Last week, I had two separate human beings send me text messages asking why I didn’t like their Instagram posts. I want you to think about this for a second. Two separate human beings. Sent me text messages. To find out why I didn’t like their Instagram posts.
This was a new all-time low among human social interactions.
For those of you who aren’t hip with the Instagram, allow me to explain how it works. Step one is you take a photo of something with your cell phone camera. Could be a dog. Could be a pen. Could be a television remote. There are no rules.
Step two is, you post it on Instagram, which only accepts square photographs despite the fact that every picture ever taken in human history has been rectangular. If the photographer at Tiananmen Square had been using Instagram, we would’ve thought the tanks were just in a traffic jam.
Step three involves adding a “filter” to a picture in order to make it look worse. You can choose from several unique filters, including one that looks like vomit and one that looks like urine. You may also skip this step, if you have any shred of human decency.
And then, finally, there’s step four: checking the picture every five minutes to see who liked it. I’ve been at dinner with Obsessive Instagrammers, and it’s really unbelievable how this goes. You’ll be sitting there, having a normal conversation, and suddenly they’ll shout out: “Oh, Todd liked my picture!” And you say “Oh, that’s great!” when what you’re really thinking is: Is there an exit through the bathroom?
The funny thing about Instagram likes is that they aren’t really “likes” in the normal sense. When I like something that someone did, I send them an e-mail, or a text message, or a congratulatory note informing them that I liked it. This takes time. When my mother wants to express a sentiment, she sends an old-fashioned greeting card through the old-fashioned mail. This takes even more time.
But when you like a post on Instagram, you expend none of this energy. What you do is, you see a photo on Instagram, you consider it for roughly two seconds, you double-click on it, and boom: you’ve liked it. Then you move on with your day and you probably never think about it again. Instagram liking is so mindless that sometimes you’ll accidentally like a picture someone posts of something stupid, such as pants, and your brain will say: it will take too much energy to un-like this. So you just move on to the next photo, and the next, and the next, and suddenly it’s 11 a.m. and you’re liking a picture posted 38 weeks ago by someone you haven’t spoken to since high school. This happened to me this morning.
But the obsessive Instagrammer doesn’t see it that way. The obsessive Instagrammer is sitting there, deriving validation from every single like, gaining pleasure from each and every comment. And this leads us back to the Text Message Incident.
Here’s what happened: in both situations, I was walking along, minding my own business, in one case thinking about fruit and in the other case thinking about fog, when I received a text message from the Obsessive Instgrammer. Given that these are both people I know in real life, I opened the text message, excited to see what they had to say. And that’s when I discovered it: “Why didn’t you like my Instagram photo?”
Why. Didn’t. You. Like. My. Instagram. Photo.
Now, the way I should’ve responded to this was by informing them that this is the single stupidest text message I’ve ever received; stupider even than the time my friend Joe went on an unanswered fourteen text message rant while I was sleeping about how he thinks his personality aligns better with an April birthday than an August birthday. But the kind of person who asks why you didn’t like their Instagram photo is also the kind of person who becomes despondent when they’re called an idiot, so I felt that might be the wrong road to go down.
So instead, I crafted some meek explanation about how I don’t really use Instagram all that much, and if I see it later I’ll definitely like it, and I’m sure it’s a wonderful picture, and blah blah blah. Then I forwarded the text message to my friends so we could laugh at it.
Now, if you’re an Obsessive Instagrammer, you might be wondering why it’s so bad to ask someone to like your post. I NEED that like, you might be thinking. That sweet, sweet like; it’s MINE; I MUST HAVE IT, like a crack addict who steals his grandma’s DVD player and sells it on Craigslist.
Well, here’s the answer: social media posts are supposed to update your friends on what you’re doing or what you’re seeing. Like: Hey friends, I’m petting a tranquilized otter. Or: Hey friends, I’m peeing in a mailbox. Or: Hey friends, I’m eating a desk lamp. By telling me privately to like your public post, you’re defeating the entire purpose of social media. You might as well just send me the photo in a text message, and I might as well just reply: I like it. At least that way, you won’t have to crop it into a square.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He divides his time between writing about cars and sitting around his house watching Gilmore Girls without any pants on. Also, he wrote this bio himself in the third person.