The ‘Like’ Drug

‘Like’ Affirmation refers to the attributing your worth or personal value in the amount of ‘Likes, Shares, Hearts, Follows’ you receive when posting a piece of content. It’s a very real and legitimate problem, as ‘first world’ as it sounds, not only for artists or creatives, but for anyone who uses social networks.

It’s proven that receiving ‘likes, mentions, or any positive feedback on something you post, your brain releases ‘Dopamine’, a chemical that has a lot of positive roles in our body, most notably responsible for making us feel happy. This is why people can become addicted to social media because they attribute the adrenaline of getting attention for this work with being popular at the moment in time, however short or prolonged it may be.

It’s confirmation bias. It affirms that you are doing something right, or perhaps something wrong. On the surface, the content of the post doesn’t matter because it’s getting noticed and this short shot of adrenaline is what you live for with the next post.

From a creative standpoint, this false sense of affirmation of worth and self value can be dangerous. Dangerous because it’s not real, measurable value. You can’t (and shouldn’t) measure your worth based on ‘likes you receive online from your content. Who is liking this work? Is it a friend, family member, an old client, a follower, a peer, or perhaps a future client? This is one of the reasons you can post in the first place, that feeling of living for the next thing, “If I put this work out now, maybe someone who sees it will hire me and that could be my big break”. That could never happen, and you can end up chasing the sun. Never living in the moment, being happy with what you have now.

If you plan on building an audience in the future. You have to start with building relationships, your 1st follower is just as important as your 1,000th, or 10,000th. Start with the small numbers of followers you have now, the ones who are dedicated to the work you post now, they made a conscious decision to follow you for a reason. Talk to them, establish relationships with those people who follow you now. Think about the people you follow online a how you admire their work, if someone you look up to replies to you, you would be happy, so do the same for people who reach out to you for your work.

People come to expect a certain level of quality from you over time. It all starts with quality and it all ends with what you wish to post that shapes who you are and how your audience perceives who you are. Be the best you can at this thing. Be transparent, people like to know there is a human behind virtual work.

Post the work that represents you and be 100% transparent when growing an audience.

Don’t post content for the sake of attaining a large amount of coverage or popularity. Posting work for the sake of being popular forces others to shape the direction you take with your work and personality. There is no opportunity for you and your work to grow as an individual. Posting on behalf of what’s popular can cloud your vision of what truly unique, whats important to you, what’s valuable about your content, and can breed complacency. Do people attribute good work because it’s from someone with a lot of likes/followers, or because its genuine good work? This is where the complacency can creep in. Do people like the work, or do they like the name behind it? This is why it’s bad to let people shape your content and style of work in an online presence just because it is popular at that moment. Trends come and go with each season, but quality, consistent work with your own unique style will always stand the test of time.

It’s easy to compare your work to others when you attribute a number value to determine its worth. And it easy to get caught up in this approach because it’s the first thing we see on social networks. How many likes, shares, comments, favourites, retweets are displayed on each post we see? The default state is to compare posts based on their number value to attribute a status of worth or value to the post.

Change your mindset from focussing on likes, to focussing on being true to yourself, true to your audience, true to what work you want to post and create. Are you posting the work for you, or are you getting caught up in the ‘likes’ and posting the work for other people?

Determine your works success in 2 ways, is it what you love to do? And does it solve the problem it set out to do? Not by whether people like it or not , or if it got the attention you think it deserved on social media. This is why I don’t have likes/comments on my blog posts or work on my website. I don’t want the number beside those posts to determine its value, which could in turn influence the quality or type of work I post in the future. I post the work I believe helps people in a similar industry and position as me.

The problem with posting for ‘likes’ is that it can develop and inflames an ego. It doesn’t form real relationships with real people. You will almost always see the best part of peoples life on social media, and you will almost never see the bad parts of someones life. Not alluding that we need more negativity online, there is enough if you look in the right places. But it’s saddening to compare your self-worth when you’re going through a bad time but you only see the highest peaks of others lives when online. Which can accentuate the problem and lead to a downward spiral of self-doubt.

The internet is built on positivity, this is why you wont see ‘dislike’ or negative orientated interaction from social media companies. Allowing people to curate their lives to be the most amazing it can be. Which is great, but allowing people to influence your works direction because you want a post to be seen far and wide, so you can be popular, is a real problem faced by a lot of us, and particularly young creatives.

Question why are you doing this thing, and are you doing the best you possibly can at that thing. Be noticed for the right reasons.

It’s not to say that notifications or comments and likes are useful in certain situations, but for the most part, they are a distraction from the main goal. The ‘likes’ and notifications can also spill out to the real world, in the form of distraction. This is where the addiction comes in, it’s like a drug. You check your social media every 10 minutes in the hopes of something happening, a like a comment, an opportunity, anything new. Instead of being mindful, and spending real-time being in the moment with your family, being a better person and creating quality work.

Be content with your work, be confident that you are creating quality work that you like to create for you, because you enjoy the act of creating it. It doesn’t matter what strangers think of your work and the value you attribute that work based on a digital number. Find something that fulfils you and start it. Live for something that fulfils you love today. Not for the next ‘high’ tomorrow.

If something doesn’t perform the way you expect it to, move on. Grow from that experience and feeling of not being so precious about your work, holding on a pedestal.

Your fulfilment should come from the act of creating your work in the now, not in the creating of your work for when you post it online a few hours from now.