On ‘like’ culture & what it says about us

i have been thinking about this for quite some time, years even & lately i have been plotting out ideas for essays & have finally took all my scattered notes, brought them together into something cohesive & hopefully of some value. Here goes.

On “like” culture & what it says about us.

 

In one of Krishnamurti’s This Light in Oneself lectures he speaks of the ending of thought, of whether thought can end. His conclusion is that it is impossible. i therefore wonder what he would have thought about the clicking of a ‘like’ button, which i want to talk about, as i have come to view it as an indicator of our intolerance to thinking & its end in the daily dialogue that we are having in our heads, but failing to share with those we are passively entertained by. i can’t speak for him, but as he was a great advocate of dialogue, he would have been dismayed with the opportunity we are passing up.

i have been blogging a few years now & came late to social media. This has lent me a perception that most people think hyperbolic: that it magnifies the temporality of our achievements & the inevitable wringing of hands for the next thing we don’t know we want. Let’s begin by looking into what we are saying when we click that ‘like’ button.

 

First i must clarify what kind of ‘liking’ i am speaking of. If your friend has uploaded 50 photographs, selfies, of themselves in their wedding clothes, or even of themselves sitting watching television, i wouldn’t say this warrants a thorough response. Though i might contest that a written compliment is more engaging and emotive than the robotic hitting of a button, which even a dipping bird could perform. No, i rather have in mind a work of some kind, which has been developed through effort, time, research; has originality, has inspired you or made you think differently; a work of quality, an achievement; not merely a robotic outpouring that can be easily imitated & reproduced without criteria.

i must stress that i am not advocating that we must think all products of creation valuable. The quality of a piece, though personal, should act as the gauge by which we decide whether to dedicate more time & energy to what we have read, seen or watched. i would never profess to say this is better than that; though i am confident in my own perceptions regarding something i experience, which guides my decision to engage the creator of the work with critical praise, my own perceptions or something of value i feel contributes to what they have developed or offered us.

i could write a list of criteria but that would be belittling & the aim of this essay is to illustrate to the reader that we are all able minded enough to contribute to a dialogue with one another, especially if you spend much of your time reading articles, magazines, or journals related to a particular subject.

Criticism is something that is often misunderstood & it is an incontestably egotistical enterprise to ‘troll’ somebody’s ideas. To be critical of something that was well written is to do justice to somebody’s efforts. There isn’t an ‘unlike’ button, thank goodness, as this would be a cowardly admission to attack somebody; as if attacking someone with the distance of the internet between them isn’t enough.

Time is something we have more of than we really allow ourselves. If you cannot spend 5 minutes writing a comment, expressing something you have thought, which may begin a dialogue & help contribute to the value of somebody’s work, because you have a mental list of websites you want to flick through, because you have a list of fail compilations or daft videos involving cats, or because you need to scroll through your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feed, all in place of actually having an opinion, then what are we saying about the value of opinion? Is it because of our apathy toward each other that Michael Gove can believe & expect us to accept his ridiculous statement that people in this country have had enough of experts?

i have been disappointed numerous times by the pithy, uninterested responses from people i have made the effort to speak with. & i try to think, why? Are they so busy? Sometimes they have posted a few things in a single day, that’s marvelous, but of what value is that quantity, when the quality of your response is so weak, due to filling your additional time considering the next post, without a care for what people have to say regarding it. i would attribute part of this to an egotistic assumption that the more you write the more capable you are, perhaps; but isn’t it more indicative of how capable you are, to have something to say in response to people’s criticisms, or the associative material they might reply with such as anecdotes?

When some have responded, it isn’t engagement but acquiescence, which seems more like an evasion. It is much quicker to just agree with you and appear amiable, so you’ll return again to their future work, than to actually supply information on the content or actually answer your question.

Perhaps it is polite ego. If i don’t have a strong profile, which they regard as full of important endeavours, a profile they don’t think will advance their prospects, nor increase their status, then it may tip the balance of their responses. i am pleased to report that this doesn’t seem to be an issue i have stumbled across too often with people, especially those who know what they want to say.

This kind of behavior is usually committed by them that aren’t really sure of what they are trying to do, maybe testing the waters, or that rare breed who think that they are already geniuses & don’t need to engage or explain themselves. These sorts of people can be very difficult to speak with as, like a conspiracy theorist, they can say that your criticism is misunderstanding: you just don’t get it, you don’t see what they see. However, i would warn everyone to be vigilant of the unconscious influence of this regarding of oneself; it is a fine line between aplomb & humility.

