For the Love of Likes

Recently I listened to a talk by Rebekah Lyons on “How to Build a Resilient Life.” When discussing Gen. Z, she said, “Their whole life has been on a screen. Social media ubiquity means they’re everywhere, connecting with everyone, talking to everyone, but not really being known by anyone. So there’s this pairing of isolation and the ability to compare and compete and all the sudden there’s a less-ness.”

Bingo. This is the root of the problem with social media. It’s why a local county is suing major social media corporations. It’s why other news outlets have been reporting on the detrimental effects that social media has on mental health. Social media, in one word, ends up leaving us with less.

Each time I see someone post on social media, instead of thinking about the subject of their post I feel a sense of disappointment. I wonder, “Was it really worth taking yourself out of that moment to post this?” and “Are you truly, 100% present if in that moment you are dreaming about the attention you might get on social media?”

Close your eyes and envision the world without social media.

Instead of sharing life’s biggest updates with strangers, you’d share them with your closest friends and family. Things would begin to feel more personal again and more special, because you wouldn’t be the 100th person that year that you’ve seen get a job, have a baby, buy a house, or bake a tremendous cake. You’d be one of the few people to achieve this in your circle, and everyone would be even more eager to celebrate it with you, rather than fatigued by one more “big” announcement.

Speaking of cake, you’d become more appreciative of the lumpy cake your mom made you for your birthday. It isn’t pretty enough to be on Pinterest and not ugly enough to gain laughs on Facebook. Why couldn’t she just get it right? No. You’d live in the moment, truly tasting the chocolate frosting as it slid over your tongue. You would no longer be distracted by thoughts on when you’d be able to post pictures of the cake or how many likes you’d get. You’d just be happy your mom took the time to bake it for you.

Time… For all the hours you spend scrolling on social media, thinking about it, developing content, being annoyed by what someone posts, or praying for just one more “like,” you could go out and do something. Make the cake. Travel. Go to a quaint cafe. Plant a garden. Do something genuinely relaxing or rewarding. Do anything but allow your life to pass you by while others curate theirs to suit your tastes.

Imagine how much more creative people would be if they weren’t constantly trying to appease an algorithm that dictates what they should or should not think about, speak about, or share.

Imagine how much happier we’d be if we had fewer means of comparing ourselves to the impossibly beautiful woman who used three plastic surgeries, seventeen makeup products, and a filter to look the way she does. Or if you could remain satisfied with the staycation that you loved, even though it seemed like everyone else went abroad last summer.

Imagine feeling fulfilled just by doing things without needing the validation of a “like,” which is often a very passive and empty gesture. Compare the meaninglessness of a “like” to learning to love ourselves and our life as it is–never mind what others think about it (and actually, they usually don’t think much about it).

Without social media, imagine how much less stressed you’d be when you found out one bit of bad news that week instead of twelve bits all in one day.

Imagine how much funnier that joke would be, because you hadn’t heard it dozens of times already since it’s trending.

Now open your eyes and ask yourself…would you:

-Feel comfortable doing something life-changing without posting about it on social media? (Think: vacations, having a baby, getting a car, and eating the best meal of your life.)

-Be able to go a week (or even a month!) without feeling a sense of uneasiness from not checking or updating social media?

-Still enjoy posting to your account even if you got 0 likes?

-Have healthy and fulfilling relationships with others in real life without relying on their likes or comments to feel seen/heard.

-Be embarrassed to share the same type of content or quantity of it with strangers or your followers in person?

-Be able to cope if your accounts got hacked, and you lost access?

-Live differently without social media? (Maybe spend your money differently, wait longer to get a house, paint your wall an unpopular color, travel somewhere you want to go that isn’t necessarily the most attractive, buy a minivan instead of a VW bus, spend more time truly present with your friends and family…)

Social media has its benefits, but for the most part, it gets tiring seeing people do things for the love of likes. I crave more simplicity and authenticity. I crave less mental clutter, less comparison, and less content. By offering so much more, social media leaves me feeling like I have so much less. Life simply felt richer and more meaningful before it was measured against influencers.

As you may know, I have an Instagram account Humble_Hollow, but to be honest, I often wish I didn’t. I love when I’m able to bring joy to my followers and spread the message of simple, happy living. I also enjoy the creative energy that comes with making reels. But, it does mean taking time to remove myself from the present moment, which is something I really loathe.

If you are like me, then how do you keep your social media habits rooted? Do you cut social media out altogether, or have you found ways to have a truly healthy, non-addictive relationship with it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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