The Instagram ‘Like’ and why we are all addicted to it

October 8, 2017

I feel like Insta is everywhere at the moment and not in a good way. I can barely scroll through my twitter feed for two minutes without seeing tweets about all the problems it has, from the algorithm not showing us our best pals awesome holidays to being locked out of accounts, to the dreaded follow/unfollow and the slow decline of our numbers. Hey, I’ve written a fair share of those tweets myself too.

But here’s the crux of it, no matter how shit Insta can be, we are still here talking about it and using the app, cause well… we are all basically addicted to it.

Like proper addicted. To the scrolling and seeing the highlights of peoples lives. To the opening of the app and the (hopefully) warm fuzzy feeling of seeing likes, follows and comments pop up. And well, this is the crux of the problem – the humble ‘like’. If you’re anything like me than this is your basic Instagram routine…

1 Spends far too long finding the best pic for Insta – if this is one of me then it can be 50 snaps until one meets the ideal.

2 Again, spends ages writing a witty caption, picking out the ideal hashtags and making sure it’s an ideal ‘time to post’.

3 Spends about 3 seconds actually posting said image. Closes the app.

4 Checks app 10 minutes later to see if the likes are at a reasonable rate.

5 Get disappointed that everyone hates my photo and the algorithm is personally targetting me.

6 Checks like 20 mins later to see if anythings changed.

7 Repeat. Throughout the day.

8 Conclude photo was crap and start again.

See that happens like 80% of the time. Buuuut, the other 20%, well the steps 4-8 look different. Suddenly, all the likes come in. I’m at 100 likes after an hour and they keep pouring in. Obv I’ve done something right – but what?! I thought the photo was a bit ave but clearly not! I must now keep going to his these heights again! I know some people who buy likes on Instagram but I haven’t tried that yet.

And repeat again… now that sure sounds like a wee bit of an addiction to me. I’m spinning the roulette wheel and after a couple of wins, I can’t stop spinning.

But why? I’ve been reading a lot about this and it’s interesting. We are all social creatures, we crave others to like us as our prehistoric brains know that this helps survival and that we need to be linked to others in order to survive. But, do you think that if these social networks didn’t have that social feedback, whether they would be 1/1000th as successful? Well they really wouldn’t be! We all crave to have our content liked and social networks give this back to us.

And that’s why we complain about Insta (and other socials for that matter), why their algorithm hurts our little blogger souls, it’s taking our audience away! All those people who have clicked follow, well you don’t get them anymore. Oh and hey, actually, your photos won’t be seen anymore so you won’t get any more likes and that feels like we are *failing*, like people don’t like us anymore. The loss of those likes slowly erodes our self worth. But don’t worry, the addition is still there, so we will try it again and the addiction continues.

And lets face it, most social networks are now huuuge corporations. And well, if you’re addicted to the app then that means more profit in their pockets. So it’s in their favour if they figure out ways to make it more addictive. Likes aren’t hidden away, you see the notification as soon as you open the app. The number of followers is shown in huge numbers right at the top of your profile so you’re always comparing your numbers with other peoples numbers. They are winning the addiction battle.

Not only this, but we now live in the culture of the ‘goal’. We love goals, hey, I love goals. It feels like we are working towards something, like we have some purpose in life, and social media goals are no joke.

We are all striving for the next number – I’ve been wanting to hit 3K for mooooonths. But in reality, will I be happy when I hit 3K? Maybe for a minute but soon, 4K will be in my sights, and so on the cycle continues. And really, there is no upper limit – you have 10K you want 20K, you have 100K and you want 200K. Our human brains will always crave more, the more social interaction and adoration, the more our happy hormones fire and the more we seek the next hit and the next goal.

So after that rant, is there a solution?

Well, let me tell you, in regards to the Insta algorithm, with 600 million active users, they would need a heeeeap of users to actually stop using the app before they are going to be doing any such change. So that isn’t the solution we need.

To be honest, I don’t even know if there even is a solution. We will always want this and even though there has been some cool add ins created which remove ‘likes’ from facebook, I don’t see that happening for an app anytime soon.

I think the first step is to realise your ‘behaviour’ as sad as that sounds. Once I realised the outcome I was seeking, it really helped to start to detach from it. I think that for those people who don’t live online, it’s possibly easier – just use the app less. But for those of us which are any form of ‘influencers’ trying to build a following and a business, that just isn’t an option.

So I’m just going to leave you with some questions – do you think you’re addicted to Instagram, social media and ‘goal culture’? If you are, do you even think that is a bad thing? Or is that just the way the world is going as we become increasingly reliant on the internet. Or if you do think it is a bad thing, how do you think we try and fix it?

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