The policing of “like”

I had a Twitter conversation with a friend recently that I thought merited a more thorough exploration, which of course is the point of this particular space. We were talking about the social aspect of liking a particular thing, be it a film franchise, a book series, a band, etc.

These days, we’re all critics and consumers simultaneously, and the gatekeepers are far fewer. There is good and bad in the developing system–there’s a lot of media out there to consume and some of it’s very good. On the other hand, there’s a lot that isn’t very good at all. That includes work by indie artists and writers and the mainstream establishment.

On some level, it should be no skin off of anyone’s nose that another person likes a thing they’ve deemed to be not good. And there is something exhausting about having something you enjoy be diminished by by a friend or a coworker or even a pithy think piece. After all, it’s annoying to have to defend your particular brand of entertainment, especially when it’s not hurting anyone.

The flip side of that is, of course, that it should be perfectly acceptable to criticize a widely enjoyed piece of media without having your head bitten off or being party to a collective gasp of horror. Indeed, we can even criticize the things we like. Moreover, that can be part of our enjoyment of them. It’s also an inevitable consequence of the fact that most media–popular or otherwise–has inherent flaws. Someone’s not going to like something about it and that is okay.

Now, I speak from experience and I can definitely not throw any stones here. I’ve been guilty of and subject to all of the above. For one thing, I’m kind of a snob. Plus, there’s a certain pleasure to be had in picking apart lazy storytelling, and I’ll admit, I’m not quitting it any time soon. But what I should stop doing and what everyone should stop doing is treating any of this as a personal affront. It’s shitty to make someone feel bad because they like Taylor Swift–they can like what they like. And it’s shitty to screech at someone else because they don’t care for her music–saying so should not be a hanging offense.

In the end, it probably all comes down to Wheaton’s Law: don’t be dicks. But also don’t apologize for the things you enjoy. Let’s respect each other’s boundaries and also recognize when when you’re not being attacked. (Read: Your enjoyment of Taylor Swift does not make you Taylor Swift.)

It’s like we could treat each other like people or something.

I know, I know. It’s the Internet. Just wishful thinking.


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