Elite Daily editor Tyler Gildin wrote, “Growing up, two phrases were used to describe your affection: You ‘liked’ a person, or you ‘liked-liked’ a person.”

The word “like” was meaningful and personal. It was the foundation for relationships, for friendships, for feelings. The way to gain a sense of belonging was to interact with others, face-to-face, advancing basic social skills in the process.

Thanks to social media platforms, especially Instagram, acceptance is now determined by a number. “Like” no longer refers to one’s affection for another person, but rather affection toward one’s picture. “Like” has lost its depth, and it has become a superficial term centered on a click of a button.

Vulnerability surfaces when a picture lacks likes. We fear our social status is at risk, so we delete it before others notice. We question ourselves, desperately searching for what went wrong. We let the fact that people did not double-tap our picture define us. 

How can we expect people not to judge us based on numbers if that’s how we judge ourselves?

Gaining confidence and social status has become a science. “It’s all about the ratio,” an Elon University student said. “If I don’t get at least 75 likes in 30 minutes, I delete the post.” 

We time our posts around when our followers are most likely watching. Another student advises to avoid posting mid-day, as more people are on their phones in the evening after completing the day’s obligations.

When we stop and think about our online behaviors it sounds a little crazy. When did our social status stop being defined by our actions and start being defined by our accounts? When did our filters become more influential than our personalities?

We are no longer being true to ourselves, but instead to our followers, constantly worrying about how we appear to them. 

We edit our pictures to make our faces thinner, our stomachs slimmer, and our butts bigger. We distort ourselves to the point where the person in the picture no longer matches the person in the mirror, all in hopes of meeting society’s unrealistic standards and finally feeling as if we belong.

We can’t post a picture before it goes through Skinny App, Perfect 365, and any other editing application stashed in our smartphone. But if we don’t post a picture of our night out, did it really happen? Even in a room with our closest friends, you are only having fun if your 800 followers know about it.

We are college students. We’ve shared our toys, endured our dreaded awkward stages, and survived the ridiculous — but ever present — high school drama. We persevere, we mature, and we work to make a difference. It’s time we recognize who we are, embrace our diversities, and learn that we are way more than just a number.