The 0 or 1 mentality

Unless you’ve crawled under a rock for the past 5 or 7 years, this graphic is instantly and horrifically recognizable.

And to a lesser extent, many might recognize this one as well.

They are the easily triggered buttons on Facebook and Pandora which allow members to happily express their democratic opinion regarding certain things in the penultimate form of cyber voting. On Facebook, you only have one choice, a thumbs up. It gets dicey because your friend might post something that is not really good or that you necessarily like (“my car was just stolen”) and you are inclined to use the “like” button as an acknowledgement of sympathy or condolences, however the “like” moniker makes you feel guilty for it sounds as if you are saying you like the fact that your friend’s car was stolen. The other graphic is from Pandora, and this one is a bit more “extensive” because now you have two choices! You can choose to “like” or “dislike” a song. Thumbs up, thumbs down, very simple. Pandora’s clever programmers have scripted the music site in such a way that if you click the thumbs down button, the song will stop and go to the next, hopefully one you like better. If you click thumbs up, the site will use its clever algorithm which is only as accurate as the amount of data you feed back with your like or dislike choices. It “learns” your tastes and will (supposedly) populate your playlist with songs its code writers have programmed it to decipher of your constant choices. All because you chose Yes for some songs, and No to others.

Now I belong to both sites. I also belong to Last FM, a Pandora-like service which also offers the smart binary choice script which learns from your accumulated likes and dislikes. At least the music sites give you two choices. I really DISLIKE Facebook’s simplistic option to merely like something while robbing you of the opportunity to express any other sentiment than this. What does it mean to like something? What if you sort of like it, but not always, or not in every situation? What if you dislike something? I’ve had friends post shit on Facebook which I would never say I like but which tempt me to click on that stupid thumbs up icon merely because it elicited a strong reaction. A strong reaction is not necessarily “liking” something. That’s how drama queens think. Well, not in my book. I’m a gray person and because of this, much of the online world does not sit well with me.

There are very few things in my life I can honestly say elicit a strict black or white reaction. My mind drowns in nuance. Everything I like or hate is hedged by a multitude of reservations and conditions. In fact, when I was lifting weights this morning, a song came on Pandora which I like, but not when I’m working out. Yet, I was worried that if I disliked it, Pandora’s brains might assume I disliked the song all the time and refuse to play it again. No no no! Life is not this simple. So instead, I just forwarded to the next song which is an option on Pandora when you don’t wish to commit one way or the other to a song.

It’s the same thing for Facebook. There are so many, many degrees of affinity that when it comes to “liking” something, you might like it for one person, but not for another. Or perhaps you like something for entirely different, distorted reasons than the reasons most other normal people like something for. Perhaps you detest something, or sometimes, you really strongly like something so much you wish you could push the thumbs up button twice!

In fact, I’ve heard songs on Pandora that I like so much that I push the like button even though I’ve already previously done so for the song. Just to see if it carries more force or weight. (Once you like a song on Pandora, a check mark appears on the thumbs up icon every time it is played again…clicking again does nothing, you can’t kill someone twice).

I can’t hang with such a simplistic notion of life. Nothing is ever just “either/or.” From my perspective, everything spans a long continuum of emotions and behaviors and no reaction is so clear cut as to be summed up with the click of a button. I sense a lot of people have this Facebookian mentality of bilateral comprehension whereby you like something or you don’t, because it’s a lot easier than dealing with the possibility of an infinitude of possibilities lying between both answers. There’s no room for other possibilities in this binary existence. It’s almost as if we are asking too much of people to consider the world and humanity as a conglomerate of gradations and intermediate states. It’s as if the “0 or 1” mentality best suits those who don’t have the cerebral capacity to contend with the incomprehensible and opaque. I’m incapable of painting my world with such harsh, clearly demarcated duality.