Facebook is home to heroes. Veterans (preferably elderly, disabled, or female), dying children (preferably bald with oxygen tubes), or puppies rescued from a shelter (preferably still matted and broken). They don't do much but stare out at you with their big, imploring eyes, collecting millions of likes.
Really, is there a bearded general in the Middle East somewhere staring at a laptop? "Oh no, the Americans got 692,401 likes! Time to surrender!" Are there doctors who say, "Sorry, sweetie, we can't treat you for leukemia until your picture goes viral." Do animal shelters photograph each wounded puppy who limps in, post their photos, and kill off the ones with under 10,000 shares?
Liking a stranger's photo does not benefit them in any way. Of course people like knowing 692,401 people have seen their face. But they don't care if that photo receives 692,400 instead. What is the point of you, you special little human being you, showing your support?
It's a form of selfishness, really. We do it for our own benefit. Everyone likes that rush of satisfaction that comes from solving a problem. You, you special little human being you, probably haven't devoted the last decade of your life to curing cancer. But hit that thumbs up button for little Grace and her oxygen tank and you think you've made a difference in the world. Just like when you turn off the lights when you leave the room and stop global warming. Pat yourself on the back. Because no one else will.
Awhile back I read that people are more likely to say they'll "support" a candidate than "vote for" them when surveys ask. What's the difference, exactly? No one will vote for a candidate they don't support. While there are other ways to support a politician, like attending meetings and planting a sign on your lawn for the world to see, the main way to help them is by voting. But "vote" implies getting off your butt and dragging it down to the nearest polling booth. There's no way to do it in bed with bag of Doritos. Support can mean voting-but it can also simply mean caring.
Caring does nothing. Caring will not win a war, cure a disease, or give a bedraggled boxer a home. But we carry on with our button clicking, not really caring about these people after we scroll down for the rest of our news feed. That little action is delusion enough to believe we've made a difference.