I have a growing list of Things I Would Do Research On If I Were A Sociologist. Here's the latest addition to the list: What does the "like" button on facebook say about our sociological culture? I'm not sure how I would set up the study exactly or what my hypothesis would be, but I think it is an interesting question.
I am an admitted social media addict, but I only use facebook for a few specific things: spying on people (c'mon you do it too), keeping up with 3-4 close friends/family who use fb as their primary means of communication, and sharing selected posts from my blog. Lately I have also used it to post updates on our adoption, which has been a bit of a roller coaster lately. The adoption posts helped me notice a pattern that I'm guessing is probably fairly universal on fb and in 'real life': people like good news and happy stuff, but don't know what to do with sad news and hard stuff.
It is easy to hit "like" on a post about your old roommate getting a 2nd interview for her dream job. It is a lot harder to know what to say to someone marking the anniversary of their grandmother's death. (And a "dislike" button would certainly not help at all.)
This is part of why I don't usually put anything heavy or significant on facebook: people don't know what to do with it and I don't really feel the need to share anyway. But since our adoption story is something that many of our friends and family members are following via facebook, I feel a desire to share what is happening - good or bad. Our good news post had 21 "like" hits and 27 comments, plus a half dozen related wall posts. Our bad news post had 4 comments. This obviously doesn't mean people only care about the good stuff... I think we just don't know what to do with it.
I'm still chewing on why this matters to me, why I think it has deeper implications for our culture and the way we engage in relationships with one another. I'd love to hear your thoughts...