I know I am not supposed to. Well, I am supposed to, it’s human nature, but I am supposed to hate myself for it. I think that's the way I am supposed to feel about likes on my photos. To be clear, we are talking about Instagram at all times, no other photo service gets the reach that the ‘gram does, and perhaps that's the real travesty here. Yet, I can’t go anywhere else because, according to some, I am an attention seeker.
Being already hyper conscious of my tendency to crave some response to the things I post online, I should really gravitate towards photo services such as Glass. I’ve gone backwards and forwards on this excellent service and won’t go into my thoughts here. Needless to say, it just doesn’t provide what I need from a photo service. They are steadfast on not cowering to the social media trope of including likes, but that means a lot of your photos go without anything.
If the works for you, and is the reason you use Glass or another platform, cool. I wish it didn't mean as much to me, but the only option on Glass is leaving a comment. Which is great i theory, but they mainly devolve into talking or asking questions. Actual feedback is very minimal, and I leave far more than I receive. Leaving questions such as are my photos any good, are they not being seen, does my photo style just not fit? Do I need to keep going or give up completely? Wanting a quick, easy way to give and receive feedback is not a lot to ask.
I could post my photos to the dumpster fire that is /r/photocritique, but I feel if I did, I might give up taking photos completely. Being mostly friendly, unfortunately I have seen users go to town on photos because the subject faced the wrong way, or they didn’t use composition correctly. All feedback that may be needed, but I think I can judge how good my shot is from a tried and tested source — likes.
Public likes are obviously a contentions subject. Research suggests they are terrible for people that begin to use them as a marker to judge themselves. Granted I am not a teenage girl, that seem to be affected the most, but I really like them on my photos. I am not going to spam hashtags to game the system and delete photos that don’t do well, but a small bit of reward goes a long way when you are learning.
Likes get a bad rep, but the way that Instagram implement them is purely for their gain, not ours. Played like a slot machine to manipulate users of the service to post more and spend more time using the service. However, done correctly, likes could be a useful metric to measure yourself against — although I have not seen them done well on any service yet. The issues are often the humans behind them that seek more and more feedback in an attention economy — again coming back to Facebook.
Perhaps likes are not the issue, it’s Facebook, but there may never be an answer. Certainly, not one that suits everyone, so I am still not sure how I feel about them.