I find it difficult to talk about how I feel about people, because I do not necessarily understand what specifically is meant by different commonly used terms. Today I’ll focus on liking someone and caring about someone.
When it comes to feelings, everything is on a continuum, yet we speak binary. “I like that person.” “I care about that person.” Binary speak is easier, but information is lost.
First, let’s talk about caring levels. One way to measure caring level is the amount of unpleasantness you are willing to accept in exchange for something that makes the other person feel better. For example, you might be willing to hold a door for someone you have never met (although I am generally against door holding). Or you might help an elderly woman change a flat tire. In those cases, you have inconvenienced yourself to a small degree in order to benefit someone else. If you didn’t care about humans at all, you wouldn’t feel bad about ignoring even the simplest pleas for help. At the highest caring levels, you are willing to take on much more for someone else. For example, perhaps you are willing to spend hours a day in a hospital in order to comfort a family member who is not well.
I am not sure if that is the best way to think about caring. We need to make an additional distinction first, I think. Your willingness to accept unpleasantness might be driven by the desire to signal caring. We certainly benefit from having others think that we are caring people. So there is incentive to fake caring. Suppose, for example, your spouse is hospital bound with some terminal disease. Perhaps you want to just leave them there and travel to the Bahamas. But, you know that your friends and family would think you’re a terrible person, so you stay by his/her side. I wouldn’t count that as caring.
So… perhaps your caring level for person X is based on the degree to which tasks that you normally would find unpleasant are not viewed by you as unpleasant if it benefits person X to a large enough extent. Think about a (cost to you):(benefit to them) ratio. The more you care, the higher the ratio you are willing to accept without thinking of it as a burden or sacrifice.
Now, let’s think about the idea of liking someone. I tend to think of liking someone as enjoying their company. The more you enjoy them, the more you like them. I’m not sure if that’s the best way to look at it. Because you could enjoy someone (e.g., think they are interesting), but not like them as a person (e.g., they could be selfish or mean). Liking implies a positive character judgement, I think. Hm, so let’s say the degree to which you like someone is positively correlated with the amount of enjoyment you get from them and how good you think their character is.
Liking levels and caring levels need not agree. For example, you could care about someone a great deal but not really enjoy them (e.g., perhaps you care deeply about a parent or sibling but don’t enjoy their company). You also could like someone a lot and not care much about them (e.g., someone that you enjoy talking to, but wouldn’t be willing to help out much if they needed it).
If you like someone a lot, you probably have some incentive to exaggerate how much you care about them. You want them to like you. You want them to spend time with you. So you signal to them an exaggerated level of caring.
Similarly, if you care a lot about someone, you have incentive to exaggerate how much you like them. Because you care about them, you want them to be happy. People are happy when they think people like them. So, you signal to them an exaggerated level of liking.
In general, I think we tend to exaggerate whatever level is lower (caring or liking) in order to balance it out. (that’s just a theory I made up in the past few minutes)
What is the point of this post? I have no idea.