A Religion Built Around Facebook Likes?
A Dutch artist and his collaborators are planning to transform the Facebook “Like” into a religion, at least briefly, and then burn a giant golden Like icon on an altar in the Nevada desert during Burning Man later this month, in a participatory installation/performance art event.
The Like4Real website homepage sports a truly hypnotic, animated mandala, clearly inspired by Buddhist mandalas, and features concentric spinning rings composed of hearts, hands, eyes, and the thumbs-up “Like” icon.
The animation also prominently features a blue and a red pill, highly evocative of the scene in the first Matrix movie wherein the character Morpheus offers Neo the choice of two pills: the blue one would allow him to continue to participate in the fabricated illusion of the matrix reality, while the red one would facilitate the disillusionment and comprehension of the true reality.
The Like4Real site’s blue pill option states in a mouseover tip that “You take the blue like and stay in reality. You wake in your bed, nothing changes, and you can believe whatever you like.” It links to a Tumblr page for “Your Path to Enlikement,” critical of the artificiality of commoditized life in its tagline; although, the blog otherwise just documents the Like4Real project.
The red pill states, “You take the red Like and we will take you to Likewonderland, where we will show you how deep the rabbit hole goes,” which is yet another reference to The Matrix (as well as a simultaneous reference to the famous Victorian-era children’s book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll). The red pill is linked to the project’s “Likefesto,” which elaborates on the conceptual theme and expresses concern for how human emotion is becoming dependent upon capitalism and technology:
“…Will we still be able to Like if one day Facebook vanishes into the digital ether? What if the spring of Eternal Likes will dry up one day? Will we go bankrupt because of our investments in accumulating Likes? Will society ever look beyond the algorithms which form the soul of Likes, and rediscover the act of Liking deep inside our own selves? Or will we start panicking and become clueless when we can’t express our Likes anymore with one click of a button…”
The whole project appears brilliantly humorous, while also snarkily highlighting how fairly depersonalized online transactions are rapidly replacing real emotion and human contact for artificiality, technology and commerce.
I would’ve considered the entire thing less seriously relevant to culture a few months ago, but the recent announcement from the Vatican that new followers of the Pope’s Twitter account would be given indulgences shows that religion, commoditization and social media are all headed toward some strange convergences.
Various means of incentivizing people to perform social media interactions is likely to be counter-productive in the long run, and criticism of paying for Likes and other approval/support indicators will likely result in those factors becoming useless for marketing as consumers grow cynically aware of manipulation.
Facebook’s own changes over the past year or two, which have reduced visibility of status updates one may see from business pages, are pushing more and more companies to pay so that their content will be seen by more of their own followers. As social media companies are forced to evolve in order to financially profit from their work, they may ironically be devaluing the very social media activities that they helped to invent.
Like4Fun seems very silly, until you start contrasting the project with real world events, such as the Pope’s Tweets-for-sin-forgiveness and the recent revelation that the U.S. State Department spent $630,000 to buy Likes on Facebook, or rumors of celebrities purportedly buying Likes. I’m seeing a rise in services that attempt to detect how many fake followers a given social media entity may have (check out Status People); and, it’s pretty fun to see who has suspiciously large numbers of fake followers. For some social media and marketing “gurus,” the emperor apparently has no clothes!
If you donate to the Indiegogo fundraiser, you can essentially buy a Like for one dollar, as well as obtain Like banknotes to “…add some value to your money for those people and initiatives which you Like.” For $1,000 you can “Experience your own exclusive and unique Like 4 Real Enlikement ritual…” at Burning Man, allowing you to “…Get Liked as if you’ve never been Liked before and climb the stairs to Like Heaven.”
I’m surprised I haven’t heard more social media consultants talking about this or clamoring to participate, since it would be the ultimate resume padding to be able to say that you’ve previously served as a “High Priest of Likes” at some point in the past!
Oh, and, by the way, if you Like this story, I will bless you. ;-)
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