TFW You Fall Out of Love With “Like”

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People mean something specific when they complain about the internet — they’re sick of the social media overwhelm, of refreshing feeds in the toilet or stealthily under dinner tables. This year, there’s even more to be sick of: fake news, ugly arguments in the comments, the incoming president’s bizarre, misspelled, inflammatory Twitter feed.

Peak social media has effectively staged a coup on my preferred means of self-expression. When I was younger I had private journals online, anonymous friends to chat about music with, and multiple different screen names (remember those?). Beyond longing for a simpler time, though, it’s that I don’t remember ever having been a person who prized arbitrary “sharing,” in the social sense, to the extent that I do now.

Recently I noticed it took great effort not to post a joke I thought of in the shower on Twitter. I should Tweet this, I thought, and then wondered why I felt the need to share it at all. If a Tweet falls in the shower and no one is around to RT, was it really that good a thought? What a strange way to live, constantly commodifying one’s own inner world.


I accidentally liked a six-week-old photo on Instagram. What do I do?

Illustration for social media column

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One of the most luxurious guilty pleasures made possible by social media is methodically working your way through a new acquaintance’s profile, noting years of bad haircuts, weight gain and loss, and changes in job, partner and political views.

…Everybody lurks. Only the blithe let on.

Discussing social media in person is gauche at the best of times – my rule of thumb is to never make explicit reference to any post more than 24 hours old and, when possible, to act as though I’ve been made aware of a recent holiday or break-up via clairvoyance or extreme empathy.

But it is all too easy to betray your presence on your target’s profile by accidentally liking a post, thus prompting a notification exposing you as a creep.

If you have over 25 photos on Instagram, you’re no longer cool


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A recent Washington Post article chronicled the way one teen uses social media and revealed the importance of Instagram in the life of social teens today. One of the most interesting moments in the article was learning that teens are now curating their Instagrams and deleting photos that don’t get enough likes. The teen profiled in the Washington Post article had 604 followers and only 25 posts on her account.

…Dan’s been sharing pictures on the photo-sharing app since he was 13 years old, and says he posts roughly two to three times per week. Yet if you look at his account, he only has 15 posts.

“I’ve deleted some,” he tells Tech Insider. “Usually if someone has over 500 followers and posts a picture, they expect it to bring in at least 60 likes, anything less usually means the picture will be deleted.”

…Mastering the art of Instagram sounds a lot like fishing: The photo is bait and the engaged followers are the fish. If one type of bait isn’t working, you toss it and try another.

For Teenagers, the Pleasure of ‘Likes’

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…New research shows that likes appear to be somewhat intoxicating to teenagers. The same reward center in the brain that is involved in the sensation of pleasure and activated by thoughts of sex, money or ice cream also is turned on when teenagers see their photos getting a lot of likes on social media.

…Teenagers were more likely to give a like to an image that had already gotten dozens of likes, even if it was a fairly banal picture of a plate of food or a pair of sunglasses. They were less apt to like the same kind of image if it had gotten few likes.

…“Conformity is part of adolescence, and some of it is normal,” said Ms. Sherman, who prefers the term “peer influence” to “peer pressure.” “It’s how teenagers learn the rules of how to communicate and how to develop relationships.”

…The likes are “potentially serving as a social cue, orienting them to what is cool or socially appropriate,” Ms. Sherman said. “Learning about the social world is a really important task of adolescence.”


2015 Year in Review: Recap of Favourite Links

Red Twinkly Lights for POVs.jpg

I took this photo at the Design Museum about 5 years ago, and it’s my go-to image for seasonal sparkle.

It’s been an excellent year here on the Digital Insights blog, and a huge thanks to all of you who have contributed articles, sent through feedback, and avidly read our posts. We’ve gone through our archives from the past year, and here are some of our faves:

Love in the Time of Binge-Watching: “In modern-day romance, resisting the impulse to binge so that you may watch [TV episodes] with a lover is the new equivalent of meeting the parents or sharing a sober kiss.”

Facebook’s Last Taboo – The Unhappy Marriage: “Why does the social media screen tend to go dark after the wedding, only to light up with the occasional burst of good news? Perhaps Facebook is actually mimicking the real-life personal dynamic, where once the vows are exchanged, the marital code of silence goes into effect.”

‘First!’ The People Battling for Celebrity Attention on Social Media:  “Fans who feel a special relationship to their chosen celebrity will want to distinguish themselves from the mass, and one way to do this is to be the first to respond to a post or a tweet… If you can say you were the first one to acknowledge a tweet or comment on a Facebook page, it implies a special relationship with that celebrity, almost as if that individual is having a private conversation with a famous person.”

Passive, Aggressive and Pissed Off – Our Culture of Perpetual Outrage: “What’s unprecedented about the man-spreading uproar isn’t that there are people on this Earth who have the gall to take up more public space than they need, but that the parties inconvenienced by this behaviour would rather fume in silence and take discreet Instagram photos of the offending seat hoggers than ask the hoggers to move over.”

The Aspirational RSVP: Alternate title, “Facebook is Making People Flaky”; replying yes to an invitation on Facebook even though the person knows they can’t or won’t attend. “Aspirational RSVPs have become rampant…”

A Music-Sharing Network for the Unconnected: A reminder that not everyone in the world has instant access to Wifi and downloadable music, and in emerging markets, people use creative ways to tackle this; “digital-music merchants in Mali’s capital provide a vibrant human-driven alternative to iTunes.”

