The Love of Like
I have a certain friend that every now and then will comment ‘like’ on social media posts when he sees something he really likes. And each time I see it, I have a chuckle on the inside thinking, “I’m pretty sure that’s what the like button is for, friend.”
But how much value does clicking the ‘like’ button have anyway? I tend to give my likes out fairly liberally, so perhaps my friend is onto something with his comments: that extra emphasis must be worth at least five likes right?
But those likes I give out so liberally, I take so personally when I receive them. Actually, that’s not true. I take it personally when I don’t receive them. If a certain post doesn’t receive a certain arbitrary amount of likes by a certain arbitrary amount of time, a growing sense of regret begins to occur – accompanied by thoughts such as:
“Why don’t people like this? This is clearly a WORK OF ART!”
“Maybe I really don’t know what people are into.”
“You should really rethink that advertising degree – you clearly have no clue.”
“If I take this down now and repost later, maybe I’ll get a better result.”
Some of these thoughts have merit and some are clearly borne out of insecurity. And that insecurity is that I have this need for people to approve of what I do and like me – which applies in, and sadly, out of the social media arena.
I have a theory that when it comes to being vulnerable (whether that be emotionally, physically, artistically, etc) and being yourself that it’s easiest with two groups:
1) Those you love and trust
2) Complete or almost strangers
But for some reason, it’s hardest to be vulnerable with those whom you know, but not well enough to call friend – or acquaintances. Those that have an idea of who you are, but don’t know you well enough to know if that idea is true or false. I have no trouble sharing my heart with those I love or a thought or revelation I’ve had with those I barely know from a platform of sorts (whether that be physical or online), but it’s those who semi-know me whose opinion I seem to care about the most, for the most part.
Because I know the ones close to me love me regardless of what I do, and perfect strangers generally don’t care what I do with my life or art. But it’s those who only have an idea of me that I’m still trying to convince to ‘like’ me, that for some reason I’m interested in attaining their approval – or at least attempting to.
Why does this third group of people hold such power over me? Why does their perception of me matter so much to me?
Now interestingly, for those of you who know me well, you’ll know that I don’t particularly care for inauthenticity. One of my core attitudes is to not take myself too seriously, but take God and what I’m called to do seriously. I believe that transparency and letting yourself be who God created you to be is one of the keys to living freely and effectively (within the boundaries of godly wisdom, context and scripture). And in scripture, David defeated Goliath with a mere slingshot and stones, despite Saul’s plea for David to wear his bronze armour, with David stating “I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them” (1 Samuel 17:38-39).
What is one person’s armour can be another’s prison. It would have been foolish for David to wear Saul’s armour for it did not fit. Why wear something that is clearly not meant for you? Why care about what someone else thinks you should wear that does not and will not ever fit you?
Yet we find ourselves all the time, trying to wear clothes that do not fit. Trying to wear attitudes, appearances, characteristics and sometimes even lifestyles and life choices that are not ours to wear. And we end up looking out of place, or simply foolish – much like it would be quite strange for me to wear a 6 year old’s clothes: no matter how much I might dig the outfit, it’s simply not going to happen. To further roll out this analogy, I’m not saying it’s unwise to try other outfits on and see what fits – but just make sure it fits (once again, within the freeing bounds of wisdom, context and scripture).
But what does this all have to do with likes?
Somehow, despite my general life disposition which you would think would guard me from this insecurity of attempting to gain the approval of those who don’t even know me that well – I’m still just as much tempted to be a victim to it as I was before.
Perhaps it boils down to one word: success. More accurately, how I define success. Does success for me and my songs depend on how many people listen to, engage with and like what I do? We seem to live in a world that is run by numbers:
the number of people who notice you,
the number of people who think a particular thing is cool,
how many dollars are in your bank account,
how many degrees you have under your belt,
how many unique experiences you’ve had,
how many relationships you’ve had,
Do we let these numbers define our worth? What makes a human life significant? Is a human life significant only if a certain arbitrary number of people agree that it is?
I don’t deny that numbers are important. I just don’t think they’re the bottom line when it comes to the transactions of the soul. Perhaps true success doesn’t start externally, but intrinsically: from the inside out.
Humans look on the outside, but God examines the heart and it’s through the heart-lens that He seems to be most concerned with (1 Samuel 16:7, Mark 7:20-23, Psalm 51:16-17). When it comes to humanity, we’re all in need of a heart transplant: all of us have a propensity towards the numbers. Thankfully, through the cross, Jesus has provided the heart needed for this vital transplant (Ezekiel 36:25-27). And it’s from this new heart, which we’re given upon receipt of his Son’s salvation, that our rewiring begins.
Once upon a time I used to think salvation, or “being saved” was a one-off event. You say a prayer, you sing a song and then hey presto – you’re done. As it turns out, it’s an event that starts a lifelong process. We’re always being saved. We’re always being sanctified. We’re always becoming more like Him, that is, if we let Him do his thing (2 Cor 3:18).
And all this to say, I think the answer to my ‘like-craving’ condition is this: it’s not a one-off kind of deal where I decide that I no longer care about others’ opinions and then I’ll be free of this insecurity. It’s only where we begin to see with His eyes, let His heartbeat pulse through our veins, let His mind become ours; it’s in this condition where we begin to be free from the numbers and be beckoned into a grander perspective. A greater definition of success. A greater translation of significance. And it’s gradual. And slowly, yet surely, that condition of being addicted to the ‘like’ will take a backseat to the eternal image of glory that is ultimately before me.
I know I’m not fully there yet. But I trust that one day, that through walking with Him over and over again, that I’ll be more like Him. That one day I’ll reach the place where I don’t just see numbers, but I see ones.
And with that, I’m going to check my Instagram.