Why “Likes” are taking over our lives

“Likes” control us. They have taken over our lives and transformed our culture. They have made us narcissistic, over-sharing, and gaudy. If you have any type of social media account, chances are you know the stomach-churning feeling of anxiety that follows pressing “post”. But why has a seemingly harmless action turned into an anxiety provoking sentence of potential doom? To answer this, first, we need to examine three important Instagram trends.


DID YOU KNOW THAT COLLEGE STUDENTS SPEND 8–10 HOURS A DAY ON THEIR CELL PHONES?

Of those 8–10 hours, 36 minutes are spent browising facebook and over 20 are spent looking through Instagram. Think of how many times you need to check Instagram for it to add up to 20 minutes. That’s a lot of scrolling.


“Over 20 [minutes] are spent scrolling through Instagram”


When it was created in 2010, Instagram served as a platform to edit pictures and share them with friends and family. Today Instagram is rarely used to edit pictures and followers aren’t exclusively just family and friends. Now more than ever, people are using Instagram for selfies, food pictures, and advertisements. On the surface, each of these seems harmless, but each category has taken a speficic toll on our society and has changed the way we can look at Instagram as a cultural object today.

#1 SELFIES

The selfie has transformed Instagram into a place to seek compliments and approval. While taking selfies is a great way to share your new outfit or your “on-fleek” eyebrows, posting these selfies to Instagram sends the message that you want people to compliment you.

This practice is endulging our society’s narcissism and taking it to another level. Chances are you probably wouldn’t walk into a class room shouting “How great do my eyebrows look today?!?!?” and expect harmonious calls of praise. On Instagram, however, that is what you are asking for. Posting a selfie noting the “fleek level” of your eyebrows poses the “how great do I look” question, and waiting for “Likes” is the wait for approval and praise. The taking and posting of selfies is a constant call for attention, and begs everyone to “look at me” — not to mention one is then constantly looking at themself.

#2 FOOD PICTURES

Instagram has become an exhibitionist platform to share every aspect of your life, and sharing pictures of food is yet another way that our culture endulges it. In most circumstances, the general public wouldn’t care about the avocado toast that you just ate. However, food pictures are now all the rage, and Instagram accounts dedicated solely to food are at an all time high.

Posting food pictures reinforces our society’s tendency to over share, and again fuels narcissism. Since the food picture trend has been around, people have come to use food pictures as a form of identity. Food is an intimate thing to share, and by posting it on Instagram you are assuming everyone will care about what you ate and comment on and/or compliment the food — ultimately a compliment to you. You really are what you eat.

#3 ADVERTISEMENTS

Everything on Instagram is an advertisement. The picture of your pizza hut box? Ad. The picture of your new nikes? Also an Ad.

As people post pictures of each and every purchase they make, essentially, Instagram is serving as a form of advertising for companies, and they don’t even have to pay for it! Furthermore, this trend has brought to light the ever increasing consumerism of our society. Logos flood our feed. Brand names are constantly thrown around. The picture of your new sneakers serves as an unintentional advertisement, but it also serves as a way to show off. Before Instagram, people generally wouldn’t share their new purchases with strangers, however now, whenever someone buys anything, especially if its expensive, they share a picture of it. Simply put, people are consumed with showing off their wealth and posting a picture of a new, expensive, purchase. Instagram has become the perfect platform. In essence, these posts turn into advertisements as Instagram users show their followers exactly what brand their item is, and exactly how much it cost.

How does our Instagram use affect us?

Instagram has made us needy. It has created a culture of increased exhibitionism, a constant need for approval and a trend of showing off wealth, all fueled by “Likes”. While people may argue that they are posting pictures to simply share, it is impossible to deny the fact that getting “Likes” feels good, and thus there is a little part of everyone that searches for approval in each picture they post. Additionally, Instagram has made us extremely distracted, as we are now constantly checking to see how many “Likes” our post has gotten.

The exhibitionist trend on Instagram is also fueled by “Likes”. “Likes” serve as a reward for the simple task of pressing “post”, however the gratification of getting a “Like”on a picture stokes the internal fire that always wants more. Our obsession with “ who has the most ‘Likes’” has created competition. Can I get more “Likes” than my previous post? Can I get more “Likes” than someone else? Furthermore, this competition creates a hierarchy. A culture of Instagram “celebrities” has been created based on people with thousands of followers and thousands of likes.

So let’s revisit this question again: Why do we get this stomach churning feeling of anxiety everytime we post an Instagram? First, with “Likes” as a sort of status symbol, the pressure to get “Likes” has become increasingly prevalent. Furthermore, people are sharing every aspect of their lives and want their choices validated. There is an aspect of pride that goes hand and hand with each post. A virtual “Like” makes us feel liked and accepted by our peers. It makes us feel confident, interesting and maybe even envied.

Despite what Kim Kardashians thinks (see above), we are probably not going to stop posting these kinds of pictures on Instagram any time soon. So, in the meantime, it is important to recognize the affect that they have on us.