Social Media Likes and Your Self Esteem

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Chris Godfrey. Kylie Jenner. XXXTentacion. Selena Gomez. Justin Bieber.

Ariana Grande. Christiano Ronaldo. Robert Downey, Jr.

Can you guess what they all have in common?

That is, aside from the obvious–being “A’ list celebrities.

Tired of guessing.  No worries.

The above-mentioned names share the highest number of likes ever in Instagram history as of May 18, 2019. Their likes range from 11.5 Million to 53.5 Million.  Moreover, Kylie Jenner is ranked within the Top 20 of the Most Likes on Instagram a whopping six times (rank numbers 2,6,8,9,13 and 16) ranging from 11.9 Million likes to 18.7 likes.

So, within the world of social media, what exactly is a like?

Well, unless you’re just completely off the human existence grid, everyone knows what a social media like is.  But just in case we have a reader that isn’t sure, let’s just lay it out to ensure that we are all on the same page!

A social media like is simply an expression of affirmation.  This means that those perusing our social media feeds can appreciate what is being said, shown or done on social media.  If the reader approves, we confirm our affirmation of the social media post by clicking on the thumb’s up icon.  We can also see others that have liked the social media post.

Let’s go with that for a moment. 

What on planet earth are the above-mentioned celebrities posting on social media that has well over 10 million people liking what they posted?  Are they feeding the homeless?  Stopping a robbery?  Saving someone from drowning?

Nope. Not even close.

Here’s what yielded some of the millions of likes—photo of an egg, a birthday wish (to Travis Scott), a newborn baby, a family photo, a selfie, a photo taken in a red bikini, and last but not least, a picture of a tree in honor of Earth Day.

I would argue that those millions of people who like these very basic images, find themselves engaged with these celebrities’ lives to such an extent that they, even in a modest way, live vicariously though them.  Or, that the ongoing identification with them through their posting brings a level of relevance to their lives.

And before you downplay the significance of a like on social media, just know that most people who frequent social media are extremely selective about liking anything.  So, when you see someone liking a social media post, nine times out of ten it’s a thoughtful and engaged action.

Now let’s look at the other side. The people receiving the likes.

Of course, this is a very cool thing.  I mean, nothing like the 1,000 plus friends and followers you’ve never met (and likely never will) affirming something that you’re saying, thinking, and image that you’ve posted.

Consider this statement—whose social media confession is riveting and sobering simultaneously: “Likes are always an indicator of social standing, at my age,” says an anonymous 17-year-old survey respondent. “As someone who gets anxious and occasionally struggles with self-esteem, the amount of Likes on my posts can be both hugely uplifting or depressing.”

That little rush you get when your post gets more likes than normal? There is a reason for that rush.


For every thumb’s up or heart we get a little psychological high through a shot of dopamine. The more likes the more shots. The more shots we have, the more shots we want. And we’re in a loop. Scientists used to think dopamine was responsible for pleasure in the brain, but we now know that rather than create pleasure it makes us seek it.

The amount of ‘likes’ we get generally depends on how many friends or followers we have and the mountain of social psychology that’s happening behind the scene. If you’re looking at the amount of ‘likes’ you get on a post as a sign of engagement, it’s worth knowing the reasons behind your ‘likes’. If you can understand the reasons and psychology behind why people ‘like’ something you may be able to tap into it to increase your following, either on a personal or business level.  But when you seek likes to be affirmed and seen in a certain light—that is fully driven by your personal sense of self-worth, now we have issues.

Just not too long ago, right about the first or second week in January, a woman posted an picture of her naked behind (facing the camera), with the caption, “No need to look back at the previous year—continue to move forward and chase your dreams.”  You mean to tell me that to enhance your inspirational caption, you added a booty pic for the entire world to see in order to drum up likes and followers.

Here’s what you need to know—I don’t care whose social media you are perusing.  Trust me when I say this: the collage of images you will see does NOT represent their life.  It’s a snapshot at what they want you to see.  So, don’t admire it and be jealous or threatened by it.  Furthermore, while it is wonderful to have people appreciate our social media activity, if you feel like the first thing you must do in the morning is to check your social media notifications, DMs, likes, etc., it is highly likely that you are struggling with self-esteem issues. Even if it’s slight.  If your IG and Facebook accounts are filled with majority selfies, there is a likelihood that you are relying for too much on the feedback of others (again, many who don’t know you and many that you’ll never cross paths) for your personal sense of worth.

Something to think about.


Photo Source: Freepik

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