In our ever-changing, technologically-absorbed world, there seems to be one constant: LIKE. Did you like the photo? Can you “like” my photo? I just didn’t like it. And, of course, “I, like, did like it.” In the season premiere of Saturday Night Live, one skit brought another proverbial “like” to the table. And this is absolutely, unquestionably, unarguably the worst “like” of them all. This is the wonderful: “I was like…” Could anything feel less uncomfortably self-conscious on the face this planet than slamming home the very essence of a long-winded story by starting the final sentence with “I was like…?” This very phrase threatens to be the death of us. All of us. Proposing a world where nobody is sure of anything, ever.
What is it with these likes anyway? I can understand the Clueless riffing 90s with their confused state of security, not so Reagan and only hesitantly Grunge. Hating on fast cars but still loving cut-off tees and muscle beaches. There’s an inherent vulnerability to “like, liking” or “like, wanting” something that somehow felt endearing when coming from generation of attractive young people whose President, like, didn’t really have sexual relations with that woman.
The 2000s have taken “like” to another level. On Facebook, not only is the entire spectrum of approval judged on whether or not people “Like” something you do, but the option for an alternative has been completely removed. Sure everybody and their Grandmother (literally in this case) are on Facebook, but with the inundation of information it’s easy to miss something someone posts. Yet, all of us have felt that world-shattering sadness and existential loneliness of nobody “liking” our wittiest status update or our slickest Instagramed photo (you know it’s happened to you, too). However, I’m willing to forgive this kind of horribly pathetic feeling of insecurity. There’s an honesty to this type of “like.” We are putting our words or works on display so we want to be given approval. We want a pat on the back. Facebook, after all, allows us to connect. “Like” is a positive connection, right?
But the “like” SNL spoofed takes the cake and has no excuses whatsoever. None. Don’t even argue it. It might well spell the end of civilization as we know it:
I was like, “If you don’t want me as a girlfriend then maybe we should move on.”
I was like, “If you think I’m fat, I’ll find someone else.”
I was like, “I can find another chick if I wanna, y’know?”
Now, this isn’t some kind of clever variation on “I said” or simply the speaker being cognizant that they paraphrasing an indirect quote. This is a world of indecisiveness, completely unsure of what to say. If you read all those examples with hesitancy, as though the exact opposite of what’s said is what’s actually felt then – and only then – the “like” makes complete sense. As though to say, “I wasn’t really like…” Every time I hear someone say, “Then I was like…” I can’t help but think, “No, you weren’t. Not at all.”
There’s good news though. A fairly recent development in the “like” world is that “I was like…” has an antagonist threatening to stomp out its reign as the “like” to rule all other growing insecure “likes.” The ever-narcissistic, all-encompassing, strangely SoCal, “I was all…” Clearly dissatisfied with the uncertainty, proposed by “I was like…” people have said, “F- this, there was “like” nothing in what I said: I was, definitely, utterly, completely ALL.” Not “maybe.” Not “sort of.” ALL. It’s a confident, very American (don’t students think they do well in Math but actually get Ds?), very narcissistic alternative, but one that we as a people need to root for to win this cultural arms raise. If “all” loses, we may soon live in a confused world of: like, sort of, I was like, “I don’t know if I wanna like your photo, but I liked it and you’re happy anyway.” Down with that dastardly “I was like…”
Of course the real question is, “Why can’t we just say “I said…”?” Can’t we just recite something we spoke with the confidence that we actually spoke it? No need to be insecure that we are misquoting or paraphrasing. People have been doing that for centuries. Don’t we know the most successful people in our world misspeak with the certainty of a shark consuming a wounded mackerel? That’s often how they get where they are. They are “like” nothing. I say just say it like you mean it and be done with it.
So if one of the handful (yes, like, singular) of readers who visit this site asked why I keep writing for such a small audience, I’d confidently be all, “I, like, feel like it.”
P.S. I hope you know I’m only kidding. I actually like “like” a lot. Like, a lot, a lot. Love it even.