It’s healthy to like things, but only in moderation. Specifically, it appears that excessive use of Facebook’s “Like” button takes a toll on psychological health. According to The Wall Street Journal, researchers found that more than average “Like” button usage is strongly correlated with weakened mental and social health later in life.
In essence, the “Like” button has revolutionized how people communicate with each other and the world.In Facebook’s case, it dictates the posts that users see in their News Feeds. The News Feed algorithm analyzes the posts that users have liked and manipulates that data to show them more posts that they will potentially like. At a glance, it’s a brilliant technological advancement, but critics echo concerns that seeing the world through Facebook’s News Feed filter restricts people’s view of a bigger picture and of reality. Moreover, many users find fault with the “Like” feature by pointing out that, more often than not, “liking” does not effectively contribute to any real change.
Founder and CEO of social action platform Be a Doer, John Negron, describes his Facebook use as “average.” Yet, in talking to Negron in an interview, he offered extraordinary insight into the evolution of the “Like” button and the things people can do if they want to provide more than just a digital thumbs-up.
NYMM: What are your thoughts on the “Like” button as a concept?
JN: It’s a psychological phenomenon really. There’s an old saying: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” I imagine in the beginning it seemed like a good idea and still is a great way to gain insight into a user’s interests and preferences. One of the founders of Twitter, Evan Williams, speaking while touching on this a bit, said that the internet is broken. It’s not broken to me, but we’ve come to a crossroads as a society where that tiny feeling of accomplishment you get by clicking that “Like” button isn’t enough. I see a lot of people now wanting to do more to enact real change. It’s something that the “Like” button and status quo social media in general can’t give.
NYMM: How has the way people think of the “Like” button changed over time and over their use of social media?
Here’s an example status update: “My Aunt Betty just died, I’m on my way to the wake.” …75 likes. Wait, what? Am I supposed to “Like” that? It’s weird. I think new developments are trying to solve that kind of issue. It’s become part of our lives both online and offline.
NYMM: Out of all Facebook users, who do you think is most at risk of the health problems that the researchers are talking about? What would you say to them?
JN: I don’t think there’s a specific demographic, race, or color. This spans everyone. We’re in an epidemic, which I’ve called “The Comparison Economy,” where we post the best and hide the rest. It’s built to compare your real life with other people’s online personas. These personas don’t tell the full story and are by and large just fake. If we spend time online scrolling through what everyone else seems to be doing and how great their lives seem to be, we inevitably end up feeling like we’re not measuring up to the online standard. Then, depression and further isolation sneaks in… or worse.
To anyone that is dealing with this, I want to say, I feel you. Also, I need to tell you that it’s not real life. It’s entertainment. Real life is about using your skills, talents, and abilities to help others.
NYMM: If there’s just one thing that a person can do to keep from falling victim to this curse of the “Like” button, what would that one thing be?
JN: Social media is a wonderful thing, but overuse and addiction aren’t. We’re more connected now than ever. I’ve asked myself, how can this connectedness be used for good? Is there something I can do that could make a positive impact? I think that’s a question everyone should ask themselves and spend some time doing that one thing.
NYMM: What would you change about the way people use or think about the “Like” button?
JN: Be aware of the Comparison Economy. Make up your mind not to live in it. A lot of people are waking up to this and want to do something more than just “Like” it.
NYMM: You’re the founder and CEO of Be a Doer. Tell me a bit about Be a Doer.
JN: Be a Doer is about taking social media to the next level. We believe it’s about making a social impact. It’s a platform for discovering social causes through today’s news headlines, and then we give you the tools to get involved.
NYMM: Where did you find the inspiration to create Be a Doer?
JN: I’ve been involved in social justice work as a volunteer for a long time, but it wasn’t until Hurricane Sandy hit New York when I realized that rallying people around a cause can produce massive change. I organized a group to go out to some of the devastated areas of the city and I saw that regular folks just like us were the real first responders. Watching people helping people allowed me to see that it’s up to us to be the part of the answer if we want to change something. That was the seed that needed some time to grow into the vision that our team has been building.
NYMM: What does it mean to you to be a “doer”?
JN: It means the “Like” button isn’t enough for you. All of us have something to give. There are so many great causes out there and most people don’t know about them nor how to get involved. Our platform solves that. Being a “doer” means taking action. Posting a tweet and writing a post might make you feel better about a certain subject, but it doesn’t do much on the side of making a difference. We’re leveraging social media and current events to crowdsource that level of change. There are things you can do to support great causes and even shape policies.
NYMM: What would you recommend to people looking to get more involved with Be a Doer?
JN: If you want early access to what we’re building, join us at beadoer.io. Our doers are working day and night getting ready for our launch. You’ll get plugged into all kinds of social causes and rallies going on around you. We’d love to hear from people interested in what we’re doing. Be the change you’d like to see in the world.
The interview was edited and condensed.
Photos provided by Be a Doer
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