Yesterday, Twitter switched out the star “fave” button for the heart “like” button. As Twitter explained on their blog:
We are changing our star icon for favorites to a heart and we’ll be calling them likes. We want to make Twitter easier and more rewarding to use, and we know that at times the star could be confusing, especially to newcomers. You might like a lot of things, but not everything can be your favorite. The heart, in contrast, is a universal symbol that resonates across languages, cultures, and time zones. The heart is more expressive, enabling you to convey a range of emotions and easily connect with people. And in our tests, we found that people loved it.
Wow. Twitter and I do not know the same people, because Academic Twitter is not happy. In stark contrast to Twitter’s perky statement, Academic Twitter does not feel like the heart is “more expressive…convey[ing] a range of emotions,” but rather the opposite. The people I know (overwhelmingly) argue that it pigeon-holes our use of the button in ways the star never did. Here are some of the most common anti-heart arguments I’ve seen on Academic Twitter (thus far):
- Faves as saves: Many academics use the star-faves as a saving mechanism for tweeted links/concepts they want to revisit later, like putting a star in the margin of a book. It doesn’t imply “like” because the academic hasn’t read it yet. How do they know they’re going to like it?
- Faves as a neutral acknowledgement: Twitter is a constantly flowing stream of information. People who tweet a lot (and Academic Twitter tweets A LOT) can sometimes miss a tweet or two, even if they are flagged by a mention. Many academics use the star-fave button as if to say “I see you” or “I read you” so that the other person knows the message was received. It is a nifty shortcut to endless acknowledgement tweets, easily used with acquaintances, business partners, bosses etc. You know, those people you wouldn’t normally HEART.
@jonbecker oh goodness I just hearted that without thinking. Don’t freak out.Don’t call HR. It was just an un-worded acknowledgement I SWEAR
— Laura Gogia (@GoogleGuacamole) November 4, 2015
- Faves as a professional action: Which brings me to the fact that Academic Twitter consists of professionals using Twitter for professional and pedagogical reasons. Students and Professors. Professors and Students. You can gold star a student, but can you heart a student? Can you heart you boss? Even the young self-identified “Twitter newbie” with whom I was tweeting this morning said (rather emphatically) that they could not see themselves hearting a boss. Ever.
- Faves as a harassment-free zone: But the argument that hearts are less profession-friendly than stars goes beyond the workplace, to a place of systemic and societal power and privilege. For some people, the assumption that social media (including Twitter), flattens the power hierarchy is just plain wrong. Women, people of color, individuals who identify as LGBTQ, and other people who identify as marginalized often find social media to be a dangerous space for harassment. A heart has more built-in power than a star. A heart may be more “expressive,” but expressiveness may not be welcome, particularly by people who are being stalked, particularly in a sexual context. Academic Twitter tends to think about these things a lot. It’s one reason I heart Academic Twitter
- Faves as honest representations of how we feel. Let us be honest. Smart, thoughtful, intentional people don’t love everything. They don’t even like everything. They tend to be precise in their language. Sometimes they just want to attend to something. Sometimes they want to dwell in uncomfortable places because they are almost guaranteed learning zones. When you force academics to “like” it, it cheapens what that means to them. What it means to us.
- Ultimately, I think it comes down to:
HOWEVER, AFTER ALL OF THAT…
For me as a person who speaks for no other…I like the heart.
First, I stopped faving to save a long time ago. I think it was Maha Bali who said that faves were ‘a place where documents go to die’ or something similar. I could be wrong. But the point is that I never go back and read what I fave, so I don’t do it anymore.
Also, I heart what I heart. I don’t have that many followers (about 1100 right now) and I don’t follow that many people (about 1000) and if I were to analyze my mention and faving patterns, I think I would find that I retweet (not fave) articles that I think are worth reading, I follow people who say interesting things, and I mention and fave with a limited group of people. These people, these mentions and faves, are people for whom I care and respect. When I mention and fave their tweets, it comes from a place of gratitude. I am grateful, and I can get behind that sentiment with a heart.
Furthermore, I dropped the pretense of “professional distance” a long time ago. Maybe I never had it, or maybe it just doesn’t work for me or maybe I’m not the best person to have in your office. I have problems working for, with, or around people with whom I can’t interact as people, people with bodies and families and feelings and quirks.
However, I know that my position on bodies and families and feelings can be a problem. Somehow in this world – in professional settings, in academia – people have become uncomfortable with all those things. Some might say that freely expressing affection is a form of privilege. Yes, I think that’s sad and a little troublesome, but I also know that care is not true care if it’s not welcome.
So here’s the deal. Like the rest of Academic Twitter (or so it seems), I will be careful in my hearting, because it (1) seems to make other people uncomfortable; (2) it really does limit use and create a sense of directionality that was not present previously and (3) it might convey a sense of privilege.
However, I will not be personally upset about the heart, because it is providing me with the opportunity to tell you all that I think you’re great, and I really wish we had more opportunities to do that in this world, regardless of the context.