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Published October 24th 2011

What does it really mean to Like something on Facebook?

Back in May this year, Facebook claimed there were 50 million “Likes” made every day. But does the word “like” really describe what people mean when they click the button?

I expect most of us have seen some instances where the word “like” seems inaccurate to some degree. For example, around 3000 people have “liked” a news article about the crash that killed IndyCar racer Dan Wheldon. And with the status update below, what exactly do the 5 people mean when they state that they “like” this Facebook status?

As far as I can see, when someone clicks “like” somewhere on Facebook, it is for one or more of the following reasons:

  1. They find it funny
  2. They agree with what is being said
  3. They appreciate it in some way
  4. They are a fan of it
  5. …They like it

So, does expressing the fact that you “like” something equate to each of the above?

  1. If you find something funny, does that mean you like it? I find it funny that a friend of mine missed the last train back so had to wait at the station for 4 hours in the middle of the night, but I’m not sure I’d say that means I like that they had to do that… So I am expressing that I find it funny, not that I like it.
  2. If you agree with what someone’s saying, does that mean you like it? I agree with my friend saying that the latest episode of my favourite TV show was disappointing, but I obviously don’t like that it was; nor do I particularly like the fact that my friend is saying so. So I am agreeing, but I’m not saying I like it.
  3. If you appreciate something, does that mean you like it? In most cases it obviously does, but with examples like the above news article it seems that there is some kind of appreciation present that can’t suitably be described by the word “Like”. So this one’s a little unclear too.
  4. If you are a fan of it, does that mean you like it? Yes.
  5. If you like something, does that mean you like it? …

So the Facebook “Like” covers off 4 and 5…but 1, 2 and in some ways 3 are left wanting. Facebook needs a word that truly encompasses all of the above. As far as I’m aware, that word hasn’t been invented yet, so they have free reign to invent a whole new word…

Do you have any examples of “Like” being used unusually? Do you think Google’s “+1” works better? Or perhaps the commonly seen “thumbs up”? Maybe you think “Like” is just fine how it is! As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

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