I was out with a friend the other night when she got a notification on her phone that made her squeal. When I asked her what it was that got her so excited, she replied, “He liked the Insta I just posted!” Now, I knew who the “he” was. He was the guy she’d been crushing on forever who we had just spent an entire bottle of wine discussing. And I knew which picture she was talking about. It was the artfully posed, skinny-arm, duck face one she had immediately uploaded, moments after we’d just taken it. What I didn’t know was why she was freaking out about a simple like. When I asked what the big deal was, she looked at me with a mix of pity and annoyance.
“It totally means something when he likes your stuff,” she explained. And then she began planning their marriage on her secret Pinterest board.
Okay, now, wait a minute. I admit that it probably means something when a guy scrolls so far back that he “accidentally” likes that picture of me and my dog from eighty-two weeks ago. I mean, the guy just looked through eighty-one weeks of misspelled Starbucks cups, slightly blurry snaps of girls’ nights out, and twenty photos of my rather large shoe and hand bag collection. I figure it’s safe to assume he at least wants to sleep with me.
But outside of that random circumstance, can’t a like just be a like? I have a friend who’s an extremely talented artist, and when he posts his work on Instagram, I like it because I’m a supportive friend and his stuff is awesome. But as adorable as he is, that doesn’t mean I want to date him. I have another friend who is a hilarious comedian and writer, but when I retweet his stuff, it’s because it’s funny and I think everyone should read it. Not because I want to fuck him.
The interesting thing is, as much as we love to create meaning in everything, we are also the first ones to get offended when other people do it in a way we don’t agree with. We get indignant when people get upset over cute t-shirts at Target or when fraternities hang welcome signs as jokes that are later classified as “rape culture.” But aren’t we just as guilty when we read into every like or retweet? Yes, it’s another extreme, but is it really all that different?
Not so much. The end game in both extremes is that we are assigning meaning to something in a way that suits our purposes. When people make a sign or t-shirt about more than being a sign or t-shirt, they are giving them meaning that might not actually be there. When we turn a simple favorite into a signal that he “like likes” us, we are giving ourselves hope for a relationship that might never exist.
So the bottom line is that we can’t have it both ways. We can’t go around placing meaning on likes and favorites in an effort to create intent behind a simple click and then get perturbed when others create mountains out of molehills. Annoying AF molehills, but still. So ladies, since we can only control ourselves, how about we all agree to stop feeling gleeful about an Insta like and instead get excited when he makes an overture that doesn’t involve a simple click of a button? We deserve that kind of an effort. And hey, if all else fails, at least he’s upping our likes to followers ratio. And at the end of it all, isn’t that the only thing that matters? JK. Sort of..