Facebook is an excellent social engine that enables us to interact with each other on both individual and societal scales. The funny thing about that though, is that the communication happens within the controlled hierarchy of facebook — likes, pokes, comments, status updates, etc. And I’ve noticed over the past few weeks, as everyone’s posts get more and more political, that not all interactions are equal.


For example, I’ve had a couple posts in the last few weeks in which I alluded to Drumpf’s wall. Both received a decent number of likes, but only a few comments. The comments however, all happened to be dissents to my statements. Is this a coincidence, or is facebook structured to encourage positive responses via “likes”, and negative responses via “comments”?


My first post in reference to a quote President Obama made at the UN.


My second post in reference to the Germany National Holiday.


As you can see, my personal experience would seem to indicate that this is true, and it makes sense. If you’re browsing your news feed, and you see something you like, you generally just like it and move on. Unless you have something to add, but it’s usually not worth the effort to post an affirmation, when it’s already so easy to like something.


If you disagree with the post however, you’d probably fall into one of two categories. 1) You don’t care enough to engage, so you ignore it and scroll on, or 2) You feel the need to engage, so you post a comment. I can’t tell how many people I interact with from category one, but I can certainly count those from category two.


So what’s the big deal?

Numerically-speaking, comments take up a lot more space than likes, which only occupy a truncated list on a single line. Comments on the other hand, are generally listed out, consuming more space and our attention. In my recent examples, contrarian comments consumed SIGNIFICANTLY more pixel space than the likes.


obama-quote german-unificaiton

Now, analyzing the space quantitatively, I think you’ll see the relationship I’m talking about.

obama-quote-chart german-unificaiton-chart


Futhermore, written words have weight as we pause to read them. Words have meanings, so each pixel of genuine text has more weight than a list of names (i.e. the Likes). Because honestly, how often to check to see how many likes a post has, and who’s liked it?


So it seems that the facebook structure has created an advantageous forum for all the contrarians out there, and I’m not sure those are the voices that should be heard. If comments are more often contrarian than supportive, then they’re more often negative than positive. And if they’re more often negative, doesn’t that influence our collective psyche? The last thing we need is another cynic with a microphone.


Perhaps you agree with me, perhaps you don’t, but I suppose I’ll know soon enough 😉

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