Living With Everyday Evaluations on Social Media Platforms
The Like button is simultaneously a means of social interaction and a tool to evaluate social media content. Likes are built into the infrastructure of platforms, fueling personalized searches, recommendations, and targeted advertisements while contributing to the economic valuation of platforms and users alike. Working at the intersection of infrastructure and practice, we analyze the experience of everyday evaluations on social media to understand how platforms shape what people care about. Based on in-depth interviews with 25 artists who use Instagram, we identify three overlapping orientations to the Like button: affective, relational, and infrastructural. We show how the flexibility of the button creates ambiguity around the meaning of a Like which drives practices of metaevaluation, and argue that the platform architecture incentivizes an economic approach to evaluation that crowds out other value schemas, shaping how artists use the platform, make art, and even understand themselves. We conclude with a discussion of the broader implications of everyday evaluations, algorithms, and platforms.