“Like” is the four-letter word that outdoes them all.

I’ve been trying to figure out why I reacted so strongly to Facebook’s announcement that their “like” button is the new green.

OK, they didn’t exactly say that, but that’s what it amounts to, doesn’t it?

From now on, you won’t be able to “fan” a page on Facebook, you’ll “like” it. (Hello, Mashable, didn’t you get the memo?) You won’t become the fan of a brand, you’ll “like” it.

Image: Alba Danés, Creative Commons

When you go to CNN.com, for example, you’ll be able to see what other people have “liked;” when you shop, you’ll be able to see what your “friends” “like.” And so on and so on, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

The best commentary I’ve found to date on this development is Robert Scoble’s. If you haven’t already, you should read it.

I get the pros for businesses and the cons for individuals.  Heck, Google’s already taken over the world, why shouldn’t Facebook have its shot at it? So I’m not really going to bother with the whys and wheretofors of it. It’s here and it’s probably not going anywhere.

What sticks in my craw a bit is how ubiquitous the word “like” – and its implications thereof – has become.

Where did our passion go?

As a consumer, I don’t “like” Elvis. I LOVE Elvis. And Elvis Presley Enterprises benefits.

As an independent PR practitioner, I don’t “like” Tungle. I ♥ it big time. And Tungle benefits.

As a content-sharer, I don’t “like” Google Buzz, even though it forces me to use the word to signify appreciation for something someone’s shared. I hate it. And Google… well, Google doesn’t really care what I think.

Certainly, Facebook didn’t invent “like.” Stumbleupon‘s been doing that for a while, though at least they had the decency to add an exclamation point after, thereby giving it some pizazz.

But if all we’re going to do is get folks to “like” stuff, then we PR and marketing practitioners have our work cut out for us.

Because we need our audiences to do more than “like” us/our clients; we need them to be so motivated that they’ll actually DO something, whether it’s share, email, sign up, buy, donate, or take whatever action(s) it is we need them to take.

Apparently I’m not the only one who feels this way. Here’s what some of my Tweeps had to say:

To me, “like” is the four-letter word worse than many other four-letter words. Because it’s just… so… insipid, as Kathy Moore tweeted.

Seriously, with all the brainpower at its disposal, could Facebook not have come up with something better?

My friend Desi del Valle summed it up best in an email. She gave me permission to share this with you, so here it is:

What say you?