Of Likes and Comments

Some people like and don’t comment and some people comment and don’t like. Some people don’t like to like, think it’s somehow a lame effort or no effort and therefore stupid.  I don’t like that.  I like things all of the time.  I like it when people like.  I like it when people comment, unless they make a comment I don’t like.  And then I don’t like but sometimes I comment because it’s hard to keep my proverbial mouth shut.

I don’t like it when I’m writing and someone’s looking over my shoulder.  It’s odd, sometimes, what people don’t like.  I recently read someone venting about generic birthday wishes, as if it would be better to say nothing than to say, simply, happy birthday; probably these are the  same people who think it’s lazy to like without comment. It seems to me that a birthday wish is a birthday wish, a like is a like, and sometimes the simplest thing is often the simplest and therefore the best.  Granted, it takes more effort to type the words “happy birthday” than it takes to point and click on the like button.  I’m not saying that they’re equal gestures.  I’d rather have someone say happy birthday to me, like my friend Curtis does every time he sees me, than to simply like a post of mine.  But I got 80 plus likes once on a post I made of a stupid picture of me, and that made me feel good; it made me feel liked, more liked, perhaps, than would a single birthday wish.  In Death of a Salesman, Willy and Biff Loman’s lines  have so much more meaning now than they did in the 1940’s, that Charlie and Bernard are both liked–but they’re not well-liked, and somehow that’s a problem.  After I posted that photo, I felt well-liked.  If only Willy Loman had Facebook.

I wonder how I would have felt had no one liked my photo.  I’d feel, perhaps, like Willy and Biff think Charlie and Bernard feel, but of course, they’re wrong about how Charlie and Bernard feel, and maybe I’d be wrong–Willy’s biggest problem is that he puts too much stock in whether or not people like him and that sends him into a psychological tailspin: he believes he is well-liked–and he might be–but he’s a terrible salesman and no one’s buying his shit. So he fails.  Charlie is shrewd and wise and Bernard is a hard working nerd, neither of them liked too terribly much, both of them successful.

What I realize, and like, about this blog post so far, is that (I’m guessing) four years ago this would make absolutely no sense to a great many human beings.  I like how it still might not make a lot of sense to a great many human beings.  I like, and don’t like simultaneously, how Facebook has changed our language, how a friend is no longer a friend, exactly, how both friend and like have become actions, how to comment is now about the same as it ever was, which I like, by the way.  And I like how I managed to talk about a play.  And I like how, in doing so, I might have landed on an idea.  Remember how Henry David Thoreau, in that one book, talked about how most letters were not worth the penny post it cost to mail them?  That was awesome.  I know Thoreau would absolutely hate Facebook–but he might appreciate how little it costs to send someone a message, less than a penny.  And Arthur Miller, and his tragic hero Willy Loman, might appreciate how the word like has become so absolutely pedestrian so as to mean almost exactly nothing.  I can’t believe I just wrote 632 words on this topic.

Thank you, Jim Thornburg.

Published by michaeljarmer

I'm a public high school English teacher, fiction writer, poet, and musician in Portland, Oregon

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