• Shari Stein

What Really Counts


It’s time for us to take back control over our unhealthy digital habits and activities that consume us or that we consume. Some people create and successfully execute their own strategies for healthy online living. Others might need someone or something to inspire or provide the strategies. And, others might need an accountability partner or program. For many, making a change requires some combination of these.


Instagram is pretending to be our helper. The social media giant is conducting an experiment in Canada. It has changed some Instagram users’ accounts to show only the likes they receive on posts. This “experimental group” will not be able to see the like counts that other peoples’ posts receive.


If social media addiction is one of your troubles, take matters into your own keystrokes and clicks. Thinking that Instagram will help us break negative habits is like a drug addict allowing his/her dealer to help him get clean. The drug dealer can lower or change the dose, but the addict will stay loyal….and addicted.


What do you think of Instagram’s effort? Brilliant, I say, for PR only. People have come up to me so excited to share how Instagram is changing and will help us get over the problems it causes. These same people did not hear or read the whole story. What they are sharing, “They get it and are going to make changes that will help us,” is #fakenews.


For over a year, I have informally surveyed teens I work with, asking a simple question: “Would you post to social media if you could not learn who or how many people like your posts?” Without delay, they answer a flat, “No way.” People post for immediate gratification, recognition, reassurance, …… So, of course Instagram is not changing this feature in any current experiment or future plan.


Cal Newport suggests one way to minimize our online activity without opting out of social media is to not click like or make comments on other people’s posts. He explains, “that researchers are finding that that type of digital interaction really does not satisfy our human drive for sociality.” He adds that this change might be “kind of disruptive,” but I question, for whom? If it disrupts a person’s own attachment to social media, great! If it disrupts social media’s global power, amazing! But, it won’t. And, that reality is not a reason to abort this effort. The personal effects will be meaningful. That said, we might find more success keeping this new habit if we convince our network. Let’s let them know what we are doing and why. Too many of us feel compelled to like someone’s post just because they will be upset if we don’t. Maybe it would be helpful to declare to our followers: Please do continue to follow me and read my posts. But, also know that I do not count my likes and I do count you as a friend regardless of your reaction to my posts.


Why trust the likes? Before the Internet we valued the opinions of those around the breakfast table discussing today’s news. We looked for advice from the mirror and those within sight. We formed ideas and opinions and donned outfits regardless of what the populace said.


We are what we think, not what others think.