Give me all your likes

Last week, I decided to purge my Facebook of all the people I didn’t really know that well or care that much about.

I unfriended anyone that posted memes about complex political situations. I also removed anyone that I hadn’t talked to since middle school and everyone that I forgot existed. You know the friends, where you see their stuff and you ask yourself, “Wait, who are you again?” If you’re lucky, you remember who they are after only a few guesses, but I digress.

So after I unfriended 143 people, I was finally able to say without any doubt that everyone on my friends list was actually my friend.

Not to mention, I am also a social media snob. I’m one of those people who looks down his nose at anyone who needs thousands of Facebook “friends” to pay attention to them.

“That life’s not for me,” I used to tell myself. “All I need is a few hundred friends who really ‘get’ me.”

I was such a naive young fool.

likes sailing away without glasses
Illustration by Jessica Mehrlich

Back before I separated the wheat from the chaff on my list, I could post anything I wanted and have plenty of likes to share. I was drowning in likes on stupid posts that did not mean anything.

For example, three weeks before my purge, I posted the following:

“I’ve been inspired by all of these ‘Letter to Myself in Middle School’ posts I keep seeing, so I’m going to write a letter to myself twenty minutes ago.

‘Dear Michael, don’t eat that bagel. It’s a lot more stale than you think it is.’”

Within an hour I had 27 likes.

Likes from high school teachers, distant cousins, former roommates and even my dad’s ex-girlfriend.

Now at this point, there were two Michaels. One, buried deeply in my subconscious, was patting me on the back.

“Man! Look at that! I am so popular and funny! People love me!”

The second Michael shoved that other Michael down, saying “Shut up! You don’t need their likes to make you feel validated.”

But as it turns out, that subconscious Michael was right.

After the purge, I decided to post something important. I crowdsourced a question to my friends to get some opinions on things going on around the state.

I got one like. One measly like! It was more heartbreaking than I want to admit.

The way it’s been explained to me is that it all has something to do with the algorithm. Algorithms are pretty far over my head, but I can safely say from what  I have gathered during this like drought, my poor little profile has gone forgotten by the masses.

This has been a pretty important learning experience for me. I have realized how dependent I’ve become on the attention I get from social media.

I can tell myself that friendship is so much more than how many people like your status, but the truth is I’ve become so dependent on the attention. It’s become a way for me to assure myself that people are paying attention to me and the things I do.

Apparently, I’m not alone. In fact, there’s even a WikiHow page explaining how to get more likes on your statuses. It also has pictures, for some added pizzazz.

In addition to being a snob, I’ve also always been the type of person to dismiss criticism of social media and how it makes us more isolated, but I’m starting to think there might be something to it.