Embarrassment is potentially a major contributor to the ‘like’  button attraction. Nobody wants to be shamed, or to say something stupid, because they are ill informed. But through the mask of the button they can associate themselves with a culture they may be new to. The negative aspect of this, is that it may indicate they are pretentiously affixing  themselves to a ready made image they want, which ‘liking’ offers them, as they can be seen to be in the know.  But if you can develop the humility to probe rather than hover, it can be a sound method to accelerate your knowledge of something. It moreover gives the creator of the work ample opportunity to keep the agility of their mind well oiled, to put their talents into action & avoid being misunderstood.

i remember a lad in my literature seminars who would constantly ask questions, even when he heard a student say a word he didn’t understand, he’d interrupt to ask directly what does solipsism mean? or what is Avalokiteshvara? & i recall people raising eyebrows or huffing in annoyance, which he either paid no mind too or didn’t catch their insult; however he perceived other students’ responses, i am certain he felt no embarrassment.  i admired him, for 90% of students never uttered a word in those seminars & it was clearly, fear of embarrassment, mingled with some shyness i don’t doubt, but definitely some were just disinterested in study.

But i say now to people who want to learn about contemporary poetry, modern philosophical problems, politics, art or anything whatsoever that there are people who know about this stuff who are willing to talk about it with you, just ask them. If we just ‘like’ something, mindlessly, then we are failing to take advantage of an opportunity to annex more seriousness to the topics, so important to what differentiates us from animals & makes our experience of this world so much richer. There is a part in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master when Freddy Quell is listening to one of Lancaster Dodd’s recordings and Dodd says you are not an animal. Biologically we are, but our consciousness isn’t.

 

If what you have perceived, be it a short story, painting, photograph, poem, essay or article meets a high quality, has a standard that has kept you engaged, then it must have taken some effort. It no doubt came from an experience with value to those that experienced it and they have had the talent to transform the experience into something that allows us to share their experience. This should not be taken for granted. The poet Wallace Stevens never did, he expressed how precious it is for the quotidian to become a poem; & Theodore Roethke would break down sobbing with joy, his legs literally buckling with the ecstasy of having fit form & function together successfully.

It is dangerous, if taken for granted, as we risk contributing to the blunting of societal reception to people’s work and experience, perhaps even shooting ourselves in the foot if we have a creative impulse we want to share through blogging or by submission of work to our favoured mediums’ variety of magazines & journals. Look at political demonstrations as an example: why don’t a lot more people, even though they know war is wrong take part in demonstrations? Because of the cliché surrounding the type of ‘hippies’ or ‘tree huggers’ that organize & attend such demonstrations. By pressing ‘like’ we are using about as much thought as people who discount participation on the grounds they don’t wish to be associated with a certain sub culture, & for reasons that cannot possibly outweigh the severity of the problem in need of support.

i have often heard it said that we have surpassed the intellectual demarcations of our ancestors, perhaps we have, but seeing as literacy is at its highest in human history & there are more people with a higher education than ever before, it seems an admission of ignorance and failure every time we ‘like’ an intelligently composed document or art work rather than contribute to its value with questions & additional perceptions that are thoughtful & considered. i am not asking people to know everything, nor am i expecting, neither urging anybody, who knows nothing about a subject to contribute clumsy opinions for the sake of it. i am saying, within the locality of your sphere of interest you should be forming opinions & if not, questions that can increase enjoyment & knowledge as well as enabling the creator of the work to see meaning in what they have spent time working on.

My main contention & something i urge you to think about are the consequences of our repetitious actions. How much does ‘liking’ with so simple an action as pushing a button affect our perception of things? How does it determine the future of ideas & our skepticism & ability to think for ourselves critically & acutely, & finally how does it affect our attention span?

This is by no means an exhaustive study & i have almost certainly missed numerous factors of importance & that is why i wrote this, because i think a dialogue on this (dare i say it) problem, is in need of being addressed. Please consider what i have said here & contribute to the discussion.

I wonder how many people are going to ‘like’ this essay?

 

 

 

34 Comments Add yours

  1. robert okaji says:

    I’d prefer an “Acknowledge” button, as in “I acknowledge your effort.” I’ll often “like” something that I don’t particularly like, because I want that individual to know that someone, somewhere has seen their creation, and that the attempt to communicate is appreciated.