Winning the Breakup in the Age of Instagram: “The winner is the ex whose career skyrockets after the split; whose new wife is a ­supermodel; who looks better; who dates better; who has bouncier hair. It’s getting over your ex before she gets over you and leading a demonstratively successful life without her — but doing so in ways that at least look casual, just for yourself, definitely not just to rub it in her face, because you’re so over her, remember?”

How We Write Sarcasm on the Internet: “Sarcasm. It’s an Essential Part of a Healthy Breakfast™, but it’s also ‘dangerous’, especially in writing. What if ~no one~ gets that u are being sarcastic.

Teen Voices – Dating in the Digital Age: This Pew Research report is packed with excellent digital insights, including tons of verbatims from the US teens. Like, a high school boy describes how he changes his social media status when he’s got a girlfriend: “You need to have the padlock emoji with a heart and two people holding hands.”

The Perils of Autocorrect and Autofill: Have you accidentally sent an email to the wrong person because the wrong name autofilled as you were typing the addressee? Or how about the perils of autocorrect – the funny examples abound, like this recent tweet: “Modern dating  is having to delete and re-type a word six times because autocorrect kept capitalizing it and you were going for casual.

“Wander Women” and @SocalityBarbie: “When you hear about how women use Pinterest, wedding planning and style inspiration likely come to mind. But there’s also a huge new trend percolating on the platform that focuses mainly on fantasies of independence and living freely: female solo travel.” On the other hand, a new Instagram account emerged this year [it has since closed down], poking “fun at all those insufferable people on your feed who can’t help but post a highly stylized shot of their… camping, heading off on a road trip, jumping in front of the sunset on a beach.”

Parenting in the Digital Age: Here’s one parent’s Wifi Network tactic for getting the kids to do chores; while another article looks at how a Mom’s Google search history reveals everything about her parenting concerns and challenges.

The Art of the Out of Office Reply: I have seen some excellent OOO replies in my time here at Ogilvy, and this article delves into the many creative ways that people are using theirs to stand out.

Microcomplaints: Is your social media feed full of people “carp[ing] about mediocre meals, rude customer service and that obnoxious guy at the next table who won’t shut up”? It’s the culture of microcomplaints and complaintbrags.

Twitter Cats Respond to the Lockdown in Belgium: “As the hunt for terrorism suspects intensified in Brussels, the authorities requested that Belgians refrain from posting messages on Sunday that might expose or interfere with police operations. The people of Twitter decided to respond with what will now be known as an internationally recognized symbol of solidarity: cat photos.”

When Instagram Culture Ruins a Vacation

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I WAS LEANING against a craggy rock on one of Mallorca’s more out-of-the-way beaches when I noticed a man perched atop a low cliff above the crystalline sea, slowly moving his outstretched hands horizontally from left to right.

“Ooh, that’s so cool,” I said, pointing him out to my girlfriend. “He must be doing tai chi.” Here was a refreshing meditative respite from the tourists with selfie sticks and GoPro video cameras who surrounded us on this unfathomably beautiful beach.

“Oh, wait. Nope—never mind,” I countered a moment later. “He’s taking a panoramic photo on his iPhone.”

We tried to relax but instead found ourselves quietly deriding the people mugging all around us. It wasn’t enough for them to simply snap a photo and have a swim: The entire experience had to be stored in HD and uploaded so that “likes” could be tallied and feelings of vacationer schadenfreude fanned. “It’s like all the people I unfollowed on social media in one place,” my girlfriend said. “If only I could unsubscribe from these people right now.” We had to admit, though, that we found the digitally driven narcissism on display more compelling than the setting.

“The future,” I mused to her, “will be all about finding better ways to shoot photos and videos that nobody will ever want to look at.”

Bret Easton Ellis on Living in the Cult of Likability

Illustration by Luisa Vera

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Most people of a certain age probably noticed this when they joined their first corporation, Facebook, which has its own rules regarding expressions of opinion and sexuality. Facebook encouraged users to “like” things, and because it was a platform where many people branded themselves on the social Web for the first time, the impulse was to follow the Facebook dictum and present an idealized portrait of their lives — a nicer, friendlier, duller self. And it was this burgeoning of the likability cult and the dreaded notion of “relatability” that ultimately reduced everyone to a kind of neutered clockwork orange, enslaved to the corporate status quo. To be accepted we have to follow an upbeat morality code where everything must be liked and everybody’s voice respected, and any person who has a negative opinion — a dislike — will be shut out of the conversation. Anyone who resists such groupthink is ruthlessly shamed. Absurd doses of invective are hurled at the supposed troll to the point that the original “offense” often seems negligible by comparison.

Now all of us are used to rating movies, restaurants, books, even doctors, and we give out mostly positive reviews because, really, who wants to look like a hater? But increasingly, services are also rating us. Companies in the sharing economy, like Uber and Airbnb, rate their customers and shun those who don’t make the grade. Opinions and criticisms flow in both directions, causing many people to worry about how they’re measuring up. Will the reputation economy put an end to the culture of shaming or will the bland corporate culture of protecting yourself by “liking” everything — of being falsely polite just to be accepted by the herd — grow stronger than ever? Giving more positive reviews to get one back? Instead of embracing the true contradictory nature of human beings, with all of their biases and imperfections, we continue to transform ourselves into virtuous robots. This in turn has led to the awful idea — and booming business — of reputation management, where a firm is hired to help shape a more likable, relatable You. Reputation management is about gaming the system. It’s a form of deception, an attempt to erase subjectivity and evaluation through intuition, for a price.