Do you ever see a post on social media that links to a tragic story — and the post has hundreds or even thousands of likes? While we intuitively understand that all those “likes” are acknowledging, as opposed to endorsing, the tragedy, “like” is a big disconnect in relation to the story. While we may truly empathize, our action (“like”) can appear to trivialize the significance of the story.
Earlier this year, Facebook introduced “Reactions” buttons — the sad, funny, surprised or angry faces intended to express other emotions for situations such as the one described above. But they have really not caught on with users. A couple of studies cite various reasons, but really — is a sad face that much better than a like, when reacting to a tragic or serious situation?
The lazy like
Don’t get me wrong; I do it too. Scrolling through a news feed, clicking like is a quick and easy way to acknowledge a post of interest and engage (however swiftly) with the author. But it can be inauthentic — or in some cases, entirely inappropriate and insensitive.
We live in an always-on, immediate gratification society of endless news feeds and same-day shipping. Waiting an extra second or two for a web page to load can irritate us, and measuring our words before responding is (sadly) becoming a lost art. There’s a fair amount of research that shows that people share articles on social media that they have not even read. Why? Because it would take more than an instant to read, absorb, reflect and craft an empathetic response to the article. So we click like and move on — again and again.
An authentic response takes more than an instant
Technology can be truly enlightening and amazing. But authentic communication requires more than a click of an emoticon. Whether it’s the lazy like or the text message, we lose nuances of expression and empathy in virtual interactions.
In person, we can communicate and engage in a way that transcends words. You can’t hear the smile (or pain) in in a text message the way you can in a phone call. All the emoticons Facebook has to offer don’t convey the emotion that can be expressed through eye contact, or the compassion that comes through in person.
So what do you do — stop interacting on social media altogether? Of course not. But before clicking “like,” try pausing for a moment to reflect. Then craft a response that is heartfelt, sincere and honest. That’s a valuable first step toward authentic engagement.
We welcome your thoughts.