Designer Frank Chimero blames this on social media lacking a dislike button. Of course, a dislike button would cause all kinds of trouble, as it does on Reddit, where “downvotes” bury valuable comments. So there’s only the option to like, or the option to explain that you dislike.
As I’ve written elsewhere, the internet needs a dislike button that doesn’t actually do anything. But as Chimero points out, you have a more immediate personal solution:
Even if you’re like me, a ghoul who gets annoyed at content-free replies from my loved ones, you still prefer that to actual negative replies. When you post something meaningful or funny, you want to witness people enjoying it. And a number next to a heart is not really going to deliver that. It’s like playing Super Mario for the points.
When someone compliments you, you feel good, you remember it, you might even tell a friend about the nice compliment you got. When someone tells you something nice (or something nasty), you might remember it for years. No one fondly remembers a like.
Next time you hit like, imagine what kind of reaction you’d give in person, and give it in writing. Give them real thoughts and feelings to absorb. Give them compliments—or empathy or agreement—in words that they’ll remember.
The more time you spend leaving these positive comments, the less time is left for the negative ones.
I have a terrible habit of joining angry mobs on Twitter. I see some hateful, bigoted tweet, and I just have to reply with a rebuttal or put-down. I try to only do this to people who really deserve to feel bad. But it doesn’t really make me feel good. Even when everyone’s having fun joining the pile-on, there’s a lingering taste of poison. And I’m not accomplishing anything. This behavior is so common that getting “ratioed” with more replies than likes has become shorthand for having a famously terrible tweet.
But this shit-river of negativity has triggered an opposite behavior, based on positive replies. On “Prompt Twitter,” someone asks an open-ended question and invites everyone to answer. The tweet gets ratioed with positive comments. Everyone loves to share their opinion, but this time they’re on the same side as the person who got them talking. Everyone’s spending their time on the positivity.
“A like can’t go anywhere,” says Chimero, “but a compliment can go a long way.” It can start a conversation, an actual back-and-forth, that breaks you out of the search-and-consume pattern.
Self-made experts on “unplugging” keep claiming that social media makes us lonely, but that’s only true if we only produce and consume and never interact. It’s the moms and aunts and grandpas who are doing it right, using Facebook to keep in touch and constantly chat with all their faraway friends and family. The fans replying to celebrity tweets. The YouTube commenters sharing personal stories under an old music video. The Lifehacker commenters telling me how good this post is.
You’re taking a pleasant or meaningful moment, expanding the space it takes up in your mind, and extending it into new moments. A small, mundane, banal choice that makes life better.
Some men change their party for the sake of their principles; others their principles for the sake of their party