If you have a Facebook account, you've seen it in your feed at least once before... "If I can get one million likes then something cool will happen!" My wife will agree for us to get a dog. Or a bunny. Name the baby after a pop culture reference. Or "If I get one million likes I'll do this or that."
This Facebook trend is annoying and irrational, but the better question is how it came to be in the first place, and why. Is there some magic threshold number of Likes that we believe bestows legitimacy? This sounds trivial for bunnies, but makes a big difference for businesses. Do Likes really translate into fame or mass approval? Or is the million Likes just an absurd extrapolation of our innermost desire to be the center of attention?
Why a million? Why not something more realistic, like a hundred, or a thousand, or even a hundred-thousand? Why not two million? Is two million too much, but one far more reasonable?
The Web has desensitized us to big numbers. Getting a thousand views on YouTube is impressive, but not enough to warrant real attention. But wouldn't getting even 50 people's attention on the sidewalk be considered a huge deal? A letter sent to a hundred people is considered widespread, but a website that doesn't garner hundreds of thousands of hits is thought to languish in the shadows.
Television and radio first had big numbers. Ratings, viewers; if it wasn't in the millions it wasn't worth talking about. But that was a realm far detached from the common person; the only broadcasters in those mediums were studios and stations. The Web is different. Anyone can be a broadcaster. But now we've also grown to demand such huge scales of numbers.
One million is big enough to be big, but not so big as to be ridiculous. Ten million? Those are lottery numbers. One million is something any decent viral spread ought to easily achieve. On the Web, anything of even the slightest attraction can get several hundred views. Even the thousands are too common. For something to stand out, it needs to just hit the next tier, the millions.
The Fast and the Vainglorious
This seems silly when talking about a person trying to find an excuse to perform/obtain some meager, immediate goal. But it's a different story entirely when you talk about business. There, one million Likes is a Holy Grail of sorts, something that says "Yes, this campaign really is working." And more importantly, "Yes, this investment really is paying off."
A business wants a million Likes to push a product or a brand. They have a goal. An individual likely wants a million Likes just to say they got a million Likes. It's prestige. But, many businesses also hoist their social media metrics as prestige; they can claim they have the greater public awareness with the social media numbers to back it up. A person claims they would do something to get something if they got a million Likes. A business can also devise a campaign promotion to garner Likes in the hopes of releasing some content or reward to its subscribers.
So can it really be called vanity or just good marketing? The difference lies in intention.
Centers of Attention
Maybe people just like knowing that they held, however briefly, the attention of one million other individuals. It's quite the achievement to boast. Has anyone really impacted that many other people besides a historical figure?
Though it is a fleeting fad, in some small and obscure way we can tell ourselves that we made an massive impression on the world around us. We were important, even if it was for a stupid reason (and that's probably better, as it's easier to be important for being stupid than it is for being great).
This desire to be important likely stems from our innermost desires to be the most favored in our group, the most attractive, and the most desirable. A strange, twisted by-product of the age-old evolutionary instinct to be the most important one and therefore get the food and the mates. But who could have ever predicted it would lead to this?
Some studies claim that, as far as the brain's activity levels indicate, Facebook is better than sex. Well maybe on some level, "winning" at Facebook is like "winning" the societal race for sex. After all, who is more beloved than celebrities? Who is more adored than celebrities? Who is more lusted after than celebrities? We want to be celebrities, so we'll take the fame in however small way we can get it.
Sure, some people just wanted a million Likes just to see if they could. Or to poke fun at all the other instances of the trend. But originally, somebody craved attention. And the reason this trend has become widespread enough to warrant articles like this stems from the fact that, for better or worse, this trend evoked something in us. And its resonance compelled us to keep doing it, to stake our own attempt at it.
Even businesses, which are actually concerned about the bottom line, are still caught in this survival game. Sure, they're not looking to become celebrities and win the mate, but why does any business strive to compete? So they don't fall beneath profits and succumb to competitors. If that's not the essence of natural selection, then what is?
Did you like, or even participate in, the "One Million Likes" trend? Or are you just happy to see it finally fade out? Let it all out, in the comments below.