Not Liking

I would love to like.

It’s part of the online social contract, after all. If you find someone’s social media post pleasant, agreeable, or important, you’re supposed to hit that like button. It’s a duty! A fave is like a big warm hug. There’s a hierarchy–you star or fave something to show approval, or you repost it if you REALLY like/agree/think it’s important.

It’s not that I don’t want to. I would love to be able to hit that button, get that little dopamine hit, share that joy. Unfortunately, anxiety won’t let me. You see, if I hit one fave, one like, one heart, one star, the feeling of being personally unfair mounts. What if someone else I have a parasocial (or deeper) relationship with sees that fave/star/like/heart, and wonders why I didn’t like their post? Will they feel bad? Will they find it insulting? Will I inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings?

I live in dread of doing so. Ideally I wouldn’t hurt anyone at all, but we live in an imperfect world. Thus, if I hurt someone, I want it to be deliberate; I want it to be meant.

I am fully aware of the deep irrationality of this emotional pattern, and yet I cannot escape it. If I like or fave or star or heart or what-the-fuck-ever one thing, I am attacked by the deep dire feeling that I have to do so for everything crossing my feed lest someone feel left out, lest someone suffer because of my inattention. It is not physically possible for me to hit the like button so many times, and attempting to apply a hierarchy of likes to people I follow–who, it must be said, I follow because I think they’re cool, or interesting, or important, or kind, or because I have a deeper relationship with–reduces me to a quivering puddle of maybe I shouldn’t be here at all, I’ll just leave.

Can’t have that stress, it robs me of the energy to write books.

I have no problem boosting or amplifying (retweeting, back in the Twitter day). The sense that I have a platform and am responsible for lifting up things I think are fun, interesting, or important thankfully doesn’t hit the same mental/emotional reflex the like button does. I am at a loss to explain this quirk, I don’t know where the hell it comes from. I only know the guilt of betraying the online social contract by not “liking” anything is less than the panic-anxiety of hitting that button even once and running the risk of hurting someone I might care about, no matter how glancing that care may be.

I fully realize how ridiculous this is. Then again, there is a great deal of ridiculousness in and about social media; becoming a bog-witch who hikes into town every six months to send finished manuscripts out would be ideal for Yours Truly. Unfortunately, without some kind of giant deal (“movie money”, we call it chez nous) or vanishingly unlikely bestseller lottery win, it’s not feasible.

So I continue being ridiculous, and wishing I could smash that fave/heart/star/whatever button like everyone else. I try not to look at the numbers of boosts or likes or faves or whatnot. Social media is pretty much yelling into the void.

Sometimes the void answers back and that’s nice, though it’s strange to realize I’m a void too. There are a million reasons for silence. You can have yours.

This is one of mine.