Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have come to fill much bigger roles than methods of procrastination. Want to capture a cool moment from spring break and share it with friends? Instagram it. Do you have a strong opinion about a current issue? Tweet it. Did you go on a rewarding service trip over the summer? Capture a unique moment and make it your new Facebook profile picture. These are all ways in which our generation shares our thoughts, ideas, pictures and experiences. But since when did sharing life moments become less about self-expression and more about the number of likes you get?
I am not trying to condemn the use of these apps or the people who use them; I use all three. But before you post something on your profile, just think: does this mean so much to me that I want to share it with friends and family? Or am I just posting this because it is 4 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon and I really want to break 300 likes?
It is easy to post a fun picture from a night out just because you love it and one of your best friends is in it. But lately, Instagram has become an outlet for attention and personal gratification. Yes, the whole point of the app is not only to share your pictures but also to edit them with filters and designs. But when does a filter that makes you look tan, turn into an editing app that makes you look skinnier? People want to appear a certain way, or make their lives look a certain way, to accumulate likes. Where do we draw the line?
What draws our need for and attention to likes on Facebook and Instagram? Why does it matter how many followers we have on Instagram and Twitter? If we are using social media to connect with friends (and maybe family), why do we care if tons of other random people are following us? I don’t mean to sound like a cynic, but I seriously doubt that one person has 2,000 friends they know on a personal level. On a person’s profile, we have started to equate likes and followers with an elevated social status.
There are even unspoken rules of Instagram and Facebook, like when and when not to post in order to get the maximum amount of likes. We do not want to appear insignificant. In turn, number of likes equates to the number of friends and people impressed by your picture, which equals public recognition that you have an interesting, active social life. But what would happen if we were not caught up in this game of social currency?
If no one cared how many likes they had, no one would feel as pressured to follow the unspoken editing and posting rules. I believe this would bring us a step forward to a society that focuses less on a flashy public image and more on things that actually matter, like valuing people for who they are, not what filter they used.
I will admit, getting a certain amount of likes on an Instagram or a profile picture may boost confidence momentarily. However, this feeling dwindles and before we know it, we are looking for the next perfect picture.