    1. An ‘acknowledge’ button would have the same meaning as ‘like’ in the end. i don’t want to eradicate ‘liking’, i have no problem with the trigger itself but with the flagrant misuse of it, especially regarding people with an interest in something & rather than forming opinions that builds on a work & gives the author value, they are passively pushing a button, which doesn’t even have the effect of an applause. i don’t know much about economics, so it is hard for me to form opinions on it, so therefore i go to questioning, if i can’t find a question in me (which would be quite unlikely) i’d resort to ‘liking’ it. the reason we have such a good correspondence & have become friends is because instead of ‘liking’ your poetry, i decided to say something meaningful about it, because i should be able to, as poetry is something i have an invested interest in. i don’t want people to have a hand in what they aren’t concerned with, but to increase the validity of those making efforts & advances in their sphere of interest, for their pleasure.

      1. robert okaji says:

        I agree that “likes” are passive, but I liken them to nods or rote “good mornings” to people one passes in a hallway. They are a means of saying “I see you.” I don’t want to have a lengthy conversation with everyone I pass by, but I look forward to engaging with certain individuals. I’m naturally reticent, so brief encounters are more comfortable for me.

      2. i accept that, it is a handshake, a pat on the back. but i still think something detailed deserves more. even you return comments when someone has decided to leave you messages. they resemble the “i see you”, pat on the back, nod, but are more than: they feel more intimate, like you really are present, because the words are your presence.

      3. robert okaji says:

        Oh, I’m not disagreeing with you. I agree that something detailed deserves more than a perfunctory acknowledgment. I try to respond to every comment, but must admit that time constraints keep most of them brief.

      4. i think you are a rare example, as you have so many dedicated readers. but i commend your efforts to be as responsive as possible without devoting your every waking hour to responding to your readers. perhaps i have developed my opinion on this matter from a standpoint of few reader & would possibly alter my stance with a larger readership.

      5. robert okaji says:

        What brings great joy is someone like you, who reads, understands, questions, and responds. I live for those exchanges!

      6. i have just liked this as nothing more need be said.

  2. wanderwolf says:

    I agree. I’ve had trouble with the “like” button for a while, but mostly because it allows, as you write, for us to glance at something and move on to the next thing. It’s a form of apathy, that while positive, is still pretty apathetic. It annoys me when I have more “likes” than views… those “likes” are an obvious attempt of some reader to get through his/her feed as quickly as possible… and it is fair to say that some feeds are so long, one can only barely acknowledge what others write. On the other hand, having so many people “following” us and whom we “follow” is the result of an idea that “more is better,” “quantity better than quality,” and all that. It isn’t… but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel happy by more “followers” to feel affirmed for my writing. What I still need to learn is that even having four people who aren’t my parents reading my blog and commenting regularly is a success.
    A well-written post on a serious issue worth exploring further.

    1. this whole essay has been brewing for quite some time. it is amazing how many good ideas people have on this (such as your own) & yet i feel like i haven’t read anything on the social, psychological implications of something so passive.
      you raise a valid point. we want people to validate our efforts, but that is just my point: if the effort has provoked anything in you beyond “that is nice/good” then being one of the most educated generations in the history of man, i feel people are capable of beginning discussions on topics they are drawn toward.
      i don’t blame people, the essay was supposed to make people think a little differently, to expose their passivity, not to vitiate them, but just to raise awareness. i think from what some people said about it, i approached that at least.

      1. wanderwolf says:

        I think so. But you mentioned that “people are capable of beginning discussions on topics they are drawn toward,” and this is absolutely true. On the other hand, the freedom of WordPress and other social media, is that we chose what we want to read. We therefore limit exposure to new and radical, which is probably natural, given the massive overload we would feel without our personal filters. “Liking” is so easy, because we tend to just agree with the people we’ve chosen to follow. Critical thinking is dying with our education, and that’s something I’d like to work against.

      2. Let’s see what we can do. it seems to me that if you see problems you have to instigate. for example i have stopped expecting people to stop dropping litter, so now i will on my strolls try to fill a plastic bag with trash, not every time, but if i’m without the hound i will. what i mean is, if we have understood that discussion is important we can’t wait for others, we must do it; which we are. people may then follow. i have had great success with some bloggers & a real (albeit online) friendship has flowered. it looks like you have made a new pal in me.

