by Gregory Henn
The other night, sitting alone in my room, I experienced one of the darkest moments of my life. It came without warning, and caught me completely off-guard. You see, I had just posted a photo to Instagram; no big deal right? Well, one minute turned into five. Five into ten, and eventually ten into thirty. Normally, there wouldn’t be a problem with the passing of time, but accompanying this was something worse; an unusual silence from my phone. I kept refreshing the app to make sure the network wasn’t experiencing issues. It wasn’t. It was then that the ugly truth hit me square in the face…no one was going to like my photo.
Now, you’re probably thinking I’m being over dramatic here, and I know I am. The photo eventually got its first like almost an hour after its initial posting, and all seemed right in the world. So…great. Problem solved right? Wrong. I was still very bothered.
Be honest with yourself. Don’t you notice when things you post don’t get “liked” right away, or only by a few people? Doesn’t it confuse you why some posts get a lot of attention and others seem to pass by under the radar? Doesn’t it just make your skin crawl that kids in junior high receive hundreds of likes from their friends, and yours won’t even give you the time of day? (Sorry, that was a bit of a rant…now back on topic!)
As I sat there in utter confusion at the poor performance of my picture, a lot or questions went through my mind. Should I delete it? Should I try and post it again later when I assume more people are going to be active on Instagram? Should I give it a punchier caption or maybe even a hashtag or two to draw in more likers? Why aren’t people liking this? And more importantly, why don’t people like me? After asking myself that last question, I froze. Something had just clicked in my brain, and I knew I had to sort through it.
By assuming from my low numbers that no one liked me, I did something very dangerous. I instantly linked my identity to my social media status. I was no longer myself. I had become someone people didn’t think very highly of. In that moment, I believed a lie. A lie that said my sense of value and worth was directly proportionate to the amount of “likes” I received. And since I received so few, naturally I was a loser and not worth much in the eyes of my so-called “friends”. It really hurt.
I’ll be honest. I’m not the most popular guy on social media. If I’m lucky, I’ll average, around 20 “likes” on my Instagram photos. On the flipside, I follow people who easily get an average of 500-1,000 “likes” on everything they post no matter what it is. Are they better at photography than me? Not necessarily. Do their high numbers make them better people than me? Certainly not. But at times it’s hard to not feel like it does. If only I was cooler, I’d have more followers. If only I was better at photography, my pictures would get more likes. If only I was more important in the eyes of the world, my life would be a lot better. We can laugh at the triviality of such thoughts, but I believe that they are the predominate feelings going on in a lot of young people’s minds when it comes to social media. What a lie this is.
Maybe this reminder was only for me, but I would wager a guess that other people get this feeling too. Maybe its low reader numbers on your blog. Maybe it’s a lack of traction when you post about certain topics. Whatever it is though, the Internet is affecting all of us in extremely different ways and sometimes these can be very negative. I have heard that people even choose to take social media “breaks” because things can get so overwhelming. To be completely fair though, social media isn’t the enemy. Much like money, social media is only bad when it becomes our obsession and feeds into our sense of being. I think its time for a perspective shift.
You are not a number of likes. You are a cherished, valued member of society with a voice and something to say.
By all means keep posting, but don’t lose heart when you receive less attention than you think you deserve. The next time you find yourself with a social media “dud” on your hands, stop and remind yourself of who you really are and how infinitely valuable you are in this world. No amount of “thumbs ups” can change that.