I am curious if there is a consensus to what could be considered the substantive differences between liking something and following it. It seems following is for users that you are not friends with (in a facebook sense) or in a twitter (mutual following). I am curious, though, if there is a more in-depth discussion somewhere about perceived differences and practical implications of this. For example, do systems with fixed constraints on the number of likes use following to allow you to essentially follow an unlimited number? In terms of being alerted about activity on something, should liking and following be considered the same?

I know this is somewhat subjective but we just spent like an hour in a meeting that I feel was a total waste discussing these issues. Any resources for a more nuanced and detailed discussion?

  • Like = think it's good, follow = interested in updates, for better or for worse. There are scenarios where both apply and scenarios where only one applys (and scenario where neither apply). – Danny Varod Oct 31 '13 at 19:20
  • @DannyVarod if you liked something, would you expect to be alerted about updates to it? – timpone Oct 31 '13 at 21:48
  • No. It was nice, but I've seen it and don't find it so intriguing that I have to get a feed of every update. – Danny Varod Oct 31 '13 at 23:08
  • Take a look at this question: ux.stackexchange.com/q/16810/95 – Jørn E. Angeltveit Nov 1 '13 at 11:24

At the end of the day, "like" and "follow" are simply labels applied to a trigger -- and those labels should correspond to the feedback the user expects to receive after interacting with that trigger.

"Follow" has clearer connotations than "like". It implies that there will be follow-up of some kind -- that you will be notified when important things happen to the object or person you have chosen to follow.

"Like", on the other hand, is more vague and different platforms treat it in different ways. The results of liking different kinds of objects on Facebook can even have different results. For example, in some instances it is used roughly the same as "follow" in the example of liking a band or celebrity and in other instances (such as liking a comment) it is used as a way to participate in a discussion without actually typing anything. The rules surrounding what happens when you like something are constantly in flux, however, and if you have a keen eye for it you'll notice when the rules slightly change on platforms like Facebook.

  • thx, that seems accurate. Liking / Following clearly have a context wrapper that determines that follow-up activity. – timpone Nov 4 '13 at 19:14

Here's a brief on "like" and "follow" from a layman perspective.

Like - When you like something you are expressing your affinity towards the entity in question. A like is a public vote (positive one). A person may like something because they love it, thought it was interesting, made their day, show support, show respect and even promote. A like may even lead to following it in certain scenarios.

Liking XYZ does not always imply the user will "check" on it frequently. I may like a movie or a friends post and leave it there as a sign for my followers or general public that I'm interested in or support XYZ.

Follow - To follow XYZ is to get constant updates on it, as the term implies - in real life you'd follow someone to find out what they are up to, where they are etc. To follow doesn't necessarily doesn't mean to like it. Obsessive following could be termed as stalking (afk) and addiction (in cyber-land)

p.s. i use afk to denote activities away from computers

  • so, as an end user, would you want / expect to be updated - not necassarily check in on it. Would you feel that if you liked something that you might also need to follow it? I guess that's more the question that I'm wondering about. – timpone Oct 31 '13 at 21:47
  • Depends on agreement (EULA) I singed up before "liking" something - Facebook's concept of like is "like and follow" until they introduced filtering and subscriptions. As an end-user If I like something I don't expect to follow it or receive updates from it. 10/10 times I've unlike'd pages on facebook or removed them from my data feed because they send me updates I'm not interested in. When I like something it simply means i like it and if i wanted to follow or get updates from it i would follow it or subscribe to it. – Rayraegah Oct 31 '13 at 21:59
  • so that's the key issue. facebook seems to make liking something get updates from it but a lot of people don't like it. However, facebook is a bit of an anomoly due to its size. thx – timpone Nov 2 '13 at 18:41

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