      3. wanderwolf says:

        I agree. Perhaps by writing about the “like” button, you’ve encouraged me to take up a previous stance I’ve previously thought I had no choice but to let go.
        So I will continue and do, and perhaps do more, and see what happens.
        And yes, from what I can tell, we are kindred spirits. This makes me happy.

      4. wanderwolf says:

        Basically, yes, I think you did address that we need to expose our passivity.

  3. I feel that likes are still a valuable way for us to gauge sentiment. For instance, if after you release something new, there are many likes, then there is a good chance that its good. Because if you meet people face to face, people may feel pressure to say good things just to be polite, but strangers online can simply snub you and close the tab if they don’t care for it and you wouldn’t notice. So if people you don’t know are willing to press like, it’s sort of like a simple peer review. They should leave a comment, but oftentimes, people may not have the time (i.e. work, meetings, kids, chores) to say something other than “great work etc.” Thus, likes are more efficient than a series of single line comments that all need moderation.

    Just my two cents.

    1. there is some value in the liking of things, but my point is that: if you read, say, poetry often, & you read mostly poetry, then you should have gathered some insights, opinions, leanings to particular favoured styles, in short, you must have something to say about it. i am commenting on this now, it will take me about 5 or 10 minutes, i won’t sit agonizing for hours, & if i need to do that, then fill you time doing duties with thoughts of a response you want to make to something. i don’t think i am alone in thinking something else while i am working. i have had people like a post minutes after i posted it, & it should take much longer than that to read: i fear people like it before even reading it as if to say “i’ve done my bit, i can be satisfied i did something nice for someone” but it shouldn’t be this way, quantity over quality is not acceptable to me. i am not saying everyone uses the like wrong, but all i want to do is raise the question about what you are saying when you do it & should you maybe make more of an effort to engage with others. i have found people have various reasons for liking, but many have said they will think a little more on what it means for them to do it passively.
      thank you for your insights. i don’t disagree with you, even if this sounds like acquiescence, its just that it is a complex phenomena with numerous branches of opinion spreading out from its base, which is that we want to be part of something.

      1. Hi Daniel, thank you for your reply.

        I agree that the issue is complicated and your concern that like culture is creating feel good superficiality is certainly valid. But I feel you need to look at it this way: You built your own inn & cafe, run it, cook, entertain your guests, keep it clean and then also have time to engage in intellectual pursuits. This indicates strength, sincerity, discipline, humility dedication and intelligence of a superior level (I saw a review of your cafe online and the exterior and interior looked amazing). Any one of those tasks could have worn any other person out, but not you. Thus, most other people don’t have this type of energy, profoundness or mental agility.

        So they may have simply scanned, but that could be the best of their ability, and from the partial understanding that their patience or mental attention span can allow, they gave a like to reflect their intuitive feel of what you’ve written. This is something you might find intellectually lazy, but it also proves that your essay or poem has succeeded in conveying intellect to the general public.

        Bottom line: I would say that you are like a polymath, and you cannot expect everyone to be up to that level. Thus, I feel you should make allowances, since there will alway be infinitely more small businesses than multinationals, more poor people than rich, more superficial people than profound. For example, I’ve even read various articles saying that poetry is a dying art etc. etc. Thus, if someone could take time off the tabloids, lewd sites and hollywood to visit your poetry and essay insights, then that alone should be a small victory in my opinion. For example, in Buddhism, it is said that just one glance at a Buddha image or call of Amita Buddha’s name will plant a seed of Bodhi that will blossom eventually in a future time or life.

      2. a brilliant comment & i will certainly be more considerate. but i must add that my essay is not supposed to be an attack on people. moreover it doesn’t apply to everything or everyone. in addition to the addition, i am very grateful for your praise, but the truth is that i have never seen myself as special, i have never made made anything happen, as such, i have just took advantage of opportunities i found myself offered. so to me, an ordinary person, i feel that i am in the same ball park as anyone else. i think we are all capable of asking questions at least. one person explained she never said anything because she was worried she’d embarrass herself. now that i felt sad about, because it means that people have the a pre-conceived idea of what some who has written an article will react like. this is something that the writer has to do to alert people that they will not behave in such a manner.
        i am happy to get readers, something which is new to me. i have been blogging for a couple of years, but the last few months have seen a rise in my likes & comments & you are right, it is a good feeling. i do want more readers & if a like is what i can get out of them that is great but if a little more, relationships form, like this conversation, which is such a wonderful thing to happen.
        through leaving comments, by starting dialogues i have got to know some really talented poets & writers. if i’d just liked their work, nothing of the sort would have happened.
        do you have a blog? i have been a reader of the Upanishad’s & Buddhism for years now. still don’t really understand it that well, as you can tell from my opinions.

