We’re all slaves to the likes
KUALA LUMPUR — Big news this week in seemingly silly changes to your favorite social media platform: Instagram from Facebook (are they still going with that name change?) has stopped showing how many likes any post has. Now each post tells you one or two of your followers that has liked the post and then states “and others”, which is pretty vague. It almost makes you wonder if there’s any point in showing two random people who have liked the post at all.
Of course, users can still see how many likes they’ve got in their “insights” but it’s no longer displayed for all to see. Instagram has done this to create a “less stressful experience”. Big shrug.
In my mind, the stress of Instagram comes from being bathed in the best moments of everyone else’s lives and feeling like, well, my life isn’t all rainbows and private jets so something must be wrong.
Indeed, a good friend of mine left Instagram because he was tired of the platform making him feel bad about himself. And he’s an established professional with success in his field. And he feels bad.
Leaving Instagram in this case is the right move because, kids, if something makes you feel bad, cut it out of your life with an extremely sharp pair of scissors.
I went through a similar experience with those men’s magazines in the early 2000s. Remember Maxim? Those magazines with a bunch of bikini-clad girls on the covers, stories about sports cars and awesome technology inside? When I read them, they mostly made me feel like my girlfriend wasn’t hot enough, I was an idiot for not wanting a Lambo, and all my money should be spent on cool tech. In short, these magazines made me feel completely inadequate. So I stopped reading them. This is what my friend has done with Instagram.
Now, does not displaying likes on Instagram solve the problem? I would think not. But when I looked up the Internet reaction, I saw that millennials viewed this move completely differently.
I read about how one writer had been taught by friends and the likes on her posts to post mostly on weekends when she was more likely to get likes. Never post two posts a day. And if she received a painfully low number of likes, she would delete the post, hiding her shame so no one would ever know. This is not an influencer. This is an otherwise normal person with about 1,000 followers letting the platform dictate what she does.
Her view of having the likes no longer displayed? She wouldn’t have to compete with her friends’ posts. She could post ugly photos and not fear the repercussions of everyone knowing her poorly cropped photo of the Eiffel Tower only got four likes. Instagram could be fun again! Not displaying likes is emancipation.
Reading this made me realize any neurosis I have from Instagram is nowhere close to how neurotic the generation that grew up with Instagram is. And rightfully so. They’ve been taught that likes are a measure of real life validation that absolutely matters. The more likes a person gets, the better their life must be.
Which is just complete trash.
Likes mean someone saw your post thought it was sufficiently pretty enough to press the heart button in the 0.5 seconds they spent looking at it as they sped through the rest of their feed displaying glimpses into other people’s otherwise crappy lives.
If hiding likes in Instagram makes people feel better about using it and what they post, then that’s a good step. I guess. But it just gets rid of the quantifying of how seemingly great people’s lives are. It doesn’t get rid of the inherent competition of trying to show off how awesome your life is to make other people feel crappy and thus boost your own ego. Which is, unfortunately, part of human nature.
Humans have a bad history of creating systems and then making themselves slaves to that system. If a system brings out the worst in us, maybe we should rethink how much time we spend using it. Because, honestly, I’m lucky to have led the life I’ve had, I’ve modeled and traveled the world, I’ve been in travel shows and am a working actor, yet if I spend too much time on Instagram, I start to feel really crappy about my life. So I minimize my time there.
If Instagram makes you feel bad or it stresses you, don’t think because likes are gone it’s better now. Make a decision and cut your time on the platform. Honestly, looking at people’s food photos and filtered vacation photos isn’t that interesting anyway.
Big Smile, No Teeth columnist Jason Godfrey – who once was told to give the camera a ‘big smile, no teeth’ – has worked internationally for two decades in fashion and continues to work in dramas, documentaries, and lifestyle programming. Write to him at [email protected] and check out his stuff at jasongodfrey.co. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.
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