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The meaning of the “Like” from a psychological point of view

The meaning of the “Like” from a psychological point of view

Oh yes, ” likes ” are very popular … everyone. Receiving a “like” is equivalent to receiving an appreciation , it is therefore completely normal to be flattered by it. A “like” is an implicit compliment, which holds a further significant aspect: blatantness. A like is public. Everyone can see it. This reinforces its value.

What is hidden behind a “like”  on Social?

“I like” means I appreciate the photo you posted, I agree with what you wrote. “I like” means I would also like to be in that restaurant to eat those fantastic linguine at the rock you are eating. “I like” could mean: I would like to have a body like yours to wear that beautiful dress.

If you think about it, even its representation, a thumbs up on Facebook, a little heart on Instagram, strongly conveys the message of approval , admiration. So, in addition to being food for the ego , it also reflects a deeper meaning , and is the one on which the influencers leverage – now become a new category of “workers” – or being the darling of their followers . Someone to idolize, emulate and why not, envy.

The need for likes

Let us remember that the need to be appreciated is inherent in human nature. It is a necessity also present inside the Maslow pyramid. After the basic needs (physiological and safety), there are them, the social needs, of belonging ( love, acceptance, appreciation ).

The “Like” on social media is equivalent to the ” Bravissimo / a ” written by the teacher in the footer of the assignment sheet. This example clearly shows how the need to be appreciated is born with us and lives with us, without ever going out . It undergoes transformations, based on the evolution of life, but always remains fervent.

Being flattered by a “like” therefore does not mean being narcissistic, but simply seeing one’s own natural and human need, satisfied. The “like” would cause a feeling of pleasure even to the least narcissistic person in the world.

Let’s not forget also that around the “likes” there is today a real business. There are companies that have grown and that manage to earn through the likes, or through the media approval that inevitably determines the credibility of that company. The “like” therefore also has a positive function from a working and economic point of view.

We live in a society in constant evolution, in continuous development. Today the main marketing vehicle is social. And it is important that the world of work also adapts to this type of market trend which is based on ” digital word of mouth ” and on social media.

The social network as a parallel world to increase the ego

Social networks were born with the aim of connecting people, so that they could interact constantly despite physical distance. Over time it has become a “container of life” , a sort of parallel world, within which one’s alter-ego can act under our direct supervision. A parallel world where one can be oneself, the ideal of oneself,  or not be oneself but behave according to the rules deemed socially accepted. It therefore provides for a choice that is not instead granted in the real world . This principle of freedom is what makes the social network so fascinating and loved.

Psychologically speaking, what exactly does a “like” represent?

If Freud were to answer this question, he would probably say that “I like” represents a valid means of satisfying his own narcissism, which he defines in his essay “introduction to narcissism” as “libidinal completion of the selfishness of the self-preservation drive of the man “, therefore something completely normal, belonging to human nature. Quite evident when you are a child, but who remains alive, throughout your life, even if sometimes hidden. Something from which it is impossible to separate.

Do you know that some researchers have done real studies to answer this question?
I refer in particular to that carried out by Sherman and collaborators , who, examining a sample of adolescents at a neurological level (through magnetic resonance imaging), it emerged that at the cortical level a “like” activates the same brain structures that are activated when eat chocolate or take a good grade at school, that is, the “reward system”.

It also emerged that the likelihood of a post getting “likes” is as strong as its success (high number of likes). Briefly, posts approved and appreciated by a large number of people are more likely to attract other users thus generating further interactions. The choice of teenagers as a study sample is not accidental, in fact this category would be the one most influenced by the “psychological meaning” of “like”, being in fact in that moment of life where approval and social support have a fundamental role in building one’s self; which in adolescence is in the making.

The implicit social support

To argue that there is only one meaning in the concept of “like” is an understatement. We need to go deeper and understand the ancestral content of the approval itself and therefore of the “like”.

Getting “likes” inevitably increases self-esteem. The awareness of having obtained many likes and therefore knowing that many people appreciate and approve their thoughts, their work, their contents; it is perceived as the presence of social support .

The “like” therefore has a strong connotation on a social level. Especially in younger people, the “success” obtained or not obtained on social networks could be assessed as a mirror of popularity within one’s social environment. And this is something that can really make a difference, determining a sense of inclusion and self-esteem , or on the contrary exclusion and a sense of mistrust, if you do not enjoy “media success”.

It is precisely for these reasons that for some time now, the number of “likes” under the photographs has disappeared from Instagram. Adam Mosseri, CEO of Instagram, in fact justified this decision, with the desire to prefer the well-being of people over interests of another order. Emphasizing that in recent times the use of social was based on competition rather than exchange and socialization; why it was conceived instead.

Despite the fact that the possibility of responding with more “reactions” to posts published by friends has been included on Facebook, the “like” always remains the most desired.

Remember that there is nothing wrong with the desire to receive as many “likes” as possible to the photographs or reflections that are shared on social networks, the important thing is to be aware that your personal value is not given by the number of “likes” ”, That is just a number .