Ever looked at your Facebook news feed and saw a status or a picture that was clearly screaming “PLEASE GIVE ME ATTENTION AND LIKE MY POST!”? Ever felt like you had no friends because only your mom and your boyfriend liked your profile picture? Well you’re not alone, and it’s obvious.
“Liking” posts on Facebook
The “like” feature on Facebook (as well as other similar features on other social media websites, i.e. retweeting on Twitter or favoriting on Flickr) allows your “friends” to interact with the posts you publish on your profile. One of these possible interactions is the specific act of “liking” a post, showing acceptance, admiration, and/or support toward the person publishing it. This logically ends up turning into a popularity contest and a self-esteem booster or killer.
Because checking one’s Facebook makes up such a huge part of one’s daily activities, it has consumed our minds and has made us actually believe that a “like” on Facebook is the equivalent of having as many fans as Beyonce or having as many friends as the popular kids you remember from middle school. Since we’re all constantly comparing ourselves to our Facebook friends, it becomes our dying need to have more “likes” than that girl you hate from your Math class or your best friend who’s hotter than you.
There’s one very specific thing I’ve noticed in one of my Facebook friends that clearly reveals her obsession over “likes” on her Facebook profile. She’s sneakily come up with a specific technique in order to get more “likes” on her profile picture by updating it to the same one every day for a couple of weeks. This makes the picture show up on the top of all her friends’ news feeds every time she updates it. Of course doing this raises her chances of getting likes and those who hadn’t seen the picture the day before get to see it now, or those who have already seen it, see it once again but with more likes and are convinced to like it as well. It’s all a psychological play on our minds and she is a genius because of it. I mean, it works! She has about 70 likes on all her profile pictures for god’s sake! Props to her.
Now I don’t mean to bash on this one specific girl, and I admit I do really like her profile pictures and actually “like” some of them on occasion. But the point is, there are so many people that have become obsessed with people “liking” them on Facebook in order to feel liked in the outside world. She’s definitely not the only one. I even have a couple of friends who instantly text me to like their profile pictures as soon as they’ve updated them. There’s even a WikiHow page that teaches you how to get a lot of Facebook likes- please read it, it’s hilarious especially because it’s meant to be taken seriously.
Creating our Own Virtual Identity- aka. Becoming Control Freaks
This makes me wonder what has lead us to want “likes” so badly and why they have become so important in our lives or in how we judge others. A possible cause for this is an increase in self awareness. In the video “An Anthropological Introduction to Youtube”, Michael Wesch’s students decide to make their own Youtube accounts and vlog about their lives and soon notice that they’ve become incredibly aware of their own appearance to the world. Having control of this is what we all enjoy about social media websites yet also why this hyper-sense of self-awareness has consumed our minds and clearly our behavior. We become control freaks when it comes to our identity in the virtual world because we have much less control over our identity in the outside world. We have an infinite amount of possibilities to “actively construct a representation of how [we] would like to be identified”, as said in Nicole B. Ellison and Danah Boyd’s article Sociality Through Social Network Sites. What we say and the pictures we post are seen by others, we become noticed, and if we see that we are noticed, we like it.
What can we do?
It seems as though the “likes” feature has revealed to us who wishes to give us approval of our lives and personalities and who doesn’t. Who’s interested in your everyday life or in that picture you happen to look awesome in and who isn’t. If the second you post a new status you find yourself sweating as you wait for that first “like”, you have this problem, and it’s a serious one. But it isn’t your fault. We’ve been tricked into to paying attention to your Facebook’s news feed and your friends’ profiles, we’ve been tricked into seeking approval from others through virtual gestures, and we’ve been tricked into blushing over your crush who just liked your cover photo of a picture you took in Paris. I guess maybe it’s not a trick; it’s just life. A virtual life that is impossible (or very difficult) to escape.