This past weekend, I was at a dingy college town bar, enjoying a few particularly bitter gin and tonics with a few of my fellow old-as-shit friends. As the night progressed, we started to notice the younger slew of girls that had somehow managed to charm their way past the bouncer with shitty fakes. These girls, who were pretty, thin, and at the absolute prime of their lives, spent the entire duration of their night posing for pictures and staring at their phones like virtually-charged zombies.
I turned to my friend and asked what the fuck was happening. I’m not going to pretend that I don’t check my phone from time to time, send a tweet when I witness something funny, or snap a pic with my roommates when the night gets slow. But to spend hours of perfectly good bar time staring at a screen seems like a ridiculous waste of life, and I honestly couldn’t understand what was happening.
My friend had the perfect answer. She told me that the younger half of our generation, who grew up with ten times the technological access that we do, rely on social media to get what all twenty somethings are constantly trying to find: self-validation. These girls, who grew up with iPhones the way we grew up with minimally capable flip phones, need their self-worth to be verified through the amount of likes they get on pictures. Instagram is now a hobby. Getting likes is every girl’s obsessive goal. And honestly, it’s really, really sad.
I started to wonder how this happened. How did young, beautiful, people resort to living for their phones instead of the moment? Then it dawned on me: Likes. People are throwing their attention out the window and clawing at the chance to be the one with the most likes on pictures, simply because it makes them feel, well, liked.
How did it get to be this way? How did we reach this shift in what’s important, and start stressing about that little number next to the tiny heart?
The answer is simple: we no longer bother to like photos based on how cool the actual picture is, but rather, how much we like that person and how much we want them to like our own pictures in return. We stress the importance of likes, while simultaneously ignoring the original purpose behind the idea. The number of double taps is now ridiculously high, and everyone wants to be in triple digits because it makes them feel popular. Which, if you ask me, is the dumbest concept since Tinder. Maybe I’m behind the times here, but isn’t the point of the like button for it to be utilized when you genuinely think a picture is cool? It’s called the “like” button. Not the “press this so your friend will like your equally average photo in return” button.
But that’s how it works now. You scroll past your friend’s photo and toss it a like, not because it made you pause at how cool it was, but because you hope that she’ll return the favor and like your next ‘gram. This could be seen as merely being supportive of our friends and their endeavors. But isn’t it also a little bit dangerous? Why is it that one girl’s fifth consecutive selfie gets 200 likes? Do 200 people genuinely think that picture is important? Because that doesn’t seem realistic, and that girl is now left thinking her shit doesn’t stink.
Girls today are walking around with a false sense of confidence, and we have to face the fact that it’s because of this generation’s overexposure to social media and a dire need to seek virtual approval from others. We no longer feel fulfilled by the friends surround us or how much fun we have, but rather the amount of likes we get on Instagram photos that don’t matter. We don’t spend time immersing ourselves in hobbies or activities, unless we suspect there will be a photo op involved. When we look back on parties and events, we don’t think about how much fun we had in that moment. We think about what pictures we got out of it, and how cute they made us look not only to our selves, but also our hundreds of followers. It’s to the point where people are revered solely for their success on social media. As if it’s even worth a damn.
We need to take a step back and ask ourselves: does any of it even matter? Do we actually care that much what people think about us, especially online? Social media is merely a tool, a tool that how now been ruined by our selfish quest for social acceptance. At the end of the day, when your phone is abandoned on your nightstand and you have nothing to browse but your own mind, you need to accept yourself based on who you are as a human being, and not an account. The friends you hold, the family that loves you, and the education you’re working to obtain are just a few things that you need to revere more than the number of people who double tapped a photo of you from the weekend. You’re worth so much more than the number of likes you average, and to obsess over the perfect shot is a waste of life..