Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Cruelty of the "Like"

I'm going to bring up a pet peeve of mine that seems to be spreading like the plague. It's the facebook "like".

The like is a way of minimizing major events from the amazing moments they are to one click. It's one word that doesn't even begin to cover the emotions associated with said events. It works okay with simple, funny statuses, but what about marriages? New relationships? Pregnancy announcements? Birth?

I have so much excitement I don't even know how to tell you on this social networking site!

Like does not even begin to describe the amazing emotions tied to these types of events.

Now, I know plenty of people have addressed their disdain before towards facebook likes. I'm not the first. But I'm not here to complain about those likes in general. No, my pet peeve is more specific.

In early October, my grandmother, Helen, passed away after a year and a half of living with the after-effects of a bad stroke. I don't like to talk about that stuff all day, so after a very long day at school, I wrote a facebook status to let my friends know. There were a number of encouraging comments given, and just as many people liked my status. My status about how my grandmother had died.

I was having a bad day, and there were people, on facebook, perhaps with good intentions, liking the fact that, for the first time, I was dealing with the loss of a grandparent. Can I emphasize this more? What some people (hopefully) meant as encouragement, I only saw as celebrating the death of my amazing relative. Not cool, guys, not cool.

I let it go, because I was dealing with planning mid-semester travel to Arizona, and I was too flustered to bother with it. But that was not the last time.

Earlier this month, another grandparent passed away. Again, I made a status letting people know, and twice as many people liked this status as the one I wrote in October. Some people may argue that the status was about being with family at a hard time, which is pretty good, but that's the only good part in what was a rough time for me and my family.

So. Why do we do this? What does the "like" accomplish? (Hint: I don't like it.)

I think in large part, death is weird. It's something that literally billions of people have experienced, and yet it is still incomprehensible and unknown. Many of us have faith that something nice awaits us, but faith is not a fact. Basically, the like is a way for people to indicate acknowledgement without actually doing anything helpful. 

Don't get after me here about faith; there are a lot of unanswered questions about the life after this one. Many don't believe it even exists, and that's okay, but liking a status about one's beloved relatives stepping into the unknown is not okay. Next time, offer a word of comfort or help. Offer to make that person a meal, because chances are they won't feel like cooking for a couple of weeks (trust me).

If you don't want to do any of that, then just pray for them or think happy thoughts about them, or just keep scrolling, because about the cruelest thing you can do in times of strife is throw a thumbs up towards their silent suffering.

Now, I don't mean to upset anyone here. I know that the people who go around liking such statuses (stati?) are trying their best to be encouraging and uplifting, but the fact is the facebook like is not adequate. It's getting an awkward pat on the shoulder when what you needed was a hug and a friend. The like is simply inadequate in the face of events we don't understand.

What do you think? Am I wrong?