I Forced Myself to Substantiate All My Social Media Choices for a Week


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Have you ever tried to force yourself to explain why you liked everything that you liked on social media?

I never would have thought to do such a thing — and probably would have (and frankly, have) abstained from “liking” anything on the mobile Internets to prove a point, but during our November content brainstorm, our director of business operations asked if anyone had ever made themselves substantiate all of their likes for a week. We were talking about consumption month, and how Instagram binging feeds into that (example: after spending hours/days/weeks completely extricating myself from the machine that is a photo-sharing platform, I will re-engage by effectively liking everything that I see. This is not the case with Facebook statuses, FYI.) I do this partially because people that I know are always commenting on how generous my husband is with his likes and I suppose I am more competitive than I like to think I am. But the other, rather simple reason is that I know how good it feels to see a familiar or recognizable face “like” one of my photos, so why not reciprocate? Particularly if it can, or literally will, change the course of someone’s day, you know?

Which, perhaps, is reason enough to continue liking with reckless abandon, but maybe one of the reasons I am experiencing social media and general content fatigue (sorry I keep whining! Complaining doesn’t work if you’re not going to put actionable solutions in place, which I am totally going to do once the catharsis wears off) is because I’m not putting enough BRAIN into it. I’m doing things and reaping exactly zero benefits from the activity. Scroll, scroll, scroll, like, scroll, scroll, like and it’s as if each of these motions were the same. Even though they’re not. So, after an interesting week — surprisingly punctuated by an election outcome that no one in this filter bubble saw coming — of forcing myself to substantiate with reasonable cause why I liked (or favorited) everything that I did across all my social media channels, here’s what I’ve deduced.

It’s split up into pre-election and post-election, because the experience changed profoundly following Wednesday’s upset.

Pre-election:

1. I am not as generous with my likes late at night, particularly because I don’t feel like thinking, or writing down reasons why I like something.

2. Sometimes I’d pass a picture, feel inclined to like it and then stop myself because when I asked, “what it is about this picture that you’re liking?,” I couldn’t come up with a good enough answer. This scared me a little because it made me feel like I’m forgetting how to explain myself; living up to the nightmares of most high school art teachers, who are constantly reminding their students that you can’t just “like” a piece of art. You have to explain what it does for you.

3. The exception to this rule was when I came across something that seemed so frivolous, like a brownie recipe video, which I was able to like because (here’s what I wrote) “It made me feel extremely satisfied in a way that I never thought a food recipe could. It made me feel excited; does it mean that I am evolving/growing up? Developing an interest across fields that I have previously never cared about?”

This case was not so for inspirational quotes, which historically, I hate, because they have more or less lost their power in the age of mind-numbing re-posting.

4. When I did like things, I got extremely internal, as evidenced by the note I wrote and chronicled in item three. This was annoying too.

5. I did not like a single thing on Facebook. Somehow I felt more anonymous in my Instagram tapping that I did on Facebook, where my name would live, spelled out so clearly, under a photo or a status or a comment. Was I embarrassed to be seen so actively engaging with the platform? This, of course, forced me to wonder where the embarrassment was coming from. What it was. Why it was.

Get back to me on this.

Post-election:

1. Everything I said about inspirational quotes prior to the upset, I totally took back early on Wednesday.

1a. “Liking” really can feel like a form of social media activism. Even if it does not get you anywhere and might consequentially trick you into thinking you’re putting change in place, there is very real value tethered to community effort; to making the opinions around you feel like they are less alone and subsequently to proving to yourself that you’re not alone, either.

2. It is incredible how quickly an eagerness to get involved in a conversation can shrink when you feel like the most vulnerable version of yourself. Between Wednesday afternoon and Friday, I think I only looked at Instagram twice. A lot of posts scared me and some of them enraged me (particularly among the very polarizing comments geared towards how people cope with news they don’t like), so I got off, drank hot chocolate and played board games. I mean metaphorically, but you know. This was weird and somewhat hypocritical given how I felt earlier on Wednesday (take action! Must. Do. Something. Now).

Sweeping deduction: I feel brain dead.

Looking for more ways to channel your energy post-election? Try any of these action points.

Photos by Krista Anna Lewis.

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