Venice High School

Is social networking just a big popularity contest?

Social networking is a totally different world from the world in which people interact face to face. Teens can quickly post a photo with a status, post, and wait while all of the likes fly in. To me, it looks like a popularity contest, where friends can instantly see a post and like them. It seems that popularity is based on the number of likes an individual receives. How real are those likes, though?

This comes from a girl who has basically boycotted social networking. Years ago, on Facebook, I’d watched one of my friends with at least 600 Facebook friends get an average of 50 likes per post, significantly more than me. I felt something akin to self-pity. Was it because I wasn’t as liked? Was I not as popular? Fed up, I chose to quit altogether. I deactivated my account. A few times I returned, but only for a few minutes. I’d deactivate my account immediately again.

Looking back, I still feel an urge to reopen my account again in the present. I can’t though. The majority of likes that one person gets aren’t real. Chances are, someone who just scrolled through their feed skimmed the post and liked it, not giving any real thought to it. To the person who received the likes, it’s like trying to get as many likes as possible as an accomplishment of sorts. Every like makes the person feel better. “Wow, people actually like my post!”

How real are the friends on the friend list? I looked through a friend’s friend list once, and found that some of our mutual friends were people who my friend almost never talked to. Chances are, some people on that list are people who they’ve only met once. Is it really possible to have, say, 2,000 friends? Are those “friends” really real friends, or just acquaintances, or people who are friends just because?

To other users seeing the number of Facebook friends or likes another user has, they don’t think of the factors I mentioned above. All they see are the numbers. The larger the number doesn’t necessarily lead to more popularity.

Some people, however, resort to asking for followers. On YouTube, for example, some users will leave a comment with something like “Please watch my cover and this song. Subscribe to me and I will subscribe back!” Those subscribers aren’t real. It’s become a mad rush for more subscribers/friends/followers, real or not. It’s an addiction. It becomes a fixation in daily life, as eyes are glued to screens in this other world.

Meanwhile, social networking continually evolves. As new sites rise and become more popular, other old ones are abandoned. The attention has shifted from MySpace, to Facebook, to Instagram, to Snapchat. Each one is unique in its own way. One of my good friends, who is an Instagram user, once wrinkled her nose, declaring she didn’t understand the use of Snapchat. This shows one point: social networking comes in many different forms, so that if one individual doesn’t favor Site A, he/she can favor Site B. Social networking continues this way. Therefore, the popularity contest continues.