The Tyranny of ‘likes’ and ‘follows’

Are you only ‘truly meaningful’ if you have over 315.81 million followers?

Trisha Lewis - Unsquashed!
4 min readSep 16, 2021
Christiano Ronaldo boots on display at Santiago Bernabeu

Next time you agnoise over the number of ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ on your social media — stop and regain your instrinsic motivation!

Don’t get sucked in by the ‘Ronaldo phenomenon’ trap.

Ronaldo announced his transfer to Manchester United on Instagram and inspired 13 million people to press ‘like’.

His iconic ‘Ronaldo 7’ replica kit broke the daily record for shirt sales!

If only you could be like Ronaldo.

You refresh your LinkedIn in the hope of seeing more than 3 comments, 6 likes and 50 views.

It was a great post. What’s the matter with everyone!


Let’s come back down to earth.

The question is this…

Are we measuring our sense of meaningfulness with likes and follower stats?

What if, without realising it, those numbers aren’t just a by-product of our point of posting — they are the whole point?

This question was posed by Jonathan Liew in an article about Ronaldo in the Guardian recently and it got me thinking.

Am I just venting about the superficiality of influencers?

Am I just a baby boomer tutting at evil social media from on high?


But I am not stuck in the past sticking pins into Tim Berners-Lee — I actively use social media.

I love the constant invitation to explore.

I am enriched by the people I have met online.


I am also aware of the tricks social media feeds play on our sense of reality and meaningfulness.

I am also aware of the tricks social media feeds play on our sense of reality and meaningfulness.

Consider this observation by Robert Greene -

‘Grandiosity is a form of primal energy we all possess. It impels us to want something more than we have, to be recognized and esteemed by others, and to feel connected to something larger. The problem is not with the energy itself, which can be used to fuel our ambitions, but with the direction it takes.’

and compliment it with this from a conversation on the Hidden Brain podcast with psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky — talking about our happiness being hampered by the ‘hedonic adaptation’ treadmill which -

‘… leads us to want more than we ever have, so we are never quite satisfied.’

We move into a better house in a better neighbourhood — but then look around at other houses that are better…. and we can’t feel the happiness we expected… because we are now comparing and coming up short!

Photo by Artem Beliaikin

Now consider these oh so human traits in the context of our search for meaning and happiness in the tally of ‘likes’ ‘loves’ and ‘follows’ on our social media platforms.

We are not pathetically needy or nauseatingly narcissistic — we are human and we are being lured by powerful forces.

That combo means we must consciously press pause on our feelings.

We must open our eyes before we get ‘caught in the landslide’ of confused messages about what it is to be meaningful , happy and successful.

What is the antidote to the tyranny of superficial ‘likes’?

I have already mentioned the conscious ‘press pause’ habit, but here are a few more habits that in time can become unconscious behaviours:-

  • Engaging more than broadcasting.
  • Valuing the genuine listener more than the lazy ‘liker’.

‘Being present, whether with children, with friends, or even with oneself, is always hard work. But isn’t this attentiveness, the feeling that someone is trying to think about us — something we want more than praise? Stephen Grosz

  • Finding the joy in the creation more than the ‘reach’ numbers.

‘The greater sense of gratfication comes from the work itself and from overcoming our own weaknesses. The desire for attention is under control and subordinate. Our self-esteem is raised, but it is tied to real achievements, not to nebulous, subjective fantasies. We feel our presence enlarged through our work, through what we contribute to society.’ Theodore Zeldin

‘If you have any success with your projects, that is when you must step back from the attention you are receiving. Look at the role that luck may have played, or the help you received from others. Resist falling for the success delusion.’ Theodore Zeldin

A final thought…

William Matthew Prior

Maybe the posed and polished selfie is as meaningless as the gilt-framed self-portrait painted and hung by an isolated, anti-social artist.

We understand ourselves through conversation.

To be curious and seek out those conversations is meaningful.

Back to where I began, with the article about Ronaldo.

Your meaningfulness is not measured by — ‘the sit ups you do, the online degree you take, the pearlised mica-white anti-dandruff shampoo’ you use.. or your 315.81 million followers (could be more by now).

Your meaningfulness is measured by your resilient desire to explore and learn from the real world.

All things human self-belief are explored in ‘The Mystery of the Squashed Self’. Available on Amazon — or order through bookshops.

I have a YouTube Channel with videos on this topic and other communication and confidence tips and I post regularly on LinkedIn.

I work with clients on being visible as them — confidence growing and clarity. Ditching baggage, sharing story and practicing performance. Details at



Trisha Lewis - Unsquashed!

What if we spotted and sorted our 'self squashing ®' - what if we used curiosity as an anitdote to comparisonitis and self-consciousness? Let's see!