Originally it meant "resembling," or, as a verb, "to take pleasure in." Then it morphed into a kind of verbal hiccup, a place holder while the mind caught up with the runaway tongue: "And I said to her, like, who do you think you are?"
Then Facebook came along, and "like" went, like, viral. It got a new opposite, "unlike," and an imperative, as in "like my page!" I'm o.k. with being told to "love me, love my dog," or even better, "love my dog, love me." But can I really be commanded to like a Facebook page?
The "like" Facebook button used to be a last resort when you didn't have time to write a response but wanted to signal approval. But now that one half of humanity is FB friends with the other half, "likes" accumulate on posts like drifts in a snow storm. A wedding anniversary is worth at least thirty likes, a new profile photo fifty, a baby's first tooth--a baby's anything--as many likes as the proud parents have Facebook friends. The "like" reflex has become so generalized that I have even seen it in
response to someone's post about mourning the death of a loved one. Pelted by posts from morning til night, what can we do in the face of the gale but weakly like, like, like?
Facebook needs to broaden its one-click response repertory. This might include "empathize,"
"congrats," and "envious." These would save us a lot of typing. And we need something to balance "like." I propose "hate," or even "abhor." Maybe "yawn"?
I know, this social medium critique is making me sound quite antisocial. But I will confess that when I was starting up my FB business page I shamelessly ordered my friends to like it. They kindly clicked, and I in turn click whenever I'm asked. And many times every day my finger hits "like" when what I really mean is, "your dog is adorable; you don't look old at all; I hope that dish you cooked and photographed agrees with you."
And when someone "likes" one of my posts I always read it as, "I live to read your every word!"