Do you like me? Appreciate me!

“You like me! Right now—you like me!” proclaimed Sally Field in 1984 upon winning her Oscar for “Places in the Heart.” Now here we are 30 years later, and while we all desire to be liked, our focus has shifted to being liked in front of everyone else. We want everyone to know that we are liked. Don’t deny it: you post something on Facebook and look to see how many likes it gets. More than 10? Sweet! 2, total failure, try posting something else (the more esoteric the better). For the most part, I’m OK with this weird instantaneous and mostly meaningless judgment on my musings, but I find myself baffled and frustrated by this same process when applied professionally.

If you are a stockbroker or a teacher or a nurse, or pretty much a member of most other professions, no one judges each of your individual outcomes online with a quick thumbs up (or lack thereof). Could you imagine a doctor posting each of his patient’s results and others cavalierly hitting a thumbs up or worse, just snubbing him? Yet, as a designer, I find myself submitting to this cold out-of-context judging. Behold Behance. If you aren’t a member of the creative community, you probably don’t know what this is. It’s a social networking portfolio site (because nowadays you can make anything better with social networking!). Here’s how it works: you post your projects, and people “appreciate” (let’s just say it, they “like” it by clicking a thumbs up just like in Facebook) or they move on.

When I joined the site a couple of months ago thinking it was a good way to get my work in front of some other people who might not go to my website, I didn’t give it much thought. I personally never “appreciate” anything on the site, I just use it to showcase my own work. But now I see that my “appreciations” (or lack thereof) are right there for everyone to see. This freaked me out. What? Only 5 appreciations? Why? That project is awesome! One of my best! So I did a little digging to find out how this works…

...And I immediately felt demoralized but not surprised. It really has nothing to do with the work—if you spend any time on the site, you will see that it’s this insular community of people following and appreciating each other to drive up their numbers. Of course, it’s not clients doing the ratings, it’s other hungry designers (you know, the competition!). And guess who has the highest appreciations and thus the most visibility? Big giant agencies and famous people—you know the companies who have a “social networker” on staff (eye roll). I guess I shouldn’t be surprised the game is rigged. In order to build your appreciations, you have to spend a lot of time building a big community by appreciating others and following random people so they will do the same.

I thought about it and decided, nah, I’ll keep my work up there, but I’d rather spend time doing what I do best: design. That being said, while it’s no Oscar, if “you like me, right now,” you’re free to go ahead and appreciate my work!