It’s 3am. I’m still up. I’ve been staring directly into the bright rectangular light coming from my phone as I lay on my right shoulder, holding the phone at just the right angle so that the screen doesn’t flip to landscape mode. My thumb joint hurts from the constant flicking, up down, left right. I can’t feel my right arm anymore, so I roll my body over to my left side. Why can’t I sleep these days, I wonder.
I posted a photograph of my boyfriend and I at a wedding today. I look good in the picture, and it’s been a while since I posted a photo, so I know Facebook will up-rank it on the News Feed algorithm. I also posted it on Instagram, and then I put up a cute series of videos and photos of us at the wedding on Instagram stories. I posted something snarky on Twitter with a great hashtag, too. I even got a mention on LinkedIn from someone mildly recognizable. That makes it five places I need to watch.
I keep pulling the screen down with my thumb and holding it there until the app refreshes the data and gives me my nugget of joy: a new like, heart, or view. Someone’s seen it. I want to know who it is. The new name gives me a jolt of happiness and pride- a feeling of having won. When I see their name, I imagine myself as them, seeing my post, and I think I know what they must be thinking.
An ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend watched my story, she must be thinking about how much prettier and happier I am than her. A female entrepreneur who’s raised more capital than me retweeted my tweet, she must be wondering if I’m wittier and more successful than her. A cute boy I had a crush on in college liked my post, he must be thinking about how he missed out on all of this perfection. A cousin that’s my age saw my story but she didn’t like my photo, and since I didn’t watch her story, she must be jealous of me.
I have won. I am winning.
I keep telling myself to go to sleep, to turn it off, to stop checking, but every time I click the bright light off and see a dead black screen on my phone, I feel sad. I don’t question why it makes me sad to stop refreshing five different feeds every two or three seconds, I just tell myself that a few more minutes won’t change anything. It’s not like I’m going to get a full 8 hours of sleep at this point, anyways.
I know what the Like Arc looks like, and I’m pretty sure, by this time at 3am, these posts have all hit their Like peak. The Likes per minute should start to dwindle soon. When the time between each view and each Like starts to get longer, that’s when I know the show is over. Now, it’s just the slowpokes and stragglers who will come along to peak their head in the door just to see what all the fuss was about, but the main crowd has come and gone and the time has come to pack up and head to the next show.
Upon reflection, I think this Facebook post has done well with 103 likes in the first 30 minutes, I wasn’t sure if I looked good at the wedding but now I’m sure; I must have looked great. That outfit rocked.
But the Instagram stories only had 30 viewers, what happened? What went wrong? Did I use the wrong photo? I go back to the post. I check the first story, I play it over and over again until I conclude that the problem must have been the hashtag. I used the wrong hashtag. I should have put a location pin on it. More people’s feeds would have gotten it. Ugh. That’s annoying. It was a good series of stories. Now barely anyone’s seen that great humble-brag photo of me in my bikini. Can I post it again in another story or will it be too obvious?
I tell myself that this obsession with the number of people who have seen my “work” is not unhealthy- this is part of my personal marketing strategy, I tell myself. I have to build my brand, and people have to follow, like, share, and repost me for my brand to grow. This is what determines how well books will sell, the agent tells me; your platform, your influence, your brand. Without that, no one will care about you. No one will buy you.
I haven’t spoken to 90% of these people in my life, though. How do they know who I am? What I care about? What I really stand for? Am I writing this book for them or for me? How do I build a brand, a platform that truly stands for something, when all I can think about in the middle of the night is how many Likes and Views I got in the first hour of a post?
I can’t think about all this right now, I tell myself. It’s almost 4am and I need to sleep, I need to get up and work on my book tomorrow, and not think about the likes on my latest post.
I thumb the screen down one more time, someone’s posted a new photo. Wow, she looks great. Where is she? Bali? Ugh, I want to go to Bali. Her hair is so shiny. My hair sucks. I love that hashtag, too. Funny, catchy, humble-braggy. And that puppy over there! So cute. Damn, that yoga pose is hard. I wish I could do that. And she’s a boss, too- her company sold for millions last year. This girl is living the life. Why do I suck so much?
The battery on my phone is down to 1%. I fumble around in the dark for my charger like a drug addict that dropped her last pill.
The irony is not lost on me. I want to throw my phone out the window, but instead I plug in, lay back and thumb down one more time.
Just one last hit.