A friend of mine sat on a couch with me the other night watching television. I sat there and watched an NBA Playoff game while she blocked everything out and scrolled her Instagram feed. We shared a comfortable silence as I observed what she was doing–rolling her eyes every few minutes and occasionally scoffing at something she had seen on her phone’s screen.
Instagram is what I like to call “the land of the hate-follow.” We all have people in our feeds that post too much. They put their snap story on their Instagram story. They post five or six times a week. All of their pictures are with their significant other. You get the idea.
We put up with people like this on our Instagram feed because we feel like we have to. You might not even know a person all that well that is constantly annoying you on Instagram, but a few months or one year ago they hit you with a follow so you followed back. It’s just common courtesy, right? Wrong. So, so, very wrong.
This all hit me in a wave as I was sitting there with my friend: we don’t have to put up with this shit. Why can’t we just unfollow people that we don’t really care for? Why are we liking pictures of things that we don’t actually like?
My friend looked up from her phone when I said this, giving me a look like, “You’re not being serious right now, are you?”
She had been sitting on that couch for twenty minutes scrolling through her feed and she had just gotten done lamenting the fact that one her friends who is in a very serious relationship posts “like, the most annoying MCMs every. single. week.”
I said something along the lines of, “Well, you don’t have to like those pictures. You know that, right?”
“Of course, I know that. But I have to like them. It’s the rules.”
Yes, sadly Instagram etiquette is really a thing. Will has touched on it in his piece about getting Instagram followers, and I’ve written several pieces on what I think of the app before.
But Instagram etiquette has got to be the saddest thing we’ve encountered to date. No longer are people double tapping pictures because they like them. People are double tapping so that the next time they post they’re almost guaranteed a “return like” from the other person.
In this “what have you done for me lately” society, the expectation that we like each others photos to simply drive up likes fits perfectly.
People aren’t liking photos anymore because of the content in them. They are liking the photos that they like because they’re expected to. And guess what? If Bridget doesn’t like Megan’s photo of her at the Chicago Bean from last Saturday, Megan isn’t going to like Bridget’s photo of her having lunch at French Laundry in two weeks time. It’s pathetic.
And yet we feel like we have to do it out of some imaginary obligation to a person that we might not even know all that well.
Personally, I’m a pretty selective liker. If it’s a hot girl that I want to have sex with, obviously I’m going to double tap. If it’s a cool shot from a National Geographic photographer, I’ll hit the like button. But I’m not going to like everyone’s photos all of the time, even my best friends.
I post shitty pictures on Instagram a lot. I don’t text my buddies after a shot goes up and say “Hey, make sure you like my picture on IG when you have a minute.”
If one of my friends posts a picture and I stumble upon it and think “meh” then I’m not going to like it. It’s that simple. I don’t “like” pictures if I don’t actually like them. That’s what Instagram used to be about. You double tapped for shit that you liked. Now there’s an expectation.
There’s pressure from an imaginary source that says “Hey! You better like that picture so they’ll do the same for you next time you post.” I’m sure a lot of you are reading this thinking that I’m fucking crazy. That this is all in my head. But I assure you it is not. This is a very real thing and it’s making all of us insane people. Take a stand.
You know how in the art world they say that you shouldn’t buy a painting unless you can stand to walk past it every day? Well, you shouldn’t like an Instagram picture that you can’t stand just because you’re nervous of societal repercussions. Don’t be a “like” whore. Double tap what you want to double tap and don’t worry about “return likes.”
We need to get back to grassroots Instagram. The Instagram of old. The Instagram that wasn’t about boomerangs, stories, hitting triple digits, and following some crazy, arbitrary rulebook that isn’t even real. It’s gotten completely out of hand..
Image via Unsplash