      3. Hi Daniel,

        Thank for your reply below, and let me be clear that your essay is tactful, modest, thought provoking and can in no way be interpreted as “an attack”.

        Also, Buddhism is about action and not so much about theory, thus I would say that your understanding of Buddhism is true and proven. For example, your warm sincerity (i.e. willingness to give engaging and thoughtful replies) is a reflection of Buddhist propriety. Moreover, your modesty and well rounded competence is a sign of stillness of mind. For only a patient mind could multi-task and bear stress with such ease. In fact, some of the greatest Buddhists masters were even illiterate (i.e. Huineng and more recently Master Hai Xian).

        Also, as a matter of fact, I just created a blog 5 days ago on the advice of a friend. My interests are in religion and poetry. I recently wrote a series of poems set to Edward Hopper’s artworks:

        https://purelandsutras.wordpress.com/blog/

        I am also a translator of Chinese Buddhist scriptures, please have a look at my translation of the Woe and Weal of the Faithful Sutra if you have the time (its the third text):

        https://purelandsutras.wordpress.com/2016/10/08/three-texts-of-utmost-importance-the-path-to-pure-land-the-last-rites-of-amitabha-and-the-woe-and-weal-of-the-faithful-sutra/

      4. when i worked in a bar years ago, sweeping was my favorite job, because it was what the master’s said to the aristocrat students when he told them Hui Neng was the one who wrote the best poem: while he was sweeping the monastery he was sweeping the corners of his mind. have i got that story right, it was long ago that i read the sutra of Hui Neng. i used to practice, well, self practice, meditate & read the sutras daily. but after reading Bodhidharma i stopped as i wanted to live Zen & that meant keeping your eyes open.
        thank you for your kindness. i am very happy when someone truly reads something i have written. i am following your blog & will read your translations.

      5. Thank you for following my blog and for your interest in my translations. And in concurrence, I have heard during Dharma talks that sweeping and cleaning create plenty of merits. Thus, it is indeed true that the best merit making opportunities go to modest people like yourself!

        I look forward to our future exchanges.

  4. How about a ‘see you’ button? I appreciate the questions, observations and challenges! you present here. I have a full time job and blog on the side because I’m enjoying it but have come to notice the game of liking and following. A bit exhausting, yes? I’d much prefer the quality of responses you speak of to oblivious or inconsequential ‘likes’. The very rushed and modern world has created a vacuum which appears to have sucked out emotional intelligence; we fill the void with likes, selfies, fast food, swipes. Wooosh! 😉

    1. sorry i didn’t notice your comment. i had quite a lot of traffic of late & you are hidden among them. sorry about that.
      i think a ‘see you’ button has a comforting feel & may approach something less abrasive as the very austere ‘like’. however, i don’t disagree with a ‘like’ button, what my problem is with is using it in place of an opinion, which i have a strong suspicion people do. it is the passivity i have a quarrel with. i often try to engage with people & get a ‘like’ for my efforts & i never return. it is the same if i raise something or quesry something about their work & get a “nice thought” or “great reply” i asked them a question & they don’t address it. this happened with one chap i commented on a few times to learn more about him, i got these evasive but excessively nice replies, so i don’t bother any longer. i am glad my essay has managed to inspire some conversation.

      1. No worries and congratulations on your traffic 🙂 If I’m understanding you correctly, I believe what I hear you saying is a

      2. Whoops, I sent it too soon! You are longing for sincerity, dialogue, common courtesies, yes? Wouldn’t that be nice 🙂 Sincerity over ‘like’ as some kind of currency or dialogue over ‘hi hey nice thanks’. Passivity, as you call it, is used for many reasons in social media though you do raise some food for thought.

  5. What does the “Like” button say about our culture? Not much. Perhaps the “Friend” button has a greater impact but since both are marginal in importance I can see that either drive cultural or social norms. You, I, and a few others are well above average. Most of humanity is average, roughly 68% and half of them are below average. Think about that for a moment. If culture is a collective understand and practice that means the majority of individuals affect culture by reducing it towards a lower common denominator. Think of it, the average individual knows few of the sophistications and nuances that we perceive. As for myself, I never use the like button. I always associate it with a vote for popularity and little more. But then I didn’t blog to be read. I blogged to comment and archive those comments. I wrote over a year worth of nonfiction, essays or rants or what have you. It’s all rough draft and I’ve no plans to ever publish my essays or revisit them. I’ve written well over one hundred short stories of various quality. Again, rough drafts and these I will edit and revise. It’s nice when those who read my work give it a like but that is more an ego thing.

