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Why is 'Like Farming' Unique to Facebook?

One of the things which Facebook are often heard to brag about is that your news feed is your news feed, you are the ultimate arbiter of what you see on it. Don't like what someone is posting? Unfollow them. Don't want to see anything about a particular topic? Hide all related posts. The thing is though, it's nonsense, no matter how much you edit and fiddle around with your news feed, sponsored content and irritating, unwanted shares are going to crop up, probably fairly frequently.

The worst, by far, are the spam posts, which in recent years have lured unwitting users into tagging their entire friends list in some bogus post about discount Ray Bans, but 'like farming' posts aren't far behind. What are they? You'll have seen them, a like-farming post is anything which features a caption saying '1 like = 1 prayer' or something similar. Typically it will feature a pixelated image of a child or animal looking sad and a caption about why they're sad which probably bares no relation to the picture. Said caption will then go on to explain that if you don't hit the like button, or the share button, you're a heartless monster.

The unpleasant, artless art of guilt-tripping people into sharing content has been around since the days of chain letters, and you do see it on other platforms, Twitter in particular, but 'like farming' is almost unique to Facebook. They are so called because the posts are designed, from the ground up, to pull in likes in order to convince Facebook's internal algorithms that they are interesting enough to boost without any need for monetary sponsorship. Eventually, the post might even go viral, reeling in more followers for the posting page and thus granting it a bigger audience to enact its real intention, be it a scam, a petition or whatever else.

The reason why this only happens on Facebook is because likes register completely differently on Facebook than they do in any other platform. On Twitter, Tumblr and such like they register as an accumulation of popularity, for sure, but they more act as a bookmarking tool so that users can look at the post again later, with retweeting being the far more influential figure. Likes have a bit more pull on Instagram, but that's because it so heavily encourages original content, regramming does happen, but not often. YouTube has a like/dislike meter, but put next to the view count and page subscriber count, it means absolutely nothing.

This nasty business demonstrates how Facebook have lent far too much weight towards liking and effectively turned it into a nefarious business. Accounts are set up purely for the purpose of liking posts in order to get them boosted, and the whole thing has become so over-saturated that it's running counter to the kind of post promotion that actually means something, like real, honest charity and fundraising content.

When you know what you're seeing, they're easy enough to avoid, but the problem lies in the system that like farmers are taking advantage of, so it's Facebook who really need to address the issue. When someone 'likes' a post, it's meant to be a way of commenting without commenting, saving the trouble of something like 'I agree' or 'yes'. Personally, I'd say that people should just trust that others approve of their post, or if they want to register their approval, just sit and think for a minute and come up with a comment that's a bit more imaginative.

That's just me though, given that likes are here to stay, what really needs to happen is a shift in prevalence so that a like spike doesn't give undeserving posts a signal boost. It probably won't happen, but you have to believe Zuckerberg isn't any more fond of ugly, pointless posts than we are.

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Why is 'Like Farming' Unique to Facebook? Reviewed by Unknown on Thursday, January 21, 2016 Rating: 5

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