#like4like

After I left home to start the new semester of school this year, the first text I got from my sister read short and blunt: “go like my insta.” My 17-year old sister is a prime example of a classic Instagram addict – she wakes up with her iPhone already in hand and spends the first fifteen minutes of her morning lying in bed, scrolling, scrolling, and scrolling – and checking up on the number of “likes” for her latest picture.

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I myself also am a consistent Instagram-user, but my younger sister is on a whole other level. I see Instagram as a social media platform to post photos that share about myself and my interests (and, yes, I do post the occasional photo of my cat or my delicious-looking lunch, sue me), but my sister represents a good majority of Instagram-users who view it as a popularity contest of sorts. For the users I’m referring to, posting a photo is no longer about memorializing a moment or sharing something fascinating/cute/exciting; it’s all about the number of notifications that result from a post. To them it doesn’t seem to matter who or why, but how many will click that little heart button.

It drives me mad when my sister begs me to like her posts, and in response I’ve asked her countless times: “Why does it matter if I like the post if you know that you’re forcing me to do it?”

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It seems to me that the number would be meaningless if you’re aware that your followers aren’t liking your content out of genuine interest or enjoyment, but purely because you request them to do it. The popularly used hashtag “#like4like” precisely embodies my biggest pet peeve regarding Instagram. By adding this to their posts, users are making an open deal with any other user, stranger or friend, to like their post and receive a “like” in exchange. As of tonight, there are well over 53 million posts with that hashtag attached, which implies that this obsession with numbers is a widespread trend amongst Instagram’s users.

I find that one of the worst aspects of this superficial habit is the evident truth that this social interaction between users is not fostered by common interests or even a desire to connect, it’s simply a means to feed one’s own ego. While some might say that people are “like-hungry” (I just made up that term off the top of my head ..it was the first thing that came to mind so don’t quote that) for the sake of seeking attention, I believe it is more about building a reputation. However, using #like4like renders the number of notifications nothing but an artificial or false representation of popularity. In addition, the use of that hashtag shapes Instagram to be a platform neither content nor friendship oriented, only ego-oriented.

In his article titled “Instagram, Technology’s Window to the Soul,” journalist Josh Constine explains that the social media platform’s mission statement is to “Capture and share the world’s moments.”

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In his opinion,

it’s the most vivid way to let someone, no matter how far away, feel like they’re standing right beside you.

He concludes his article by identifying Instagram as “the window to the soul” – for which he received a lot of negative feedback from readers. Though it would be nice to believe in his glorified ideal that Instagram is that inspiring and miraculous, too many trends surrounding it, including #like4like, only degrade its positive essence that Instagram’s creators initially intended. With posts attached to that tag, users hardly even have to look at what’s actually present in the photo – they only need to double-tap, “like,” and wait for the favor to be returned. I reiterate that what baffles me most about this is why this should seem rewarding, flattering, or meaningful in any way at all. In engaging in this deal, users certainly are not looking into each other’s souls. They are contributing to an undeserved boost of confidence and are lending fake approval.

Though I ask my sister the question “why?” every time she begs me to boost her notifications, she’s never provided me a reason. I’ve just explained what I believe is the answer to that question, but I’m still curious to hear from someone who uses the hashtag what exactly they believe to be the reward. Until I come across an explanation that might justify this superficial phenomenon, “#like4like” will remain one of my prevalent social media pet peeves.

PS. I just laughed at the irony when I realized that I will be attaching the hashtag “like4like” to this post. I promise I’m only doing so because that’s the subject of the post… cheers!

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