    On the other hand so many individuals post their blogs or photographs and wait for approval with the number of likes tallied and an increased number of followers. Back in the fifties when I was in grade school Valentines day would come around and one would write on a card some sentiment and my name and then place it in the envelope with the recipient’s name upon it. Our class size was usually 32 to 36 students and to tell the truth I could never recall all the names of my classmates. So a couple of the students would gather the envelopes and begin the process of delivering them. The most popular individuals always received in total more envelopes than the class count. The least popular always received less. The like button has merely replaced the valentine’s day card. As one can see little has changed except the insistence by educators that all children be equally popular.

    1. i see were on the same page here.
      i remember Valentine’s day as something similar. the internet was not a big deal when i was at school, we had it on the computers in the lab, which was used once a week, but other than that we did ir the old fashioned way.
      what is different about the ‘like’ button is that people can, with the popularity it gives them, actually make a lucrative livelihood from it. these Instagram, diet / pseudo-nutritionists, with their thousands of followers actual make money & though it may all be smoke & water, they sway people’s opinions.
      there is a terrific hyperbole of this in one of the episodes of the British drama show Black Mirror, the episode title is called ‘nosedive’ in it, rating people is a way of life, & certain establishments, certain things are afforded to those with the highest ratings. for example, certain restaurants, certain rights to buy property, that sort of thing. it is a damning look at our current habits.
      i have since altered my use of it, i use it to sort of acknowledge until i can find the time to form a reply. or if i am in regular contact with someone, i’ll like something of there’s as i know we will probably talk soon. i am in regular dialogue with a lot of bloggers & some i even email, so i use ‘like’ so they know i saw their piece.
      the brain dead flick & click ‘liking’ is not for me, i can’t bring myself to be so passive.

      1. I never use the “Like” button. If I like something or wish to convey some bit of thought I’ll leave a comment. When someone “Likes” my fiction, it tells me almost nothing about my writing or their perception other than they read the story (maybe in total, maybe not) and found something that pleased them.

        Now I’ve read and heard that writers are suppose to think of their readers and engage them in a “conversation”. That is so much BS. A good story or essay doesn’t play to the crowd. Besides, the writing is not about them per se. It is about the author and the message that the story or essay is trying to convey. I read very little fantasy and don’t really care for the genre. It’s not that I don’t have imagination but that what is often perceived as fanciful is dull and boring. Most fantasy writers use one of several formulas and once you have read a few stories or novels, it all becomes rather dumb. Even science fiction gets a bit dull and tends to follow formulas. Real life, on the other hand has many opportunities to tell a story in many different ways and it is an art to pick the right way. But since we live in a world where creative writing is taught as a team sport most of the new stuff is horrid. Novel writing by committee, who would have thought it.

        All the “Like” button and other junk on social media has done is to increase the “Popularity race” to a wider circle that includes complete and anonymous individuals. And the other consideration is that by using that button one create a reciprocal expectation that the person you favored with your like is now obligated to return the favor.

        The fact is, popularity is always transitory in nature. The most popular individuals in High School often find that adulthood robs them of that advantage. It’s a thing called competition. School is easy, it’s making a living, raising children, growing older that is the hard work, where popularity adds little.

        Does that mean that adults stop trying to be popular? Not at all, habits are never extinguished. Their frequency of use is decreased over the years.

        On another note, we might want to consider popularity within the context of group membership, for the two are intertwined.

