Like for a like. Like for a TBH. Have we gone too far for a double tap?
Bree, 19, is about to post. But before she hits ‘share’, she runs through a mental checklist to maximise its ‘likes’. “I always ask myself what time of day it is. Mornings and afternoons have a heavy Instagram traffic flow because people are on their way to and from school,” says Bree. “I then decide on a filter and, if it’s a selfie, I question whether it’s worth posting if it only gets, like, two likes.” Bree’s way of thinking might sound a bit odd but she isn’t alone. DOLLY explores this new culture of ‘likes’ and why we’re obsessed with heart-worthy posts.
Please 'like' me
Clinical psychologist Dr Lissa Johnson says being young and social isn’t just about being close to your BFFs IRL anymore; girls are measuring their popularity in numbers. “For some girls it can now also be about how favourably their online identities compare to those of others, how liked they are online, and how large their social network can become,” says Dr Lissa.
According to our expert, this obsession with ‘likes’ is actually us searching for approval and attention from our peers. “Common ways of seeking validation through social media are creating flattering or positive images of oneself, comparing one’s online offerings to those of online friends, seeking positive feedback and building the size of one’s group of online ‘friends’,” says Dr Lissa. “We can embellish, edit and carefully pick and choose what we show to an online world, whereas in real life we have far less choice.” And this careful editing process is all in the pursuit of ‘likes’. Are we worried that if someone saw us IRL, minus filters and cute hashtags, they’d scroll straight past?
Chasing the illusive '11'
Jen, 18, almost took down one of her Insta posts because it just didn’t hit double digits. “I was about to take this pic down ‘cos it got so few likes and it was embarrassing,” says Jen. “The names of the likers were still on there! So, I ended up texting some friends to ask them to like it quickly before too many people saw it. I even asked my mum!” Dr Lissa says this stressed-out behaviour is an example of an unhealthy attitude towards social media. “If the main aim is to outdo one another in the popularity stakes, then these online worlds can breed competition, insecurity and envy, which aren’t good for friendships or wellbeing.”
But it goes further. Likes are being traded around online friendship groups like currency. Girls are even offering up a ‘like for a TBH’ (to be honest). For the uninitiated, this is when someone goes on to another girl’s Facebook wall or Insti feed to leave a comment about how cool they are in return for a like. “These things interfere with authenticity, being in the moment and experiencing flow – where things come naturally and spontaneously – as well as with being relaxed and at ease in your skin,” says Dr Lissa. “This can cause anxiety, depression, self-worth difficulties, anger or stress.”
A 2013 study at the University of Michigan which looked at the link between Facebook and depression found that the more people used the social network site, the unhappier they were. Yikes!
So, like, who cares?
Like doughnuts, social media is fine when consumed in moderation. But Dr Lissa says when you start measuring your self-worth in terms of your number of likes, you’re missing the point of what makes us special human beings. “It takes us away from our true core worth as a unique individual, who we really are,” says Dr Lissa. So if you’re on a constant Insta binge – stop! Take a step back and look at your feed for what it really is: a way to keep in touch with friends and share your experiences. Dr Lissa suggests taking every like with a grain of salt. “Remember it is artificial and not a measure of your worth or your popularity, or even how ‘likeable’ your online offerings might be.”
So, instead of chasing likes, comparing yourself to your buddies, going to wayyyy too much effort to get that perfect Insta pic or counting your friends, try to focus on healthy and constructive ways to use your online accounts. “The more you use social media to actively and genuinely communicate with (actual) friends, and the less you use it to embellish yourself, size up others and seek affirmation, the healthier your online, and offline, lives will be,” says Dr Lissa.
Escaping the ‘likes’ vortex
Here’s how to keep your Insta, Facey and Twitter accounts real.
- Strengthen your connections with existing real-life friends.Instead of trying to gather as many random followers as possible, start chatting to those in your class!
- Keep in touch with old or distant friends.The amazingness of social media is you can reach out to anyone you may have lost contact with, like that old primary school buddy.
- Share your interests. Use your feed to show off your love of miniature poodles, baking desserts or your fave rugby team. It’ll attract like-minded guys and girls.
- Keep it real.We reckon you’re pretty brill just the way you are. Let people see who you are.