree! Then the conspiracies get passed around. Warning: Facebook has also changed all your privacy settings! Do this quick fix to restore everything! Then, because on Facebook everyone has to be different, to somehow stand out from the crowd, a few start the clever booster club status lines: It’s funny how people complain and yet they don’t quit Facebook!

In the end they’re right, though; no one wants to quit Facebook for the opposing team. Safety’s in numbers, and the numbers are sticking with the blue box. So we stop grumbling, gradually get used to it, and even forget all about it.

That is, until the next wave of changes rolls out.

It’s fascinating that one web giant can hold such a monopoly on casual online communication. At the same time, It’s slightly disconcerting. After all, the environment in which we interact affects the type, quality, and focus of our interactions.

This is true regardless of whether we’re interacting physically or electronically, but It’s especially obvious with the latter. These days, the way we communicate with one another is intimately tied to our online interactions. If our online environment is primarily or even exclusively limited to one networking space, It’s easy to fall into a mould That’s a by-product of that environment.

Previously, you could approve others? posts by ?liking? or commenting. Thanks to the new changes, you can now mark others? status updates or photos as ?top stories,? thus making it more likely for them to appear at the front of other friends? news feeds (or making it more likely for you to see similar posts in the future). You’re essentially taking your approval one step further and sharing it with the world. In fact, You’re super-liking it.

?I think it’s hilaaaarious what FB thinks would be important to me. Keep trying, FB,? one friend wrote. Yet It’s not so much about how you’ll read your news feed, It’s about how you’ll write your own news.

Some wise person once compared Facebook to an enormous online cocktail party, where everyone’s vying for attention. We want to be memorable, and social networking makes it a little more attainable to make our mark among, at least, our circle of friends. It’s a very, very few who wouldn’t be secretly pleased when their posts get flagged as ?Top Stories.? And who doesn’t want to appear in that cool little real-time feed in the box on the right?the one where you see who’s saying what?

Most of us have an unspoken desire for popularity, and social networking is already an ego-booster by its nature. That’s why we try to think up clever status lines, or write those ?Dear so-and-so . . .? letters, or vent without giving any details, or ask advice. we’re not necessarily having an ego trip; we just want people to talk to us, give us their attention (even for a few seconds).

Desiring interaction is normal, even good. While face-to-face is arguably better, online communication is increasingly a fact of life. In many ways It’s beneficial?as long as we’re in control of the medium, that is.

Let’s resist the temptation to self-promote, to deliberately rise to the top, to be the toast of the Facebook party. There’s nothing wrong with funny posts, snarky status updates, in-your-face opinions, rants and vents, and albums of our latest cool adventures. But if we over-focus on creating the ?perfect? line, the ?perfect? Facebook persona, the one that will rise to the ?Top,? we’ll spend so much time preparing to communicate that we’ll never truly interact.

Now that would be a tragedy worth posting about.

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