For those haters out there who think the United States is useless, let me tell you that we Americans have contributed significantly to the furthering of humanity:
Allow me a nerd-gasm here. The main function of "like" is that of a simile, which simply means that it's used to describe something by connecting it with something else similar. For example: "My love is like a rose." (Um, what? Is it prickly and expensive to buy?)
But for a while now, it's been cavorting around as another linguistic phenomenon: discourse marker. And for the majority of you whose eyes, at the mere mention of "discourse marker, rolled so far back in your head that you're now effectively blind and unable to click on the link I provided, I'm happy to have your text-to-speech program read my brief explanation of what a discourse marker is. In essence, it is a filler word, i.e, a word that, if removed from a sentence, wouldn't change the meaning of your message in the least. Here's a discourse marker in full action:
Like, why are you in your 40s speaking like a high schooler?
I know that I can have some language-purist tendencies about me, but I'm also pretty easygoing when it comes to language and communication, too. (Unless you dangle a modifier in front me, at which point you're asking to be punched in the face.) But seriously, folks--this "like" business is getting out of control. I have witnessed a Harvard-educated graduate carry on a conversation with me, all the while using "like" more than Kim Kardashian uses Kanye West for publicity.
If you have a problem with using "like" gratuitously, all the while irritating everyone around you, here's a word of advice: STOP IT. NOW. It's not cute. It's not funny. You look and sound juvenile. But I need to be specific here. Using "like" in moderation can actually add a level of normality to your language. After all, people do use the term as a discourse marker. And no one wants to sound like some pompous tool every time he/she speaks.
The key here, just as it is in everything in life, is moderation. You want to sound hip to the youngsters and their obsession with Rihanna? Go for it. You also may be able to drop one of them in some more formal discussions. Again, moderation.