Saturday, November 19, 2011

What does 'Like' Signify on Facebook?

When Facebook was young and untried and when the majority of its users were even more innocent, one would be rather pleased to see a little notice on the right side of the page extolling the virtues of a band one loved or a philosophy one espoused... It may have been no different then than now except for the proliferation of these adverts and the more aggressive manner in which they target Facebook users.

'Like' signifies many different things on Facebook. First and foremost, it is a shorthand method of telling another user that you have read his/her post. It is a shorthand method of congratulation for an achievement that a user has posted...

Where games are concerned, it is the accepted method of letting all players know that you have taken an item offered on some one's Wall as well as thanking the player who posted it.

What does it signify when one clicks on 'Like' for one of the notices on the right side of the page? Here are some general messages that ask a Facebook user to 'Like' them:

'I love Jesus'.
'God is Good'.
'I have Faith.'
'I love being a Mother.'
'I love my Daughter.'

There was a time when I might have clicked 'Like' for some of these, but no longer. They are adverts, pure and simple, designed to accumulate income for the person or organisation that published them. There is a rather notorious instance where a message asking FB users to 'Like' if they loved being a Parent turned out to have been published by a pedophile.

The following is Facebook's own definition of what 'Like' means and its consequences:

;When you click Like on a Facebook Page, in an advertisement, or on content off of Facebook, you are making a connection. A story about your like will appear on your Wall (timeline) and may also appear in News Feed. You may be displayed on the Page you connected to, in advertisements about that Page, or in social plugins next to the content you like.

'Facebook Pages you like may post updates to your News Feed or send you messages. Your connection to the page may also be shared with apps on the Facebook Platform.'

Any user can add a 'Like' Button to his/her website as well. Here is Facebook's description:

'The Like button lets a user share your content with friends on Facebook. When the user clicks the Like button on your site, a story appears in the user's friends' News Feed with a link back to your website.

'When your Web page represents a real-world entity, things like movies, sports teams, celebrities, and restaurants, use the Open Graph protocol to specify information about the entity. If you include Open Graph tags on your Web page, your page becomes equivalent to a Facebook page. This means when a user clicks a Like button on your page, a connection is made between your page and the user. Your page will appear in the "Likes and Interests" section of the user's profile, and you have the ability to publish updates to the user. Your page will show up in same places that Facebook pages show up around the site (e.g. search), and you can target ads to people who like your content.

'There are two Like button implementations: XFBML and Iframe. The XFBML (also available in HTML5-compliant markup) version is more versatile, but requires use of the JavaScript SDK. The XFBML dynamically re-sizes its height according to whether there are profile pictures to display, gives you the ability (through the Javascript library) to listen for like events so that you know in real time when a user clicks the Like button, and it always gives the user the ability to add an optional comment to the like. If users do add a comment, the story published back to Facebook is given more prominence.'

I am not an expert where anything involving code is concerned, but it is obvious that any one who uses the 'Like' Link in an advert or message on Facebook or on his/her website has access to details about the users who click on it. In other words, information that is published on Facebook by the user, including name, address, telephone number, email address, lists of family and friends and websites. In the case of the pedophile who asked parents to 'Like' the simple statement of being a parent, it gave this person a wealth of information about Facebook users who had children.

The problem is that the user who simply sees the statement and clicks 'Like' has no idea who wrote the statement or why. Furthermore, in many cases, 'clicks' are worth money to the person who sets up the advert. Amazon has a programme through which users are induced to add content to their websites. Whenever any one clicks on the link, Amazon will give the website owner a small payment, usually in the form of credit towards Amazon goods.

Games on Facebook often use something similar. I played a little game designed for children once where one clicked on little bonfires to obtain gold for gameplay. One day, the interface disappeared and I saw that the bonfires actually were 'clicks' for an Amazon payment programme. Obviously the people who create 'free' games played on Facebook have to generate income somehow, but one would like to know what one is supporting when one clicks on something.

The bottom line is that a Facebook user who 'Likes' the statement 'I love God' has no idea what he/she is supporting. It may be some one who simply wishes to publish support of religion or it may be an organisation or individual who perceives the statement as a 'hook' to make personal profit. Furthermore, if it is a commercial venture, you may find a notice on Facebook one day to the effect that you 'Like' Immortal Avocado Face-Lift Cream or whatever, if the statement you espoused was published by a business.

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