A friend recently asked me about transferring Likes between platforms, which got me thinking about what Likes mean to me. Upon applying a little more thought than my typical “Yay, someone liked my post!” I came to the conclusion that they were useless to me, perhaps even detrimental to my writing.
Likes are an artificial construct we rely on as proof that an audience exists and is happy with the content we shared. I don’t need Likes to prove I have an audience, I have Stats for that, and Likes do little to prove that the audience is happy with the shared content. The simple action of pushing a button hardly qualifies as reader engagement, completely reading the post isn’t even required. The Like button is also only present on the site itself, it’s not present in subscription emails or RSS feeds. There is no proof that those who pushed the button actually liked the content or that there aren’t more out there who just didn’t bother to push the button.
Likes as an artificial construct of an audience are also seen as an artificial construct of self-worth, leading to self-censorship. I have always believed that the writer should write what the writer wants to, and let the audience grow around it. Likes are the antithesis of that. Once you begin to believe Likes are your only proof of audience satisfaction, you have lost the battle over your own creativity. Self-censorship sets in, and you begin to force yourself to adapt to please an audience which probably doesn’t exist in the form you understand it.
I have removed the Like buttons here after this little revelation of mine. I’ll continue to write what I feel like writing without being misguided by the Like button. I’m interested to see how this little experiment goes, and I’ll always have my Stats if I need proof that people read what I write. As for you kind folks, if you like what I write, please feel free to share it, Like/Favorite/+1 it on your social network of choice, or let me know in the comments. I may no longer have a Like button here, but I do appreciate a kind word from time to time.