Okay, I’ll admit it. I love being “Liked”
There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing the little red number on my Facebook notification bar. The higher the number, the more thrill I get when I click it. Occasionally, I realise the notification is not for a status update I did, but for a long-thread discussion on a friend’s update.
But most of the time, if the notifications are for some random post I did, whether it’s a carefully constructed Instagram that I spent half an hour posing, cropping, filtering, captioning & tagging, or a sarcastic post about some trending topic, I get a sense of glee when I see those likes piling up.
But, like all humans, we love to compare. I’m talking about “Like Envy”. There’s nothing is more gutting than seeing your status update being walloped by a friend’s engagement post that racks up 326 likes or a new born baby photo that generated 224 likes and 125 comments. You start thinking deviously, and wonder how many likes could you get if you posted “Engaged and preganant!” with a photo of an ultrasound with your hand gently caressing the baby on the photo, casually showing off your 10K diamond ring on your finger.
When you start thinking like that, you realise you’ve fallen for the biggest trap of Social Media — the desire to be “Liked”.
It happens on all forms of Social Media:
• The little heart thingy on Instagram
• Retweets or favourites on Twitter
• How many views you get on Youtube
• The number of repins on Pinterest
• Your Klout score (aggregated social networks)
• And countless other ‘likes’ on LinkedIn, Google+, Vine etc…
Every morning, I wake-up with my iPad Mini counting the numbers of likes I’ve accumulated on various Social Media platforms. It’s like an insane addiction. I know it really shouldn’t matter, but my human impulses makes me compelled to constantly monitor, assess and devise ways on how I could possible garner more likes.
One day, I spoke to my mum, and she told me she was very proud that she got more likes than my dad on her post that day. That’s when I realised things have got to change.
1. Admitting You’re Addicted to “Likes”
How do we manage our overwhelming desire to be “Liked”? Like the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, I think part of the key is to admit yourself the problem exists. Sometimes I think people are in denial, whether they pretend like they don’t care by saying they never use Facebook (but then always bitching out how such-and-such is always posting selfies), or they actively try to delete Facebook (you know, those friends that disappear for a month, then come back, then disappear, then come back…). I think part of the solution is to admit you have an addition in the first place.
So now that we’ve admitted we’re on this wagon, what should we do next?
2. Using “Likes” to Improve Your Life
One thing I noticed was how much of an motivator being “Liked” was on my social media usage. Clearly it was rewarding me for doing certain tasks (taking beautiful vacation photos, posting something witty), and punishing me for others (posts about financial crisis, boring posts about work). I figured, how can I use this behaviour to benefit my career and life goals?
I realised out of all the social media networks I used, Pinterest stood out. On Pinterest I tended to pin about things relevant to my work (design, gaming art, travel), and the repins I got for it help me to work out what the Pinterest community responded to. So I figured I’d put more work into my boards, and sure enough, I’ve managed to accumulate a good following. Furthermore, Pinterest revolves around sharing other people’s cool stuff.
At the same time, because it was work-orientated, I felt like I was using it to learn more about the visual medium. It helps me to sharpen my design and art direction abilities. And increasingly, I’ve felt less pressure to create posts that are “liked” as I’m more focused celebrating cool content other people have created.
3. Try Other Apps Beyond Social Media
I think one of the downfalls of Social Media, is it gives people who love to talk about themselves, a bigger speakerphone to talk about themselves. Initially, this was wonderful as you could constantly stay in touch with your friends from all over the world — but overtime it became apparent some people have the propensity to dominate your newsfeed more so than others.
To remedy this, I recommend devoting more of your time to apps that give exposure to a wider array of content beyond food and baby photos. Medium is a great place to start, so is personalised magazine apps such as Flipboard, Zite, Pulse, Feedly or Digg.
As you spend more time on these apps, you realise the importance is shifted from the number of “Likes” and more so the quality and depth of the content. It may even compel you to start creating your own content — like I’ve done so on Medium.
I’m not sure how long it’s going to take me, before I start obsessing on how popular my Medium articles become. But until then, I’m going to enjoy that ‘honeymoon period’, where everything is calm and serene. And I don’t spend every minute, furiously checking how many “Likes” I’ve got.
Part of the solution I believe, is to openly accept our flaws. We’re human. And we are always going to have a desire to be liked by others. Accept this and you realise it’s just a innate urge to improve oneself, to connect with others and to form human bonds with one another. Once you can recognise and laugh about it, then you can start taking action to use that urge and make it into something positive and fruitful.