I’ve often heard the Facebook ‘Like’ button maligned as frivolous and useless if not downright stupid. ‘What’s the point of clicking Like?’ say detractors, with a contemptuous rolling of eyes to the ceiling.
But there is a point.
I consciously use the Like button – not indiscriminately, because it carries meaning, but when I want to make an acknowledgement. It’s a nod of respect toward the person who’s communicated something, even if that’s a shared giggle. If I don’t comment or click Like my friend won’t know I’ve read his or her post. It’s a response to a reaching out, it’s the completion of a bid for connection.
In face-to-face conversation we respond to people’s bids for connection – such as their conversation – with verbal replies or body language cues like nods and smiles. In the online written world of Facebook posts you can’t see the expression on someone’s face or make eye contact. So how do you know they’re listening? If they’ve made a comment or clicked Like.
In trying to articulate this to my partner recently I told him about the African greeting which carries that most simple form of acknowledgement: ‘I see you.’ ‘That’s what it means,’ I said. ‘I see you. And when someone on my page clicks Like, I feel seen’.
I couldn’t remember the Zulu word and so I looked it up. Here’s what I found. Sawubona means ‘I see you’, and the response, Ngikhona, means ‘I am here’.
How simple, how clear, how direct. ‘I see you.’ ‘I am here.’ Recognition; availability; respect. Presence.
There’s more. Thank you, Sheila Ogchugboju, for putting so eloquently exactly how I feel about this exchange. ‘Inherent in the Zulu greeting and in the grateful response, is the sense that until you saw me, I didn’t exist. By recognising me, you brought me into existence.’
We all crave acknowledgement. We all need to be seen. Is this not why we post our photographs, thoughts, sillinesses, and sadnesses on Facebook? I know this is why I do. I love the feeling of connection, of warmth, when fifteen friends from around the globe applaud my latest novel-writing endeavour or Like my latest photo of a guinea pig with a crazy hairstyle. They’re a community of people who see me. They make me feel real. They share in some small part my joys and my sorrows, my failures and my triumphs.
Thank you to my Facebook friends who click Like. You make me feel that I matter. That’s why I click Like – because you matter to me.
Sheila Ogchugboju puts it thus: ‘We are liberated by our connections to our community and when they truly see us, they offer a mirror to our inner selves that allows us to freely connect’.
Next time think, ‘I see you. I am here.’