On December 31, I posted two photos on Instagram – a delectable shot of my half-chicken dinner and a super close-up of exploding blue fireworks. Each image received one “like” apiece.
I haven’t posted on Instagram since. And you know what, it’s made me a little bit happier as a result.
My account is still active and I do check the app a few times a day (usually while riding public transportation or before bed). I also have no problem liking other people’s posts. But I’m proud that I haven’t posted a single image since 2016 began.
Now, surely, there are people who view what I’m doing as the online equivalent of attending a party where every guest is drinking alcohol while I just sip water in the corner and watch. Well, in my defense, even when I did share pictures on Instagram, they didn’t garner too many likes, so it’s not like I’ve left a giant, unfiltered void.
Besides, I’m still dishing out likes, and at the end of the day, isn’t that all anybody really asks for?
You Might As Well Face It, You’re Addicted To Likes
Just to be clear, I’m not writing this to tell anyone how to live life – who am I, a Republican presidential candidate? There are plenty of people who happily use Instagram and don’t second-guess every move they make on the app. I’m not one of those lucky people. Instead, I just want to lay out some Instagram facts and experiences that helped me kick my craving for likes before it could become as bad as my addiction to caffeinated soft drinks.
Because social media addiction is no joke. I see it play out across my Facebook newsfeed on a regular basis (only someone who’s lost total control would post so many inane links, right?).
Instagram, which launched in 2010, has managed to build a community of 300 million users who share more than 60 million images daily, according to the app. That’s a lot of likes.
In 2014, Business Insider spoke to Nir Eyal, a lecturer at Stanford University and the author of “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products,” about Instagram’s addictive qualities. Capturing the moment, having the ability to make a mediocre photo better with a filter and receive feedback create a perfect, addictive storm in the palm of your hand.
“Over time, there’s successive cycles through the hook,” Eval said. “It’s not just about capturing the moment, Instagram is also a social network. So now the internal triggers become boredom, seeking connection, FOMO [or fear of missing out].”
But forget FOMO, in Thailand, Department of Mental Health officials fear for the future of their country. In 2014, Dr. Panpimol Wipulakorn, a government psychiatrist, warned that an insufficient amount of positive feedback on young Thais’ selfies could be detrimental to their development, according to the Bangkok Post.
“If they feel they don’t get enough Likes for their selfie as expected, they decide to post another, but still do not receive a good response,” said Wipulakorn, as quoted by the Post. “This could affect their thoughts. They can lose self-confidence and have a negative attitude toward themselves, such as feeling dissatisfied with themselves or their body.”
Pathetic, no? But come on, who hasn’t shared an image thinking it would be a hit, only to receive an underwhelming number of likes or, GASP, no likes at all? I’ll admit to deleting more than one post due to poor performance. But yes, it’s very pathetic.
Keeping Up With The Kardashians’ Selfies
I blame the Kardashian clan and other social media-friendly celebrities for much of the tech-addiction problems we face. Go to Kim Kardashian-West’s Instagram page and you’ll find an assortment of selfies. Kim and Kendall, Kim and Kourtney, Kim and Hillary Clinton, Kim pouting, Kim pouting with cleavage – actually, most of them are just Kim pouting with cleavage.
But OMG, Kim, how shallow are you? Yes, I realize I’m not breaking new ground by accusing a Kardashian of being shallow, but why do we put up with this as a society? Why does she have more than 59 million followers? You’d think being married to the greatest artist of all time would inspire her to post something worthwhile every now and then.
Imagine if I just posted pictures of myself pouting every other day. I feel like more than a few people would ask me if I’ve lost my mind. The rest would just cut ties with me. Actually, this could be a fun experiment – someone try this and let me know what happens.
What The Heck Am I Doing?
I think if we all took a few seconds to think about what we were posting online and why, the Internet would be a little less like the Great Pacific garbage patch.
As the title of this article suggests, I could have become an Instagram addict. I’ve been at a restaurant with people and felt the sudden urge to pull out my camera and snap a picture of my meal. Why? Am I a food critic? Do I plan to share my meal with my network? Or is it just about me showing people I’m at a restaurant about to dig into a cool meal?
Let’s go back to my epic New Year’s Eve half-chicken dinner photo and examine how it came to be. First, instead of eating my meal like a normal human being, I needed to pull out my smartphone in front of my dining companions – a move that’s universally considered rude. Next, I needed to make sure the dish looked presentable enough to land on the cover of an Ina Garten cookbook. Once the picture was on my device, it was time to find the right filter that would make people wish they were about to share this meal with me. Finally, it was time to post.
In the time it took me to do all that, I’d missed out on a significant chunk of conversation and my food had gotten cold.
Waitress: And how is your chicken, sir?
Chris: I actually haven’t had a chance to try it yet, but I took a sick ‘gram of it. Here, take a look…
Waitress: Wow, did you use Juno?
Chris: I did, doesn’t it look good?
Waitress: It looks amazing; I need to like it, what’s your handle?
That didn’t actually happen. What happened was I looked like an idiot taking a picture of my food instead of just eating it. Really, it’s quite sobering to think about how we must look to others when we take selfies in public. Or, just observe what others are doing with their phones. These days, you really don’t have to go far to see someone taking an Internet-bound photo.
For example, someone in my Facebook network recently posted a picture she took of a stranger taking a selfie in an airport bathroom, with the comment, “Taking selfies in an airport bathroom?” No. Just no. You can’t have the high ground on this one and mock this stranger because you’re doing something as bad, if not worse! She might look silly but you’re just being creepy.
Does anyone remember when we used disposable cameras with a limited number of pictures? We had to make those pictures count. There was no time for selfies, or photos of that weird guy on the subway.
I’m not seeking superiority or bragging rights. While I have issues with Facebook and Twitter, I still use them and will promote this article on them, because that’s just part of playing the game. I’m just cutting out the Instagram use because I genuinely believe it makes me a healthier human being.
By abstaining from Instagram posting, I’m actively trying to avoid living life like an addict who walks down the street and thinks in terms of likes. In my opinion, it’s really not healthy to think, “I need to Instagram that graffiti,” or attend a party and say, “Let’s take a selfie for Instagram.” Because I know behind each picture I post, there’s a desire for validation, or to show off or create “buzz,” even if I’m not aware of it. When I remove the sharing and likes from the equation, I end up taking pictures for myself. And if I choose to share it with friends, I’ll simply send it via a message or, better yet, show them in person.
Because FOMO – fear of missing out…on real life.
Honestly, with the way we’re going as a society, the possibility of a Planet of the Apes-like scenario becomes more realistic every day. All we need are a few nuclear wars and the apes, who aren’t preoccupied with taking selfies, will rise up over humans who have been rendered mute in the presence of smartphones.