Getting to your inner like

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Some people, like, use the word “like” every, like, two or three words. It’s the way the Valley Girls talked in the 1980s but, even earlier than that, beatnik bards such as Dobie Gillis and Scooby Doo versions like Shaggy were already tossing the word around in the ’50s and ’60s like a knit sock in a hayloft. It’s on young people’s tongues today, more natural than fingers in a cookie jar.

Now we’re asked if we “like” more often than — when we were kids — whether we’d washed our hands before eating our spuds. Social media started it all, but now the whole world wants to know what we like, so they can fan our compulsions and stoke our desires — for a price, of course.

Our likes and what pampers us have settled on the soft sofa in the sun room and don’t seem to be about to go home soon. Maybe that’s the way it’s always been. Now though it’s, like, invaded the front yard like burr clover on a rainy day.

A recent poll suggests that an annual income of $50,000 or more brings overall satisfaction, though other studies had found that $75,000 was the magic number. Can anyone really believe that? As if some merry amount is going to make us happy.

So, while we’re at it, why do home teams do better than those on the road? Is it because they get more support from their fans at home — who like them more? Not really. A study has shown that umpires more often favor the team the fans endorse. That’s why the team at home will do better. The umpires like to be liked by the fans.

And how can we tell what others like? There’s computer software out there now that can analyze facial expressions to read one’s emotions. So, what do you like? Don’t bother to say — I’ve already read it on my smartphone. Not that it matters since, no matter how grumpy people are when they wake up, they tend to brighten by breakfast time, only to taper off in late afternoon and rally again near bedtime. That’s what a study of posts on the social media site Twitter found.

Since the end of the Cold War, the number of ongoing wars throughout the world has dropped by 40 percent, and only terrorism is on the rise. The Cold War has ended, and so has colonialism. Maybe we’re learning to like one another more.

In sports, it’s speed and strength we like. In music, it’s talent and application. But online, eyeballs and page-views reign. The ability to attract attention is what achievement is all about — what we like. Young people today know how to create just that. And for those who can’t, there are at least eleven new smartphone apps that can spot nearby people with common interests — whom you’re apt to like and make a new friend.

When like-minded people get together, like, to share doughnuts and coffee, they tend to end up thinking a more extreme version of what they’d thought before. Supposedly objective information doesn’t help. What does help is if the information comes from a source like themselves. That’s when people are more apt to accept the input and even to change their minds if necessary. It all depends on people they like.

It could be that our likes are changing. Cicadas are appearing in a variety of foods, including ice cream and cookies. Never mind, I don’t think I’d like that. In the end, the recent election could have come down to likeability. It may not have been who had the most convincing arguments, but whom did we like, with or without a $50,000 happiness PAC. Despite all of that, there is more to life than what we like. If you agree with that, you could hit the Like icon. Or not.

I’m Tom Kozeny, and I, like, approve this message.

Kozeny has worked as a teacher, as a counselor and in pastoral ministry. He can be reached by email to tko-z@sdc.org.