      2. i agree that, as the essay explains, that people should make more effort to comment, to begin dialogues with people, rather than passively ‘liking’, as it seems to me that if you are reading something it is more than plausible to assume that you invest a chunk of your time in reading this particular genre or medium or whatever, & should be capable of forming something more expressive than a ‘like’.
        i am curious as to why you think it nonsense that “writers are suppose to think of their readers and engage them in a “conversation” as you want people to do more than ‘like’ but yet, though i am no doubt misinterpreting your intention, you don’t think the author needs to converse with their audience. i fear this puts the writer in the precarious situation of writing for their eyes only. i am sure you see my concern.
        i write because i liken it to painting a picture, you’d paint for the joy of it, so too i write for the joy, as i cannot paint, though i have tried i just can’t do it.
        but these days i do want an audience. for years, maybe a decade i wrote with only the aim to improve my skill, to understand how poetry works, by reading, studying & attempting it; fearful of putting it out to only receive mockery. & that focus on improvement is an ongoing process, but i do want to engage with other poet’s & even an audience who has a vested interest in literature, because as i see it, i can learn from them; i do not need the praise i wrote with out praise for so long, but i also will not ignore it blindly, i will respond accordingly.
        i do see it as essential to keep a certain ‘epistemic vigilance’ as i heard it put in an essay recently; so as i know i can trust that peer to actually teach me something. much like why i am responding to you, one part courtesy, the other part i can learn from someone with such sure footed thought & a lifetime of experience.
        i have no quarrel with your opinions on popularity, it doesn’t prepare anyone for anything other than a huge blow when failure hits them.
        i wonder how you see the popularity contest for leadership of countries; do you see any other way of going about electing a leader?

      3. There are two types of writers. Ones who are very serious about writing. They feel compelled, an addiction, really. We have to write. Then there is everyone else. Fiction, non fiction, it doesn’t matter to the former. Call it a gift, if you like. The later may write something of importance but rarely. These are the “writers” who write for other people. It’s what I would call ego writing. Look at me being clever or whatever. Some fall in love with their words. That is why there are so many blogs and facebook pages filled with so much trivial crap. If ninety percent of these blogs suddenly disappeared the word would never notice.

        Now I know this sounds rather dismissive of a great many “writers” but consider that out of the number of novels that are published each year few are worth reading, worth the hype, and most will never make it into a future cannon of excellent literature. For every novelist who makes best seller list there are tens of thousands of writers who labor in obscurity. As for non fiction, look at the number of stupid tomes about any number of social concerns. These people write for an audience with the hope that they can sell a hundred thousand copies or so. You could churn this stuff out by the tens and twenties and many political and social commentators do. That is how they make their living. But the last thing it is is art.

        Art is what moves the first writing group. Art demands a commitment so total that it separates you from the rest of the world. And the art of writing is the loneliest endeavor one can indulge. And in the end, you write for yourself. You see, creativity is not about ego, indeed, ego tends to get in the way and your ego will never overcome art. One becomes art if you like the buddhist comparison. And there are many of us out there, unknown, on the path in various stages and at various stages. I’ve come late to art. If I had known what talent I have I would have started in my teens. But that is another story. After all Paul Gauguin didn’t take up painting until he was in his forties. But when that “call” hits, you come running like like a calf to his mother’s call.

        I hope that clears up the confusion. Now for the other lesson. I never learned so much about the art of writing and reading literature and gaining insight most of you will never have, including those literature professors who have never written fiction, until I started writing fiction. It takes many attempts until you learn the art of telling a story. At first it seems so hard, your attempts are crap, painful for others to read. and then when you have your first breakthrough the mist lifts. The struggle is painful but you learn how to use the tools at hand and think about how to tell a story in some manner. Is it always the right manner? Hell no, I have killed a lot of stories and gone back to square one. My god, over a hundred stories and all of them in need of revision. I am involved in renovating my house and haven’t the time for serious writing. A few comments on someone else’s blogs is a poor substitute but it’s writing none the less. I told you it is a compulsion. May will come and I will head for France and have three months to do little else but repoint my stone walls and work on my stories. I should get some writing done, but revisions and perhaps a few new stories. This renovation has taken a year and a half out of my life. Well, I just may have something worth publishing by the end of this year. I fear I am rambling. So keep writing as it please you to do so. Don’t worry you don’t have the “calling”, it can be a curse. Write because you enjoy it. And yes, I enjoy every minute of it.

      4. so how do you distinguish between the true & the pseudo writer? i mean i see plenty of bloggers with more followers than me, more likes, more people commenting in them, extolling the virtues of their outputs, but i just couldn’t say that their writing had any real merit, full with worn tropes & a complete absence of insight into anything. but then, if so many people do like it what does that say. it says something to someone’s sense of taste & we can argue about taste not being developed, but they still have a form of taste.
        what would you say about my poems? would you at a read say that i am another slap dash poet after popularity?
        it is a difficult game because even if the parameters of what is good are broad, it supposes there is a fixed amount of qualities that make something good, which may be to one subset of people at a certain level, while quite another to a in the higher levels opinion, lower.
        i gave up on trying to fix other’s taste, to even have a meaningful opinion on it seems bizarre to me, because we cannot change the subjectivity of taste nor the democratization of opinion.
        you have property in France. i built my own cafe & guesthouse in Korea, with a lot of help, but i mucked in & gave my best.
        where can i go to read some of your stories?

