Tuition for “likes”

Are we becoming too invested in normative online behavior?

I recently witnessed a social networking blunder of the most mortifying degree: the cringe-worthy accidental Facebook poke. Perhaps born of Mark Zuckerberg’s sadistic affinity for unintentionally acknowledging old professors or sixth-grade boyfriends, the “suggested pokes” section has been the downfall of many.

After my own such digital disaster, I couldn’t help but think about social media etiquette and how it seems to have become a normative priority over things like — well, regular etiquette.

To begin, I’m not sure I’m totally comfortable with the emphasis people my age place on social interactions that don’t occur face to face. I’d be the first to argue the digital boom probably hasn’t had a monumental impact on our ability to communicate, but at a certain point — like when I find myself frustrated because a guy can’t match the wit of my Snapchat captions — I begin to question where the line should be drawn.

Regardless, there definitely seems to be unspoken protocol that governs the online social sphere. It oversees all digital matters from common sense, like how many pictures of your cat is too many — I’d say you’re on thin ice once you hit double digits — to more thought-provoking questions, like how I can get my grandmother to stop commenting on my profile pictures telling me I’m a goddess in Spanish.

One thing I’ve noticed since I’ve been on Grounds is unique social media norms seem to exist on a regional basis. In my hometown, for example, it’s not uncommon to see a freshman girl’s mediocre selfie break 300 likes on Instagram. But some of my friends from other towns feel lucky to reach the double digits, and they fancy me some sort of filter-wizard for the love I get on my posts of photographic genius. Still, I’ll admit capturing the Rotunda in the midst of various weather patterns is one of my more practical talents.

Then, of course, there’s Twitter: the boundless breeding ground for the youths’ most innovative thought processes. Between (a) all the newly Greek girls who feel particularly #blessed for their sisters on a given morning and (b) the painstaking speculation about Bieber’s striking resemblance to Wrecking Ball Miley in his mug shot, young people are changing the world with each clever hashtag.

Behavior on Twitter is of particular interest to me. Is it baffling to anyone else that clicking “favorite” on someone’s mindless 140-character quip is now perceived as subtle flirting? And isn’t it nonsensical to have separate accounts for “Common White Girl,” “Common Black Girl” and “Common Indian Girl” if they’re all making the same jokes and asking you to “RT if u cried?”

Like I said, at the end of the day, I wouldn’t argue social interaction itself is diminishing as a result of social media’s rise, and I don’t worry we’ll all end up as network-obsessed recluses. All I’m saying is we may want to consider not taking our online personas so seriously. After all, no one looks like 300 “likes” in person.

Victoria’s column runs biweekly Tuesdays. She can be reached at

Published January 27, 2014 in Life

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