COMMENTARY

Better be careful what you ‘like’

Posted

Did you hear that Facebook is testing a plan to hide “likes” on posts?

It’s true. The test plan started Friday in Australia where the social media giant hopes to track whether the change will improve the overall experience for users.

Likes, reactions and video views from users will be made private, meaning only the account holder can see their likes.

The timing was interesting since Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice John D. Minton, Jr., disqualified Judge Phillip Shepherd from hearing the case over the “teacher sickout” because Shepherd had “liked” a Facebook post that supported Andy Beshear’s campaign for governor.

Gov. Matt Bevin requested that Shepherd step down from the case but he declined so it was appealed to Minton, who agreed Shepherd shouldn’t preside over the case and gave the job to Frankfort Judge Thomas Wingate.

Facebook’s testing experiment of hiding “likes” came about a year too late for Judge Shepherd.

Minton’s reasoning for removing was right. He said Shepherd’s “like” could reasonably be perceived as a public endorsement of a candidate’s campaign and, since the candidate is a party in this case, and this issue is a central issue in the candidate’s campaign, Judge Shepherd had to be disqualified.

Minton said it was a cautionary tale to all judges who use social media - and maybe to the rest of us, too.

“Likes” are like points on Facebook posts, at least that’s how we judge them. The more “likes,” the better the post. That’s what it has come down to on social media. That’s the standard. You can admit it. If you’re on Facebook, that’s what you do too (Full disclosure: I’ll include myself in that category).

You can tell how many are reading by the number of “likes” on the post. Who thought it would ever be so important? While there isn’t a “dislike” button there are the “love” and the “angry” emoji choices for readers to weigh in on a post. This is what our lives have become.

If you try to be nice and simply “like” everything on Facebook it may come with dire consequences. Your little “like” means that you agree with what the post suggests and that can sometimes come with some gray areas. That may well have been the case with Shepherd who, as a sitting judge, should choose his “likes” and opinions carefully.

Anybody who is in the public sector has to be careful with what they post on Facebook and also what they “like” because of the perception that comes with it. You too could be lumped into something that you don’t really “like” by innocently hitting that button without putting thought into it.

Social media can be like a minefield so my advice is to tread carefully as your fingers race over the keyboard.

Facebook obviously understands “likes” as being one of the problems in this social media platform. Why else would they be testing the plan to hide “likes” on posts in Australia?

So take a moment before automatically putting a “like” on everything that crosses your news feed.

Except on my posts, of course.

MARK MAYNARD is managing editor of Kentucky Today. Reach him at mark.maynard@kentuckytoday.com

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