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JENKINS: The unyielding tyranny of the like button

There are lots of good things about having a Facebook account. For one, you can keep up with old friends and family members that you don’t get to see very often. On top of that, you can, um, well, OK, there’s one good thing about having a Facebook account.

Seriously, I do enjoy keeping up with people. I like hearing about my Aunt Liz’s travels and my brother Don’s kids and my friend Paul’s mission trips. I like seeing pictures of the fish my cousin JT caught over the weekend, even if he has been known on occasion to exploit camera angle for the sake of embellishment.

Yes, I like all of that. The question, at any given moment, is just how much do I like it? Do I merely like it, or do I like it enough to actually hit the like button?

In this way (as, perhaps, in many others) Facebook is remarkably similar to fifth grade. Perhaps you can recall having the whole “like” versus “like like” conversation:

“I heard you like Michelle.”

“Well, yeah, of course I like Michelle.”

“Do you like her, or do you like like her?”

“Um ….”

Every time something pops up on Facebook that you like, you have to relive this internal debate. You like it, but do you LIKE it? Will you actually commit to hitting the like button, or will you remain aloof, self-absorbed, uncaring?

Because you know, if you do go out on a limb and like something, that decision could possibly have far-reaching consequences. What about all the other posts by that same person that you didn’t like? Will he or she now think you disliked those posts, since you hit the like button for this one but not the others? Because you really did like those other posts. You just didn’t like like them.

And how about all your other friends, who see that you liked that post? What if you didn’t like a sufficient number of their posts? Will they be offended? Even worse, will they stop liking your posts because you didn’t like theirs? Because of course your self-esteem, your very validation as a human being, is directly tied to how many likes you get.

One answer, of course, is simply to be more generous with your likes. If you like someone’s post today, be sure to like their post tomorrow, so they won’t feel as if they somehow became less human overnight. If you liked one person’s cat video, be sure to like the next person’s cat video, lest they bombard you with cat videos until they find one you like.

And so it goes, as you sit in front of the keyboard, index finger poised above the left clicker, agonizing over each like decision and its multiple ramifications.

Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I really do like Facebook.

I just don’t like like it.

Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and the author of “Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility,” available at Books for Less and on Amazon. Email Rob at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter @FamilyManRob.