The other day I overheard two women talking about Facebook and using the term “likes.”  The first woman was talking about some videos she loved that came to her Facebook page each day.  She noted that she was not sure why they came to her page each day, but she was glad because she enjoyed watching them.  The second woman asked her if she had liked them?  The first responded that yes, that was what she was saying, that she liked the videos.  No, the second responded, did you “like” them?  It took a while, but finally the second was able to communicate her question so that the first understood her.

I was reminded of the  Abbott and Costello skit “Who’s on First?”  where they go on about which baseball players are playing what bases.  The trouble comes, of course, because the players’ names are Who, Which,  I Don’t Know, Why, Because, Tomorrow, Today, and I Don’t Give a Darn.

Clearly Facebook having a function, “like,” to which its users refer as “likes” can provide the same confusion, especially for relatively new users.  There are three basic ways in which Facebook uses “like.”  The first is a way of expressing an opinion about one of your friend’s posts.  If you friend updates his or her status,  posts a photo, or shares an article, you can click “like” to indicate that you enjoy or approve of the item.  This message is then shared with the friend who posted.  Some people find this option difficult to interpret because there is not a comparable “dislike” option.  So, people “like” posts even when they are negative or sad to express empathy with the other individual.

A second way in which Facebook uses “like” is with Pages.  A Page in Facebookland is an entry about an organization or group for its fans.  There are fan pages for entertainers, restaurants, not for profit and for profit stores, universities and almost anything else you can imagine.  At the top of each page is a “like” button.  If you click the button, Facebook registers you as one of the fans of the organization.  You will get messages that are posted on that organization’s page.  In addition, that organization can send you messages and track your characteristics.

The third way in which Facebook uses “likes” is outside of Facebook on webpages.  These appear often on news or magazine sites next to a particular story.  When a person “likes” the article, a message appears in the person’s news feed for his or her friends to see, thereby sharing that story.  In some cases it sets the “like” for the fan page as well, and then the messages from the organization appear in the person’s news feed.  I suspect this was the kind of liking the woman in the story above did.   I know that she is glad she “liked” that site because she likes its daily videos.