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The Pressure for Likes and How They Impact Our Experiences

Justin Laidlaw
Justin Laidlaw

In the building for G Yamazawa’s birthday party/concert/music video shoot, figuring out who the newcomers were took only a few seconds. The girl behind us kept complaining whenever G asked to reshoot a scene. The video shoot portion of the evening took all of 15 minutes tops, but this girl’s IG story had already gone stale. She needed new content to satisfy her digital appetite. G no longer calls Durham his place of residence (though he would probably say that Durham will always be his home). The fact that he chose to shoot this music video here with his friends and fellow artists, instead of the multitude of glamorous, tailor-made for social media style venues in Los Angeles, represents an appreciation for the culture that raised him, a culture that was seemingly lost on the aforementioned Gram-mer.

She wasn’t the only culprit.

G Yamazawa Birthday Show 2019

Before the invasion of Snapchat and Instagram Stories, it seemed as though people showed up to things because they wanted to be a part of the community. The invitation to participate in something like a music video meant you got to experience a moment in the culture firsthand. You had a vested interest in the success of the host and the culture at-large.

Now, every moment is commodified into posts for likes even if you didn’t particularly like the moment in question. If you “don’t do it for the Gram,” what do you do it for? That’s the question most of us ask ourselves whenever we take in an experience.

I struggle with this more than I’d like to admit as someone who is both trying to build a brand and practice better habits online. Everywhere I go, in the back of my mind, I’m wondering if I should be posting to social media. A photo or Story with the caption, “Here’s me writing my next story at the Durham Hotel” seems almost as important as the story itself. New Yorker has undoubtedly run this political cartoon: “If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to put it on Stories, did it actually happen?” If not, ©.

Gone are the days where you would recap the experience with your buddies the next day, or recount the story weeks later with an old friend over the holidays. The social media surveillance state provides all the context we need, draining the substance of the conversation. Whenever someone asks what I’ve been up to lately, I’m weirdly proud that both of us have resisted social media enough to prompt genuine intrigue.

That said, social media can make for great conversation starters, especially for people you don’t see in person often but want to keep up with. That was the promise Facebook made when it first entered our lives, before your weird uncle and the Russians captured the platform.

Social media posts make for great mementos but don’t live the moment through your camera lens. I know we’re all headed in that direction anyway. I saw it on a TV show once.