I think it's the uncertainty of social media feedback that makes it so compelling. And it's not only that you don't know whether you are going to get Likes or hearts or whatever, it's also that even when you do get them, you don't know what the hell they mean.
Let's say you post something one day about the whole household having the flu, and Aunt Melba gives it a heart. Ideally she'd drop off some of her famous chicken soup to help out in a quaintly old-fashioned (i.e., meaningful) way, but
she's 105 and lives in another town so that e-heart is all you've got to
work with. Is Aunt Melba sending love to help us get over the flu, or does she love that we all have the flu, or is she just 105 and confused about the Facebook?
Unless it is well established that Aunt Melba is a crusty old bitch, I'd tend to assume she is sending love. But not every Like is so straightforward, and not every person seems to subscribe to the same social media philosophy. I, for instance, only press the heart button when I truly heart something - like, I pause each time and carefully consider, Do I really love this? Is this worthy of my love? - but other people are out there throwing hearts around like Oprah throws out cars: YOU get a heart, and YOU get a heart, and EVERYBODY GETS A HEART! (Cut this shit out, people - it's causing heart inflation and devaluing all the other hearts out there.)
Further-further confounding things is that we - messy humans - view everything through a self-centric lens, whether it's incoming or outgoing. Aunt Melba can intend whatever she wants with that heart, but I am going to interpret it however I am inclined to interpret it. Conversely, I can hit Like or heart or angry face with whatever muddled and endlessly variable rationale driving me in that moment, but all anyone gets out of it is an opaque little icon. Am I angry along with you at the injustice detailed in the article you shared, or angry at you for posting something I disagree with, or just an angry person in general and why are you even friends with me anyway? You get to be the judge and the jury - and yes, even the victim, if you wish.
I propose a classic yet classically onerous solution: crosswalk tables. I suspect we're going to need to perfect the Vulcan mind-meld in order to get sufficiently detailed personal classification matrices in place and cross-correlated, and I predict a lot of hurt feelings coming out of that process, but it will all be worth it to have a perfect, icon-based communication system in place on social media platforms. I mean, we could try using our words and stuff, but that would take up so much valuable Facebook time plus potentially mean having to interact with other humans in person or - heaven forbid - over the phone. Ew!
In the meantime I guess we're 100% stuck communicating using only Likes and hearts. So be sure to leave me a Like. Or not. Your choice. Regardless, I will definitely be racking my brains wondering why.
Like mice to a food lever with a random interval reward schedule, these are the days of our lives.