On 1 August 2014, I announced I was going to quit liking things on Facebook.
At the time, I simply stated that I no longer wanted to be as active a participant in teaching Facebook how to advertise to me as I had been in the past.
But another and much larger issue was my real curiosity: how was my Facebook experience going to change once I stopped feeding its engine with likes?
I quit the Like, and it was hard.
The first thing I noticed was how difficult it was to not like things on Facebook. As I scrolled through updates, my finger instinctively gravitated towards the Like button on hundreds of posts and comments. It has become a gut-level, Pavlovian response. I saw updates I liked or wanted others to know I liked, and I found myself almost unconsciously clicking my approval.
The Like is the wordless nod of support in a loud room. It’s the easiest of yesses, I-agrees, and me-toos. I actually felt pangs of guilt over not liking some updates, as though the absence of my particular Like would translate as a disapproval or a withholding of affection. I felt as though my ability to communicate had been somehow hobbled. The Like function has saved me so much comment-typing over the years that I likely could have written a very quippy, War and Peace-length novel by now.
As the days wore on, though, my Like avoidance became easier to exercise, and it seemed to be reaping benefits when I noticed a significant difference in my Facebook news feed. I wasn’t sure if my experience was worth writing about, though, until I read an article by Mat Honan called I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days. Here’s What It Did to Me.
Honan chose to like everything on Facebook instead, and he experienced the polar opposite of what I did when I quit the Like. Our findings, when paired together, underscored what I believed my experiment with quitting the Like had uncovered.
Mark Zuckerberg wants to make sure we are always connected. Post continues after video…
#1 Benefit of Quitting the Facebook Like: A Better News Feed
It’s impossible to tell with any scientific certainty that my Facebook feed is markedly different than it used to be, but it sure looks that way.
You would think that liking certain updates on Facebook would teach the algorithm to give you more of what you want to see, but Facebook’s algorithm is not human. The algorithm does not understand the psychological nuances of why you might like one thing and not another even though they have comparatively similar keywords and reach similar audiences, so when I liked several videos and images of heartwarming animal stories, Facebook’s algorithm gave me more animal stories, but many of them were not heartwarming. They depicted inhumane treatment. Apparently, Facebook’s algorithm mistook my love for animals as a desire to see images of elephants being brutalised.