Next year, I’m resolving to like more of my friends’ Instagram posts. This is obviously a very low-stakes goal, but I’m convinced it’s an easy, pain-free way to become a slightly nicer person.
I’m in the habit of ignoring stuff on Instagram I’d rather not see. The posts I’m talking about are usually from a friend or someone I’m friendly with, people whose content I probably should like but simply can’t bring myself to. The content is harmless — just cringey. I don’t know what it is about photos of red wine paired with sullen captions about cancer season that irritate me; they just do. Same with those that veer toward the needlessly inspirational and/or sentimental (a picture of the person looking amazing with a caption about embracing their flaws or from their 25th birthday with a caption about embracing their flaws). There are also those types who post photos of themselves crying with a caption about vulnerability and strength. This one drives me crazy, I think, because I can’t shake the awkward mental picture of someone taking a selfie while sobbing (can you really be that sad?).
Of course, there are a lot of ways to be annoying online. And while these posts are a little basic and attention seeking, isn’t that all social media? What is actually lost if I just like the post? This occurred to me recently after I scrolled past some sunset photos captioned with dramatic original poetry. I ignored it, but then I scrolled back up, then back down. I spent a full minute wondering whether I should like this stupid post, at which point the joke was definitely on me.
It occurred to me that if I’d just liked the post in the first place — a two-second gesture that would basically cost me nothing beyond tacitly approving of bad poetry — I’d have saved some time. Maybe I would have made the person who posted it feel a little better. Or maybe they wouldn’t have cared at all! Because, really, are our likes so precious?
If I had to guess, part of my reluctance to like these posts has something to do with my own anxiety about how I come across online, a fear that has manifested, in the past several years, as a kind of paralysis. In order to avoid seeming excessive and indulgent, I let myself post only once a year, a ridiculous self-imposed tyranny that is probably driven by fear of judgment from those who are as judgmental as I am. Maybe if I just relaxed and supported people regardless of their content, I might free myself from this prison of my own making.
I recently tested out the “post liking = better person” theory: The image was a beautiful fall landscape somewhere upstate followed by a photo of the poster’s beautiful face drenched in sunlight with a caption about “healing” and the “precious ephemerality of golden hour” (!).
I fought my instinct to ignore it and went ahead and hit “Like.” And you know what? It took nothing. I felt nothing. Except for a little glimmer of positive self-regard. Maybe being a little nicer, a little more generous, might have made me feel a tiny bit better about myself too.
So, I don’t know, try it maybe? The next time a corny post pops up in your feed, instead of laughing about it, hit it with a heart; the person who made it will probably feel good, and you definitely won’t feel worse.
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