      5. You raise an interesting question, how do you recognize the blogger of popular pablum versus the amatur writer versus the writer of talent? Actually, it is far easier than counting up the followers and likes like tusks in a graveyard. Facebook gave so many individuals who would otherwise never have put a photo of their cats on line for public approval. Yes, people post news of family or friends and some like to cry out against some public or private abuse, etc. But these people really don’t have much to say. Want to talk about the latest gossip about your favorite celeb (they are always forever shortening words or using a series of letters, you may not be old enough to know what SWAK on an envelope meant, to shorten the chore of writing.) or the latest video game or some other activity. Since no one meets at the Malt Shoppe to socialize any more and check to check dancing has been permanently banned, these new social activities are just that, social activities and not writing. Call it flowing written conversations that reduce the need for face to face interactions and enhance lack of social skills. Not being able to observe the other individuals directly even when sitting next to them they have lost most of that conversational art where one reads expressions and listens to tones of voice and such. I always loved the soap operas my mother watched in the late fifties and early sixties since the actors were less than gifted and tended to over express by facial expression and tone of voice. Not that I am any good at it but I am an exception. One sees girls with their nicey nice blogs and women with their caring about the world blogs that are really more about the expression of emotion on an emotionless screen. Men may pay attention to sports or games or what ever manly subject comes along or if they think they actually have a higher moral purpose some social issue. But it’s all the same junk. No one is original, no one actually thinks, and most of it is about their egos.

        Then we have those who are wannabe writers. They were English majors and literature majors and have degrees that certify them as what even, graduates of the prescribed curriculum. These are the ones who wine about their inability to write good fiction, or even mediocre fiction for that matter. I use to write poetry and to be kind to myself I will say that it was, at best mediocre. But I remember on one of the poetry blogs a woman with a masters in English and Literature who complained that she just couldn’t write. She would start and give up. Well, of course, the mere possession of a piece of paper does not entitle the holder to greatness. These are the ones that don’t know how to tell a story. They are the He, He, He type. He stopped his horse and then he looked for signs on the ground after which he headed towards the mountains where he scanned the horizon. Now understand that some of these individuals may have been academics who could put together a decent academic paper of the importance of ship dip in hill billy societies. But they have tin ears for dialogue, can’t recognize the way the average person talks, and act as if English was a second language. They are often members of writing groups and tend to write by committee where everyone makes the same mistakes. And after typing enough words self publish because Amazon will print it if someone will buy it (electronic versions only). They all have websites and will talk about their books and the books of their friends and will spend their money buying each other’s publications. But fact is, few of these people will sell more than a thousand copies or two. Remember that having a novel published and at least one person buying it makes you a published and successful novelist. That is a real ego trip, you can carve it in your tombstone.

        The writer who can actually make a living writing and selling novels (poets seldom make much money but it does entitle them to teach at universities for a nice fee) only care about their sales because it provides a living. Yet these same individuals would write whether they were paid or not. They write because they can and because they actually love writing. Like the professional golfer who would play golf all his life even if he never eared a dime, writers and visual artists are pretty much the same. On the other hand a great many professional athletes are caught up in the money, the fame, and the BS of their sports that if you took all that away few would actually bother to play on a regular basis.

        As for reading your poetry, I think I read a few pieces. I usually don’t comment on poetry for the simple reason that poetry is so intensely personal. Everyone wants to think that they are the soul of creativity and great poets. Fact is, very few are enjoyable and the rest, well, waste of time may be too harsh a term. It is what it is. Art must be judged on its merits and not its intentions.

        You may or may not have discovered my short stories on my site. Word of warning, these are all first drafts with the typos and other mistakes. I find it important to get the story done first and then do the editing. You can’t edit a story if there isn’t one.

  6. for me this “like” button is just – i saw this or i read this. yes kind of “acknowledge”

    1. i have started to be more accepting of this use for the ‘like’ button, which has been made clear to me as my life became busier & my blog gets more traffic & the relationships i have formed with other bloggers becomes more stable.

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