Mixed Signals is Erin Straza’s weekly musing about marketing miscellany in advertising, branding, and messaging.

What is it about that plucky, thumbs-up Like button? Facebook has taken a simple engagement tool and turned it into a marketer’s dream. With every click, we consumers are cataloging the businesses and brands we are partial to. And it’s so easy to do—just a click links us to something that charms us.

However, our participation in this community-wide click-fest has given Facebook a stunning amount of marketing power.

Take what happened to Nick Bergus. He was buzzing around the Net when he found an Amazon ad for a 55-pound barrel of personal lubricant. He thought his Facebook Friends would find it funny, so he gave it a Like. What wasn’t so funny was that one click gave Amazon the right to turn Bergus’s thumbs-up endorsement into an ad for the product—without his consent. Soon his face and approval were included in ads touting the barrel of goo.

This is the potential power of the Like button. And we don’t give the use of it a second thought.

We give it a click, pledging our fondness to a brand or a business, lending our support to its cause. In return, we might gain access to all-valuable coupons for a fraction off our next purchase or we might be eligible for a grand prize drawing. Seems like a decent trade—a simple click in exchange for potential deals and treats.

But few of us realize that Facebook’s user agreement grants them and the businesses we interact with access to our Friends and to us. Although we might see Facebook as a closed system where we can hang out with those we’ve invited in, the truth is that it’s an open system. In most cases, what happens on Facebook belongs to Facebook.

Liking a page is so easy, so simple, a click doesn’t feel like an important decision. It’s only Facebook, we think. But as Facebook’s marketing strength grows, we may need to be a bit more selective with the pages we choose to be associated with. Clicks made in jest (such as Bergus’s) are assigned the same value as those made in earnest. We trust those who know us best will place our one-dimensional Like into context, so our tongue-in-check clicks are distinguished from our more genuine clicks.

Businesses do not have that context to draw from, however. If we choose to align ourselves with barrels of lubricant, we yield ourselves to the potential yoking. And if Christians become yoked with something that is not becoming to the name of Christ, we risk diminishing His glory.

That’s why God’s Word has much to say about the company we keep, instructing that “the righteous choose their friends wisely” (Prov. 12:26, NIV). In a sense—especially in Facebook lingo—we are making Friends with every click. And that can be all fun and good. We just need to remember that we are part of the Body of Christ, representing Him as His ambassadors in this world (including the cyber-world).

So go forth, without fear, and engage in this world. “Like” away. But be sure that what you click on Facebook is worthy of the calling you have received (Eph. 4).


  1. Join a cult lately? So was it embarrassing? Sure. Is there a learning curve to internet socialization? Again, sure. But micromanaging people’s moral decisions like this poses a serious threat to their mental health. Choose your friends wisely? Seriously? Of the entire Bible, that’s the quote you picked? Like come back to the Christian team -where people care more about compassion than cult-like micromanagement of morality. You are going to get into some dude’s head, and then he’s going to start worrying if going to the bathroom is a sin, or driving his car on Sundays (because a fire is lit). Maybe you can help certify us for us to go to the bathroom, make sure we have our paperwork in order before wiping our ass?

    Is this all Christ and Pop Culture is about, trying to reinvoke the Law which was a mistake in the first place, a Law Jesus came to supplant with compassion, a Law the Jews got by being too afraid (e.g. of a judgmental morality-oriented God) to climb Sinai [Sailhammer does some interesting work on this], a Law that even Ezekiel takes a proverbial crap on in chapter 18 if I remember correctly…? I wish that instead of another fucking blog about morality that leads to separation of Christians from those we are called to love, we’d have a Christ and Pop Culture Blog that looked for LOVE in current events, and the ways in which pop culture expresses the Love of Christ. Like why not teach us to Love with elements from pop culture? Like how can we be compassionate in Facebook or other social networking situations in such a way as to reflect our calling.

    There are so many more valuable lessons out there about the way to manifest compassion in our personal lives; it’s not like you have to look for the one smarmy story buried out there somewhere. Your post isn’t incorrect, but ‘taking every thought captive’ to Christ is about a completely different paradigm. Perhaps I’m getting this all wrong and you were extremely indirectly trying to be ironic but Jesus lady, get a grip. It’s lube, get a grip. I’ve been a practicing celibate for the last 7 years just to help the poor, and I’d love to maintain that celibacy but the number of congregations that aren’t like this is rare. Humbling people through awareness of our sins is about making room for other people’s perspectives, so it’s about Love. This sort of article is just cultish-Christian hypersensitivity to sins without sufficient egress to the point. AND FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T FUCKING APOLOGIZE EITHER.

  2. Like for example when somebody is a jerk to you on the blogs, it hurts right? I just totally dumped on you, all of my own personal garbage. So maybe write an article about ‘troll’ management, like what to do with all the (expletive removed) people like me on the internet who just use others as scapegoats- and not just how much this sucks for the receiving end, but how to be nice, or like a neutral commentary about how easy it is to just dump on people. I’m so sick of church, life, myself, I’m sorry for being a jerk. I suppose that’s still oriented a lot around what’s wrong. Maybe good listening skills on blogs, or reading? I keep seeing these Facebook debates where people purposefully miss each other’s points which is technically called a Strawman. Like how do you listen to other people without underestimating them? Have a good one, sorry for being a jerk.

  3. Lulls. I’m not sure I believe you’re sorry ^_^

    I think Erin’s advice was probably legalistic on a level with saying you probably ought to cook chicken to at least 160°F. So, not really all that cultish. More just wisdom than law.

  4. Erin,

    I appreciate your main point, one that I have noticed about myself in the past on Facebook and often see in students and friends. For a while, I resisted the “like” clicking in Facebook, precisely because it was so quick and convenient and forgettable that I could suddenly find myself adding assent to something questionable. I still try to use it sparingly and never of products, but I’m sure I have some things that I would have been better served not to have “liked.” That could be expanded farther to “friends” for most of us on facebook, I suspect. How many of our “friends” are people we know very little or perhaps have never met; or worse, people we’ve met and don’t even like (but perhaps “like”). Facebook has this habit of diminishing all language it touches, doesn’t it? “Like,” “friend,” etc.

    Your column also makes good practical advice. Setting aside cases like Bergus’s (which, for the moment, one hopes are extreme), in an environment where, increasingly, even prospective or current employers might be checking your facebook pages, you could cost yourself a job by choosing your likes poorly. Far from being cultish, that is something that any facebook user, Christian, or secular, could make note of.

    Facebook and similar sites have become such a part of us that it is often hard to step back and look at the wisdom of how we use them. Erin, you do that in this coloumn, and I am thankful for the thoughts.

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