On “Liking” and Being “Liked”

I’ve just come across this article, “Against Enthusiasm: The Epidemic Niceness in Online Book Culture” on Slate.

The problem with Liking is that it’s a critical dead-end, a conversation nonstarter. It’s opinion without evidence—or, really, posture without opinion. For every “+1,” “THIS,” or “<3” we offer next to someone’s fawning tweet, a feeling is expressed without saying much at all. And in the next review or essay, it will show.


I remember Barbara Jane Reyes writing awhile back about online literary life and dialogue before Facebook and Twitter.  Instead of perpetual “liking” on Facebook (which I admit, I’m apt to doing), folks wrote thoughtful posts on their blogs and their followers responded with actual words and fully-formed sentences.  Thinking about my online work with The Blood-Jet Writing Hour, I try to create honest, critical dialogue with the guests on the show and with listeners through the Facebook fan page.  I’ve found that when I post questions on the page, in order to encourage listener participation and feedback, I’m often greeted by crickets and a host of “likes.” 

Going back to the Slate article on “blind enthusiasm,” I can’t help but think of the communities where I read, write, engage in dialogue and exchange work.  In the effort to build communities online and in-person, especially for writers-of-color, does “niceness” and enthusiasm restrict our ability to give honest feedback or write critical reviews of each other’s work (which is important!)?  Amidst the kumbaya-ing, do we begin to care more about “safe spaces” than the writing itself?  After fostering a “safe” community (and I put safe in quotes because I think that nowhere is a safe space for writing), where do we go from there?  Lastly, if we do practice critical reading and writing of each other’s work, are we afraid of airing our “dirty laundry” for the public to see?


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5 responses to “On “Liking” and Being “Liked”

  1. So good to read this, Rachelle, Yes I am discontented with the lack of dialogue that happens on FB. I’ve pretty much decided that my “public” life on FB is my self-promotion tool and not much more. I’d noticed the “likes” to your Blood-Jet questions and wondered how those are helpful!

    Lots to say, and I think I shall blog about it. For now, I also echo your questions re: so-called “safe” spaces, and the need for critical dialogue. I want to say that I haven’t made any friends being critical and asking hard questions, but that isn’t really true. Still, some of my not glowing reviews, and some of the more pointed stuff I’ve written about others’ work have made people distance themselves from me, and people have tried to “blame” me for starting sh*t (hence the “blame me,” of the “Aswang” poem).

    I do ask hard questions, and when I am asking, I am asking those of myself. I have a big problem with writers who can’t handle the hard questions and self-examination. If your work is in the public realm, then criticism happens and isn’t it a good thing, to have dialogue and to see/hear/engage dissenting ideas and conflicting world views.

    Finally, I also believe it’s difficult to have confidence in folks who are always completely positive. OK, blog post forthcoming!

    • racruzzo

      Thanks for the comment, Barbara, and looking forward to reading your forthcoming post.

      I wonder what folks want then, if not the hard questions? Lots of praise and pats on the back? Why write, then? If you’re posing the hard questions to another writer, this means you’ve given a lot of thought to their work, and they should be grateful that their work is taken seriously.

      In regards to the crickets on FB and on blogs, I wonder if constant inundation of information stops folks from responding or engaging. (I have like, six windows opened right now to various articles, poems, blogs, etc.) Thinking about Serena’s response below, perhaps some folks are retreating to one-on-one via email, or gasp, in real life for the nitty-gritty feedback.

      If this is the case then, what’s the point of Facebook? Just self-promotion?

  2. Just a random data point for you: I can’t help but feel supported when friends “like” something I’ve posted. I’ll also admit that FB and other social media tends to be a subtraction of my time so I prefer to skim along rather than engage in substantive conversation — most of that I do in person over e-mail. If I spent much more time than I already do engaging much on FB, I think I wouldn’t have very much time for anything else. 🙂

    • racruzzo

      Hey Serena,
      Thanks for the comment! And damn, you are probably much more disciplined than I am with FB! 🙂 But, yeah, I agree; it is nice to have posts on FB “liked,” though I think in participating and maintaining some sense of literary community (whatever that means), there should be more than just hitting a thumbs-up button. But you bring up a good point about one-on-one email, and I wonder how other folks navigate FB and other social media to build community/stay in touch.
      Thanks again!

  3. Pingback: My Social Network: In Response to Rachelle Cruz | Barbara Jane Reyes

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