Was it really only in June 2010
that Facebook replaced "become a fan" with the now ubiquitous like button?
I've been watching the online behavior this deceptively simple change has spawned, and how other sites and apps, such as Google+, LinkedIn and Instagram, have replicated it.
I've been mulling over the following question for a while: "What does it mean to have like integrity"?
Here's here what I mean by that question. If you have like integrity, you'll do the following:
1. Regardless of how many likes a post has, you click like, too.
For example, a photo on "DogsofInstagram" gets 8,902 likes in nine minutes, and you still like it because, "Aww shucks. Look at that husky puppy!" You want to share that you like the post, too.
2. When a stranger likes your photo, you go to his or her feed to reciprocate.
I call this "like karma."
This can reveal a fundamental personality quality. Are you a generous spirit or a "like shnorrer?" (Look it up in a Yiddish dictionary.)
And don't come back with, "Who has time to do this?" You're active on the network, so be a good citizen. If you don't have time to reciprocate, then bail out and watch another episode of that reality show, Busy Bob.
3. You like a great post or photo even if you have a problem with the person who posted it.
This is another character test. Are you the bigger person or a Petty Betty? If you really are on the outs with this person, unfriend and unfollow him. Stop lurking! You're just torturing yourself.
4. You don't automatically like posts from clients or prospects.
In other words, you refuse to like something just to butter up someone's ego.
This is a basic rule of like integrity. Liking every post devalues your credibility. We all have those friends and followers who like every post and photo we send up. Love them for that. But the sad truth is that we would trade every like from that fawning friend for just one from Steve Jobs.
5. You like someone's post, even if he hasn't liked any of yours in a long time.
This can be challenging. Maybe the person is a close relative who is active on the site but never throws you a bone— no comments or likes. Even if you are a big-hearted person, your natural inclination is to like his stuff less over time.
(And if you're that like shnorrer in No. 2, beware that like karma—similar to the instant karma John Lennon sang about—is gonna get ya.)
6. You regulate your posts based on how many likes certain posts/photos produce.
This is the most advanced form of like integrity. You actually adjust your posting behavior as a result of past like performance.
Likes are a valuable crowd-sourced proxy about the quality of your post. For example: An obscure, low-quality Instagram post doesn't get any likes. Learn from that. The next time you're "in this weird mood right now so I will indulge myself—and waste my followers' time—with this uninteresting photo," resist. Think of your followers.
Are you on this network to express yourself or to share something interesting with the world? Yes, it's your page and you can do what you like. But remember the golden rule and do your part to make the online world a better place.
On a closing note, I hope the next evolution of "like" is more nuanced. Imagine having the following choices on Facebook: hate, dislike, meh, like, love.
Wouldn't that be great?
Do you have other tests of like integrity?
Tobias Schremmer works for MarketingProfs, where a version of this article originally appeared.