Thumbs up: a hand gesture achieved by a closed fist held with the thumb extended upward.
So, I’m struck recently by the frenetic need to have online “likes” (yes, the omnipresent thumbs up) in order to be considered “valid.” So much of the reality of this frenzy seems to be either something you gladly do for a friend - whether you like what they do or not - and it makes you sincerely happy to support them; or you reluctantly do for an acquaintance - who’s page/product/offering you could take or leave - because you were invited to do so, and you don’t want to be a heel, or worse, deal with the fear of “bad karma” if you don’t. It’s a fantastic exchange when you can actually “like” something because you really do, or even better, you’re actually so engaged by something, you completely forget to “like” it.
As an artist who just created a website and is trying to get her music out there, I know I should post a request on my Facebook page – or even send an invitation to everyone on my friend list – and ask folks to “like” my website. But, part of me wants to rebel, to be a purist, and say nothing about it at all. Do you know how humbling it is to see 11 “likes” on your new website? In fact, part of me wants to make it my goal to keep the 11 “likes” I now have and know how precious and sincere they are. Someone went to my website, just because; and they “liked” it because… well, they liked it.
Can you imagine how much more real the pulse would be on “products” without advertising? Can you imagine how much more real people would be? We would buy/support what we found to like and enjoy – not what anyone else told us we should like, or had to have, or what the elusive “everyone else” has. Maybe we would also slowly stop worrying about what other people think… about anything… especially us… because we weren’t constantly being told what is “right” or “good” or “in” or “out” from the “industry”. Maybe we would slowly build back more of an internal compass in regards to what is good (and no question, this will always be relative) instead of trusting the marketing firms to find the lowest common denominator that appeals to the largest group people to which we all actually “buy in” to some extent and thus the lowest common denominator grows. Awesome… Is anyone as devastated as I am about this seeming American flaw (or is it just a human flaw)? O.K., that’s another topic for another day…
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a cynic…quite the opposite. I’m also not an idiot. I understand the reality of numbers as a form of honest measurement. I get it - the “like” button does “take it to the people”. It’s a one-on-one “vote” (though only from a certain subset of people who are active on Facebook). I just fear that this something – so originally good and pure as a form of feedback -- has now become the actual goal, the “prize.” It’s not about how intrinsically good the substance, the music, the art, the writing, the product actually is or isn’t…it’s only about how many “likes” there are, which can lead to a popularity contest instead of a substance contest. It’s “good” if people “like” it (yes, this does sound obvious, not wrong); it’s not “good” because it’s good. It’s the classic tail wagging the dog – the institution overriding the intent.
And so the thumb… the digit once celebrated as the uniquely human appendage responsible for elevating our species from instinctive social animals to thoughtful individual achievers now symbolizes group think and confirmation bias. (I stole this from my brother – does that mean I’m a lower rung “thumber”?).
I guess the key to success in the industry is to be “good” because people “like” it and because it’s good… and that takes intentionality and time. I just need to fess up, I don’t like marketing… I like to make music.
So, please, don’t “like” my website if you don’t like it. And, don’t “like” my website if you get lost in it and enjoy it and you forget to “like” it. But, if you like it because it is good, then… well… O.K., it’s true, it would be great to get a “like” from you. At the end of the day, better the “thumb” than the “finger.”