What Makes You Think You Deserve Likes?

Every single day, I see somebody asking for likes on social media. And every day, I find a new Internet superstar.

lucky blue smith

Yesterday, it was model Lucky Blue Smith, who boasts 1.3 million Instagram followers, a verified checkmark next to his name, and a portfolio with clients like Calvin Klein and Tom Ford. Today, I stumbled upon Sophia Miacova, whose Instagram account only tells me that she’s a vegetarian going vegan – oh, and that she has 1.1 million followers. It seems that these days, you’re nobody if you’ve got under 100k followers somewhere.

sophiamiacova

Now, I am by no means web-celeb-illiterate. Unlike the writer of this controversial article on E!, I know who the major social media stars of today are, including many YouTubers and Viners. And, moreover, I have no problem with people who are famous for little more than 6-second videos or posting artistic selfies.

But I do have a problem with the way these people promote themselves. Sometimes, this promotion is cross-platform (i.e. a social media personality will post a link to their new YouTube video on Tumblr, telling their Tumblr fans to “comment that Tumblr sent you.”)

comment insta sent you

Other times, this is done within a video or description in what is termed a “call to action.” In this case, the social influencer will put what seems like a challenge to their audience: “let’s get this video to 50,000 likes” or “I will DM you if you re-tweet in the next ten minutes.”

get this to 5000 likes

get this to 50000 likes

200,000 likes

In both of these cases, the appeal for the fans is the same. By following a particular web-celeb, fans get a certain amount of satisfaction from grouping together in support of that celeb. So by making it seem like he’s a “family” or “squad” with his fans, that celebrity justifies blatantly asking for likes. The fans are eager to please, trying to hit certain numbers of views and likes because… well… that makes them loyal fans. But the real reason the celeb asks for likes is because of certain social media algorithms: the more likes/retweets/engagement he has, the more he gets viewed on the feeds of people who have yet to discover him. Facebook calls this “like-baiting” and has been actively trying to combat it for over a year. But other social networks haven’t followed suit.

Think of the last time somebody who is truly powerful and beloved asked for likes. Beyonce has tweeted a total of 8 times since 2009. None of those tweets contained the phrases “go like my new video” or “will follow for a retweet”. Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, and Jennifer Lawrence don’t have Twitter accounts. Neither do last year’s Nobel Prize-Winning chemists. And Malala Yousafazai has zero tweets, her mini-bio instead re-directing people to her foundation for equal rights in education.

There are also people who actively oppose social media, such as singer Stromae (whose song “Carmen” is all about the puffed-up greed of like-baiters on Twitter) and Sia (who doesn’t have an Instagram and always hides her face from the public because she prefers people remember her for her music, not her looks).

Then there are important politicians who are more liberal with their social media, like Al Gore (who shares a lot of articles on Climate Change) and Bernie Sanders (who, despite his current presidential campaign still shares his thoughts on politics instead of just asking for retweets).

Bernie Sanders

All of these people don’t need to increase their online follower counts. They’re too busy changing the world to care about how many likes they get on social media.

So what about you? Who do you want to become in the world? Do you want to live a self- important, egotistic life in which the validation of strangers gives you more worth than your own accomplishments? Or do you want to actually do good work and get recognized for it organically – because people actually appreciate your skills?

If I’m being honest, this has always been a personal struggle for me – particularly with this blog. On the one hand, I feel like the knowledge and advice I give in this column is well-researched and relevant. I think it would do a lot of people good to read New Media Mondays now and then. On the other hand, I almost never actively promote my own articles. I always feel wrong doing so, whether I’m linking on Facebook or Twitter. I never think that the few people who do follow me will ever share or comment. However, I continue writing these blogs. Because I know that I’m doing good by writing them. And the fact that you’ve actually read this post to the end, I’ve decided, is good enough for me.