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Philosophy 96 (3):335-358 (2021)
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In this paper I offer a philosophical analysis of the act of ‘liking’ a post on social media. First, I consider what it means to ‘like’ something. I argue that ‘liking’ is best understood as a phatic gesture; it signals uptake and anoints the poster’s positive face. Next, I consider how best to theorise the power that comes with amassing many ‘likes’. I suggest that ‘like’ tallies alongside posts institute and record a form of digital social capital. Finally, I consider whether ‘likes’ have ultimately improved online discourse. I argue that while the ‘liking’ function itself is relatively innocuous, public ‘like’ tallies introduce a corrosive motivation to online communication. By making the prospect of increased social capital perpetually salient to us, they encourage us to prioritise high levels of engagement over meaningful engagement.

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Lucy McDonald
Cambridge University

References found in this work

Echo chambers and epistemic bubbles.C. Thi Nguyen - 2020 - Episteme 17 (2):141-161.
Common ground.Robert Stalnaker - 2002 - Linguistics and Philosophy 25 (5-6):701-721.
Fake News and Partisan Epistemology.Regina Rini - 2017 - Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 27 (S2):43-64.
Stop Talking about Fake News!Joshua Habgood-Coote - 2019 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 62 (9-10):1033-1065.

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