I untangle my legs and pull myself away from Adeline; she’s flipping through a book, sitting on the floor of her room, distracted. I scurry into the kitchen and find my phone. My fingers instinctively find the Instagram app and open it. I hit refresh and wait for the page to load. Damn. No new likes on my most recent picture. I start to wonder if maybe its no good. I scroll through the feed and “Like” some other pictures, partly because I do, in fact, like them, but partly just for good karma. Okay people, like my pictures now!
Next I check Facebook, hoping someone will have “Liked” my latest update or post. And then there’s Twitter, did anyone reply or retweet me? And, of course, there’s the blog. I refresh my email over and over, hoping for a comment notification or at least a “Like.”
And that’s when it hits me: I’m gonna have to face it, I’m addicted to Likes.
Finding connection online has been part of my life since my first chat room experience way back in the 90′s, on the old computer in the guest room at my parents house. In college there was email and list serves and AIM. Oh, AIM. In law school I discovered online forums and lost myself for awhile in the endless discussions and jokes and, yes, community. When I was working, I wasted time on the internet when I couldn’t focus on work anymore or to distract myself from a life I hated. And now here I am: fully immersed in the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogosphere, online world.
Part of it, I’m sure, is being a stay-at-home mom. Adeline is wonderful, but she doesn’t provide much intellectual stimulation. Or connection, really. She makes me smile and laugh, but I can’t talk to her about the recent article I read or get her critiques on my latest photos. And David is busy working. Which I am so incredibly thankful for, every single day. But it leaves me craving connection and searching for it online.
It’s more than that, though. It’s this need for appreciation, for approval. In school and in the working world we learned to complete a task and get feedback. We learned to do our best so that we’d get good grades or a good review. We learned to love that positive reinforcement, and to crave it.
But in the life of a mom, and even in the life of a writer, that feedback is few and far between. When someone tells me what a good job I’ve done with Adeline, I lap it up. I tell them that I didn’t do much, Adeline is just pretty awesome. And that’s true, but I also appreciate the “good review.” When someone says something positive about my writing it makes my whole day. And when I don’t get any feedback, simply because people aren’t going to be saying those things all the time even if they’re thinking them, I search for it. In a “Like,” in a comment, in a retweet.
That searching can become unhealthy, though. One “Like” isn’t enough: I want more. The surge of endorphins that comes from the approval fades away faster than a sugar high and much faster than a stiff drink. The desire is what drives me, and the satisfaction of the desire is never enough. The desire causes suffering and no amount of “Likes” can ease it.
Like a good Buddhist, I need to let go. Truthfully, there are many things in my life that I need to let go of. But for now, I’m focused on the “Likes.” I need to give up my attachment to approval from others, whether in the form of a Facebook comment or a “good job” from family and friends. I need to break this addiction.
I’m going to start now. Like this post or don’t. I’ve let go. (Maybe.)
Please tell me I’m not the only one struggling with this. Who else is addicted to “Likes”??