You post a Facebook status about Game of Thrones and close your MacBook Pro. You're preparing Sriracha-infused chicken and waffles when your girlfriend texts you.
"Ew. Some ratchet girl with a bitchy resting face just liked your FB status..."
You're puzzled at first. You lick the spicy maple syrup from your fingertips. You then crack open your laptop and log back into Facebook.
You soon realize who she's talking about: *Brittany Jones, a bartender who you met on Spring Break in Puerto Vallarta. Nothing happened, but Brittany thought you were cute and asked for your number, which resulted in the consecration of a Facebook friendship.
Recalling the pertinent details, you craft your response.
"Lol babe, she was our bartender in PV... Don't know why she liked the status, probably just tryna bang Jon Snow." Genius. Send.
A few kissy emojis later, you resolve the issue. But as the day advances, you can't help but contemplate bartender Brittany's motive for liking your status. After all, the two of you haven't spoken in months. Why emerge from the woodwork now? Did she really like Game of Thrones, or was it rather your attention that she sought, and succeeded, to garner?
You grab a pen and paper. You start listing different reasons to like a given post:
1. The Genuine Like
You read a status disparaging Dan Bilzerian. You're relieved to learn that you're not the only person who sees him for the materialistic prick that he is. You like the post.
2. The Reciprocal Like
You only like Stephen Colbert's cover photo because he liked yours.
3. The Disingenuous Like
You go out on a limb and Instagram a half-naked selfie. Regrettably, the photo isn't performing well in the like category. In a concerted effort to generate reciprocal likes, you binge-like the recent posts in your feed.
4. The Noob Like
You're new to Instagram. You stumble upon your ex-girlfriend's account. A bikini picture catches your eye. You intend to zoom in on it. Little do you know though, when you double click, you inadvertently like the picture. Your heart skips a beat -- as if you just witnessed something you weren't supposed to. You can't unlike the picture now. Your ex already received a notification and you know the rule... an unlike is crazier than a creepy like.
5. The OCD Like
You encounter a post with 99 likes. As if it were a crooked painting in need of straightening, you like it, bringing the tally to an even 100. You simply can't resist.
6. The FOMO Like
You discover a profile picture with 316 likes. The post's popularity dupes you into believing that you like it too, so... you like it too. You're influenced by the likes that come before you. In the same way that it's easier to jump off a cliff when you see 316 other people jumping, it's easier to like a photo when 316 other people set a precedent. Your desire to join the in-group is indeed so strong, that it's as if you experience FOMO not liking such a popular post.
7. The Premeditated Like
You see a photo that you're ultimately going to like, but you wait for others to like it first to avoid standing out.
8. The Manipulative Like
You don't want to follow Jonah Hill on Instagram because doing so would negatively impact your follower-to-following ratio. However, you do want to acquire Jonah as a new follower. You know that there's no more effective way to accomplish this goal than by binge-liking his photos at random. The idea is, Jonah will soon notice your likes and follow you as a token of appreciation.
9. The Infatuated Like
You like Bryana Holly's Instagrams for no other reason than she's really, really, ridiculously good looking. This, of course, is merely a mating call in disguise.
10. The René Descartes Like
You recognize that Kendall Jenner is a famous model with over 11 million followers, but you like her Instagrams anyway in case she one day acknowledges your existence. As Descartes would say, "I like, therefore I am."
11. The Steven Glansberg Like
You feel bad because nobody else liked Steven Glansberg's post, so you do him a favor by liking it. A champion of compassion, you've always invited the lonely kid at lunch to sit at your table. Why not? It's easy and helps boost the person's self esteem.
12. The Long Distance Like
You don't keep in touch with your college roommate, but occasionally, you like his posts as if to say, "Remember me?" It works, to a degree. Whenever you like his posts, he thinks of you, if only for a moment. It's rather profound when you consider that one small click can make a material difference in someone's day.
By now, you're running out of steam. Still, you have no idea why bartender Brittany liked your status. Maybe it was a genuine like, or maybe it was a long distance like. You'll never know for sure.
But now, you do understand one of the challenges that social media users face. When conversing behind cold computer screens, you can't gauge a person's body language or voice tonality. So no matter how long you spend analyzing a like, you'll never quite get to the bottom of it. You'll never fully understand the liker's intentions. How could you? On social media, you're much like the prisoners in Plato's cave, condemned to twiddle your thumbs, interpreting only the shadows that you see.
*Names have been changed.