The "Like" Button

Bree C. - LLI Akron

Scrolling through the newsfeed of one's chosen social media platform on any given day, it is easy to find news regarding celebrities or current events. But the hottest topic in recent years seems to lay beyond the content of the posts we view and the pictures we share; it lays within our reactions to them. In recent years, there has been a real push to define not only the meaning of a "like," but its place and its value in the academic disciplinary system, if it has one.

There have been many cases in which this issue has been presented. For instance, in Trenton, OH, tensions flared over the suspension of a student who “simply liked” (Brown) a picture of a gun with the caption “ready”. In another case, 12 students were suspended for "liking" a tweet that the school “determined to be cyberbullying” (Knuth). Though the suspension was later dropped in the first case, these incidents and countless others have created more of an urgency than ever to define what previously went un-thought of; the implications of a "like."

The meaning of a "like" has been in constant evolution since social media platforms have emerged. According to Wikipedia, the "like" button is a feature enabling users to show that they “like, enjoy or support certain content”, including text, GIFs, links, audio clips, videos and images. However, its meaning has developed in society to also include a host of things, including a simple “upvote”.

This wide variety of communal meanings just goes to show that although a ‘like’ can be counted as speech due to its ‘conveyance of a message’ (Robbins), that message can be left up to a plethora of interpretations.

Before the constitutionality (or even school policy abidance) of punishing a student for "liking" a post can even begin to be argued, the academic disciplinary system has one crucial question to answer; will the consequences of a "like" be judged by its intended definition (which, in Facebook’s case is, “an easy way to let people know you enjoy” a post) or by that which we’ve created for ourselves?

Sources Considered

  • Robbins, Ira P. "What is the Meaning of 'Like'?: The First Amendment Implications of Social-Media Expression." American University Washington College of Law Research Paper, vol. 7, issue 1, no. 2013-14, 2013, pp. 144-147.
  • Kelly, Heather. "U.S. Court Saying 'Liking' Something on Facebook is Free Speech." CNN. 19 Sept. 2013. 
  • "Students Suspended for 'Liking' Racist Instagram Posts Sue School." CBS Sacramento. CBS Interactive. 5 May 2017. 
  • Brown, Ken. "Middle School Student Suspended for 'Liking' Photo of Gun on Instagram." Fox 19 Now. WXIX. 5 May 2017. 
  • Knuth, Sara. "Cañon City High School to Discipline Students for 'Liking' Tweet." Education. The Daily Record. 13 Oct. 2016.
  • Walton, Xavier. "Over 20 NC Students Suspended for Liking Instagram Post." WCNC. 21 March 2017. 
  • Dinzeo, Maria. "Judge Wrestles with School's Handling of Racial Cyberbullying." Courthouse News Service. 27 July 2017.