I wish Instagram would take away my likes already. You may have heard, Instagram is testing hiding ‘likes’ from Canadian users on the app. I don’t know how big the beta is, but I do know I still have all my likes. And I wish I didn’t.
I’ve been pretty open before (here, here and here), that I am incredibly susceptible to Insta FOMO. When I’m scrolling through my feed (or swiping through Stories, which is much more likely), and see the curated glossy versions of everyone’s lives, it makes me feel less content in my own life.
That’s not strictly Instagram’s fault. That is my own failing that I’m internally trying to work on. I shouldn’t derive my self-worth from Instagram (or any app for that matter). My brain knows this. But, my heart struggles to remember that when I’m confronted with other people’s lives.
But, that scenario mainly plays out in other people’s feed. And, frankly, I don’t really have an interest in how many likes someone else’s post gets (beyond being mildly curious). I’m concerned about my own likes, and how they influence the kinds of things I tend to share.
THE LIKES MONSTER
If you do follow me on Instagram (thank you btw), you may remember a month or so ago in late winter, early spring, when I started experimenting with photography and started to share more curated, stylized type photos on my feed. After a couple of weeks of having them in my grid, I decided to delete all of them and re-focus on what I’m used to sharing — northwestern Ontario nature, cute cat photos, and the odd, awkward AF selfie.
It wasn’t until my Tiny Bites interview with Jennifer Taylor Chan that I was able to properly articulate why I went on a square purging frenzy. While I enjoyed taking those kinds of photos, when the more stylized shots were in my actual Instagram feed, I felt really gross when I scrolled back.
Partly, that is because I wish I was a better photographer. That is something I am genuinely working on, so bear with my feed as it goes through some growing pains. The larger part though is that I didn’t enjoy seeing those parts of my life represented in little squares for everyone else to see.
I’M JUST NOT A FLATLAY GAL
When I scrolled ALL the way back to the beginning of my feed, it made me happy to see a multitude of rolling landscapes, mountains and lakes. These are the photos that bring me joy. But, they are not photos that tend to bring me the likes. The ‘like-getting’ photos are all the more curated shots that I decided to delete (#ofcourse).
I want Instagram to take away my likes so I can stop worrying about whether or not a photo I like is going to get the reaction I think it should. I can just get back to worrying about taking and sharing photos that I genuinely enjoy. Because shouldn’t that be the whole point of social media? If you’re not sharing photos that you enjoy or that represent something you love, why are you sharing them?
You might think it’s silly of me to put so much stock in my likes. And, you’re probably right. But, that hasn’t stopped me from feverishly checking my like count on new photos, trying to find the ‘formula’ for the kind of content my followers will enjoy.
But I keep forgetting that my followers like my content for what it is, nature, cats and me. Nothing more contrived or curated. And I’m not actually interested in the likes for likes sakes, I want people to be actually engaged in my feed, commenting and asking questions. I want to work towards creating a feed that is engaging for people, that they feel comfortable being a part of.
LIKES ARE ONLY PART OF THE STORY
A 2017 study showed that ‘likes’ on social media trigger activity in the brain similar to how we would feel if we won money, or ate chocolate. Those are powerful motivators and can create an addiction to social media because we want to continue feeding that feeling. Getting likes literally makes us feel good. Therefore, it seems only natural to me that some of us have become a little more obsessed with what is getting likes in our feed and what isn’t. We’re chasing ephemeral pleasure from our phone screens.
Like anything external, whether that’s a new job, or a new relationship or a new outfit, likes on social media cannot provide lasting happiness. Our brains are literally not wired like that. It’s not until we step off the hedonic treadmill that we can recognize that what we’re chasing isn’t actually real and has a negligible impact on our long-term happiness.
I NEED TO LOOSEN MY GRIP
I think we’ve reached a point where we’re clamouring so desperately for likes, we’ve forgotten what we truly enjoy sharing and consuming on Instagram. Our feeds are starting to look the same because we now know the kinds of things that people will generally hit the like button for. In some cases, it’s starting to have an impact on our mental health.
Our social feeds shouldn’t be a place where we feel bad about where we’re at in our lives. Our feeds should be a place to explore new talents, learn new things and connect with like-minded people all around the world. That’s why I actually love Instagram. I love seeing what other people’s minds have created. Seeing how people see their own lives in tiny squares is fascinating, challenging and inspirational, all at once. Liking someone’s work is just one way to convey how I feel about it.
TAKE THEM AWAY ALREADY
So, Instagram, if you’re reading this through some fancy machine learning, please take my likes away already. I don’t need them. And I’m more than ready to get back to sharing content that doesn’t exist solely to receive likes. What would be different if they did take my likes away? I hope I’d be able to focus more on the images I’m sharing, challenging myself to look for new angles and light, without also having to worry if I’m posting it at the right time of day, or if people will respond to it.
As much as my Instagram is about connecting with people and sharing images they can relate to, it’s also about me and figuring out how I want to share my life in those tiny squares. And that is very much a work-in-progress.
Do you still have your Likes on Instagram? If you don’t have them, has it had any impact on what you’re sharing?