Essays

Living for the likes

The classic bounty hunter or mercenary from film, literature, or comics, is known for this phrase:

I’m just in it for the money.

Now, there is nothing wrong with being in it for the dough. We all need to eat, right? But, somehow, when you put it that way, when you are willing to lie, cheat, steal, or kill, just for a few greenbacks in your wallet, it somehow feels dirty. Rude. Worthless, even.

We all have a little mercenary in us, I believe, and that’s because we all sometimes are in it for… the money, the approval, the status, the accolades, the “oohs” and “aahs” – yes, that’s what I’m talking about: we’re in it for the likes.

I’m not picking on social media. I have Instagram and Facebook. I also have Twitter, though my use of it is questionable at best, toddler-like in truth. I still don’t understand Snapchat; it’s the dog whistle of our era. If you were over the age of 25 when Snapchat launched (c. Sep 2011) and not working in digital media, marketing, or tech, it’s probably beyond you. Acceptance is not a flaw.

All of these platforms have in common the “like” or the “heart” or the “upvote” or the “thumbs up.” It is a way of piling it on; it is the ‘me-too’; it is the social approval thing which is incredible at encouraging herd-behavior. Social media is a fascinating method of both people control and data mining.

All of us, in ways minor and major, live for the likes. We want our family to like our partners. We want to impress our partner’s parents. We want our parents to say they are proud of us. We want our siblings to envy us (and support us). We want the esteem from our friends. We want celebrities to have us over to lunch because we’re so amazing and full of wisdom. We want the cop to not give us a ticket because we’re too cool for school. We want good grades. We want our date to be impressed by us.

We want… We want [someone outside of us] to give us [props] based on [what image we project] with the assumption that this image is [who we are].

There is absolutely nothing wrong with these wants. It is the natural state of humanity: we are social and tribal creatures. We are limbically dependent on one another. Part of maintaining these social bonds means being aware and responsive to these drivers.

However, I like to call these things “approval gremlins,” like from the movie Gremlins (I am dating myself here and I don’t care). Do you remember the rules, though, for taking care of your gremlins?

  1. Don’t expose them to sunlight.
  2. Don’t let them get wet.
  3. Don’t feed them after midnight.

We are going to start with Rules #2 and 3, because that is when they start to get out of control.

Rule #2: Don’t let them get wet
If your little mogwai (the “safe” state of a gremlin) got wet, he would spawn another mogwai. For example:

I took this job because it pays 20% more but I hate what I do and I hate the people with whom I work.

That right there is a mogwai that got wet. You took this job and it’s not working out. You started dating this person who looks great on paper, but all you two do is fight. You moved to a new city with your friends and you go back home every single chance you get because you can’t breathe.

We all have mogwais (jobs, relationships, roommates, etc.) and we all get them wet on occasion. But now that it has spawned, i.e.  a need to not look like a failure, a need to prove to your friends how cool you are, a need to [fill in the blank], what do you do with it?

Well, if you’re not careful…

Rule #3: Don’t feed them after midnight
Let’s go back to that job. You hate it, you already know this, but…

My spouse no longer needs to work and we can now afford to live in this great big house in this awesome neighborhood. Our friends and family are all envious of us and totally impressed.

You just fed that mogwai and it has transformed into a gremlin. You now have a problem on your hands. Gremlins have teeth and they use them. Remember, that was a horror film.

What are you going to do?

Rule #1: Don’t expose them to sunlight
Rule #1 was a way to protect your mogwai. Remember, we need our social bonds.  The person that completely ‘goes it alone’ or is fully resistant to those bonds tends to become a lonely, isolated, and unhappy soul.

However, if your mogwai has spawned and then turned into a gremlin, if you know what is good for you, you will expose that sucker to sunlight:

Instead of assuming this is what your spouse wants, why don’t you sit down and have a conversation? Explain how unhappy you are with your job and figure out a solution together that allows you both to be content and not overwhelmed by the gremlin that is now clawing at your face.

The above approach, being honest and open, looking at what is really driving your behavior and potentially your discomfort, frustration, and discontent, and then addressing it head-on is is a gremlin-killing activity. It is not easy, but it is worth the effort.

You don’t want to disappoint your friends by moving out of the cool neighborhood, but would your real friends actually be happy if you were unhappy? No. You don’t want to deal with the shame of ‘one more breakup’ but would your family really want you to be with someone you didn’t like and didn’t make you happy just to fit some sort of image or live up to some idea that doesn’t work for you? No!

Those gremlins have teeth, I know, and those bites hurt. But, I promise you, these little, nasty buggers are very, very susceptible to sunlight. In Gremlins 2, if I recall, they just went “poof” and exploded. They left some mess to clean-up, but a little elbow grease, a mop and a bucket takes care of that just fine.

Kill your gremlins and stop living for the likes.

 

 

 

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