Confession: I’m Kind of Obsessed With Instagram Likes

Shortly after getting back together with my then-ex-boyfriend, I realized it was time for us to have “the talk.” I sat him down, put my hand on his knee, looked deeply into his eyes and said, “You know, you really need to start liking my Instagrams.”

He protested that he did, in fact, like my Instagrams. I clarified that he liked some of them and kindly requested that he commence liking all of them, effective immediately. I felt this courtesy was the least I deserved as a person he claimed to cherish more than most other persons. Shouldn’t he cherish my social media presence, in its entirety, as well?

Obviously this conversation has been (kind of…) dramatized, and I don’t actually care (that much…) about Instagram likes, but the value and meaning of a like is something I probably think about more than most, because part of my job entails managing Man Repeller’s Instagram account. I would be lying if I said I didn’t do a mental cartwheel every time a photo receives a notable deluge of them, like this Chanel sports bra:

My personal Instagram liking philosophy has changed as a result. I’ve always subscribed to the idea that you should like all your close friends and loved ones’ Instagrams as an act of loyalty, even if you don’t particularly care about the photo, because you care about the person posting it! Hence my conversation with my boyfriend. Now, though, I’m even more generous with my likes. I frequently like Instagrams posted by brand accounts, or those of people I don’t know personally but admire, because I appreciate when people do so on Man Repeller’s.

It feels a little silly to admit I’ve devoted so much thought to it — after all, it’s just a finger tap — but you can’t deny the fact that likes have become a sort of currency for connection. Superficial as they may seem, they can also be a powerful gesture — a way of showing support, of engendering community, of expressing a positive opinion.

I don’t know, am I overanalyzing? I asked some friends about their personal Instagram liking philosophies to see how mine compared. One of them said, “I mainly like Instagram photos if I like the person. No likes for annoying people! If the photo is really good I’ll make an exception.” Another said, “I usually only like things posted by people I know. And the Rangers and Man Repeller.” [Ed note: lol]

When I asked Haley, she said, “I’m so inconsistent with my liking — not for any sneaky political reasons. I often just forget! I enjoy most photos in my feed, but depending on my mood, I’ll either double-tap everything, or double-tap nothing. I’m all for being generous with likes though, when I remember. Stinginess with likes seems very high school to me. There are no stakes. There is no like limit. You do not have to choose wisely!”

Curious about the perspective of other people who work in media, social or otherwise, I emailed Glossier’s Social Media Editor, Eva Alt, to tell her I was writing about it, and she sent me this:

I laughed out loud.

It perfectly encapsulates the simultaneous realness and absurdity of parsing out the different philosophies behind Instagram liking, or the fact that philosophies behind Instagram liking even exist in the first place, but here we are! And here I am, writing 500+ words on the subject.

What’s your Instagram liking philosophy? Do you even have one?

Harling Ross

Harling is a writer and was most recently the Brand Director at Man Repeller.

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