Tag Archives: Veritasium

Facebook Sucks: Anonymity and the Futility of Chasing “Likes”

Note: This is another “chapter” from my “upcoming ebook” on why Facebook Sucks. It seemed like it would fit well enough here so here ya go. Once again it is pretty rambly but whatever.

I’m a huge fan of the social media website Reddit. If you really want to check it out here’s the link (You lazy fucks. Google it yourself). They also have an app if you’re one of those people. Others on Reddit say the app is kinda shitty so do what you want. The thing I really like about Reddit after the dedicated subreddits for any and everything is the fact that it’s a semi-anonymous site and they pull it off beautifully. You might think that being fully-anonymous or non-anonymous would win out on any pro/con analysis but I don’t think this is true. Let me elaborate.

The shitty website called 4chan is totally anonymous: you post stuff and no one knows it’s you. This is nice in a way because you can be your unabashed self. If you discovered as a teen that you really like hentai and furry-porn, you can indulge your hearts (or any other body parts) content on 4chan and no one will judge you for it. Sure people might judge the graphic tentacle monster and underage anime girl you posted, but they can’t judge you as an individual person with an identity. They can’t say “Did you see what Jimmy posted the other day? Holy Fuck he’s strange.” You’re simply free to post and comment whatever you want. Obviously this comes with the downside that when people are free in anonymity they can say some really hateful, racist, homophobic, and other -phobic ideas (LINK NOT SAFE FOR WORK!!). 4chan isn’t a website for the faint-of-heart.

Facebook, on the other hand, has the opposite problem where you have no anonymity. Sure there are some people with fake profiles, but I think for the most we are ourselves on Facebook. Since your Facebook profile is a representation and projection of your real self you have to worry about your “internet self-image” or some shit like that that sounds really stupid when you write it out. If you are the aforementioned furry-porn enthusiast you might not be able to represent that facet of yourself to you boss, grandma, pastor, wife, mother, or whoever else you’re friends with. You’re restricted in what you can be open about and this restriction is a huge downside with any form of social media. In our normal IRL selves we already have this restriction so extending it to social media doesn’t help any form of self-expression.

The upside to not being anonymous is the fact that you can have a “record” of your social media exploits, i.e. how many “likes” and “shares” you get and (usually) other people can see this. Sites like 4chan have no way to track your “progress” because you’re anonymous. This is where Reddit really shines with its semi-anonymity: you are a person with a username, although this isn’t connected to your IRL self at all. You can collect “points” (in the form of something called “karma”) and see how popular your comments and posts are by how many “upvotes” you’ve gotten. In short you and others get to see a “record” of what your profile has accomplished, how popular you are, and some redditors on their respective subreddits are nearly famous in the quality content they create. Reddit lets you be a person that is free to act however you want but also gives you an identity to work with all without the worry of committing a “social media faux pas” of posting furry/tentacle porn on your Facebook page.

People on Reddit joke about “fake internet points” aka “karma” and they’re totally right with the terminology. It doesn’t make any sense to accumulate “karma,” “likes,” or “shares” at all (or whatever form the “fake internet points” take on your favorite website), and in all objectivity these things are totally fucking pointless. But for some reason knowing your shitpost on r/WallStreetBets has gotten 5,000 upvotes makes you feel like you’re progressing as a socially-adept human or something. I really think Facebook would be much more addictive and potent if they had a “total reaction and share” counter for your posts so you have one or two really quick and concrete numbers to see how popular you are with your Hot Facebook Opinions and Influencing Posts. Then the whole point of Facebook then would really be to shitpost your way to more Internet Points and you’d have a counter for it.

What I’m trying to get to in a roundabout way is how chasing these fake internet points is a hollow sort of pursuit and one that doesn’t fulfill you in any meaningful way. In a way everything is kinda pointless and chasing money, degrees, fancy cars, sexual partners or anything is really the same level of pointlessness (in the grand scheme of the universe) as anything else. Probably everyone as an edgy teenager has had this extremely nihilistic outlook but quickly abandons it because of the inability to actually function in life when you think that everything is, in the end, pointless. Eventually you reach a point where you know that everything is pointless but you need to do something in your life because you can’t just not exist to spite the universe. Mostly because the universe doesn’t give a fuck about you.

So what makes farming for Facebook “likes” less fulfilling than actual IRL progress? For me it is the amount of self-fulfillment you get out of actually doing something difficult. As stated, Facebook is like a lazy-man’s form of social interaction and social interaction that is as easy as typing shit on a screen isn’t going to be as satisfying as actual interaction. Consider talking to a romantic interest: it’s really easy to just send a creepy Facebook message and slide into those DMs, but it’s immensely difficult to actually talk to them. So when you actually do go out of your way to talk like a real person does, you feel so much better for it. You feel like you’ve accomplished something. Actually interacting with people is almost always more satisfying than “interacting” on social media even if it is something trivial.

Another thing I noticed is that getting “likes” or “shares” is a pursuit on its own. Getting a college degree is the final product of years of hard work and I think we like to think of farming internet points as a “final goal” but really those are like the “years of hard work” with the caveat that it doesn’t actually have a final goal. What I’m trying to say is that farming Facebook “likes” has no end: you’re always chasing the next accomplish in getting “likes” and other forms of social media approval. There will never be a point to where you’ve “succeeded” at having “likes” on Facebook. You’re never finished chasing the social media approval of others.

What happens is you get addicted and accustomed to the upward climbing views/shares/likes/upvotes on your posts and you start to think that this is like a rule or a law or something. You might think that you’re just that cool of a person and people really like you. You naturally want these numbers to continually grow forever so when they don’t — when you post something that isn’t quite a popular as the rest — you feel like a failure. Did you do something wrong? Do people not like you anymore? Are you socially not part of “the cool crowd?” You might even put more effort into carefully crafting the next Successful Post and if that’s successful, congrats, you’ve temporarily saved your mood. If that fails, well, you just feel like a fucking failure.

The YouTube channel Veritasium recently had a great video explaining this phenomena in terms of YouTube burnout. In short he argues that as the YouTube algorithm changes, popular YouTubers find that they aren’t popular anymore. This is totally outside their control and while they have been making quality content non-stop have taken to blaming themselves for the lack of “quality” or “getting away from their roots” or something that is their fault. While the problem of chasing Facebook approval isn’t at the mercy of an algorithm (as much) like YouTube the main points are still the same; people get used to increasing approval and popularity and when it wanes people feel like shit and blame themselves. This is true in almost any pursuit but the fact that this can happen so quickly in regards to social media approval is scary. Like athlete or a writer might take years and decades to really “peak” while you could find a “social media approval” peak in a month or two. Then you can repeat the cycle over and over as you never learn your lesson.

The problem with “likes” being your pursuit is that it is too easy to let the growing approval get into your head. There’s nothing to moderate the addiction. When you get this mindset — consciously or unconsciously — you will never be satisfied. If you had a wildly successful post you will crave the next successful post and do everything you can to top the last one. This is true with everything, but the accessibility of this in terms of Facebook “likes” is especially dangerous to the average person. We get corrupted by the idea that we might be the next big YouTuber or influencer that we put much more time, effort, and energy into something that will eventually, certainly let us down and is in the end pretty fucking pointless. They are just Fake Internet Points as Redditors jokingly call them.