A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a friend of mine about the reasons that people share content on platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. They mentioned that they had seen people delete photos off of their Instagram accounts if they did not get a good reception from those that were following them. Posts that received only a handful of likes were deleted after a few hours in an attempt to preserve an image of popularity. The conversation then steered its way towards the differing interests of users who have private accounts on platforms like Instagram and those that have public accounts. It seems likely that private users would be less concerned with the online validation that comes from receiving a few dozen likes than users who have an account that is open to the public. From what I have observed through my years of social media use, there are two kinds of users on these sites: people who post nearly continuously and people who post very infrequently and mostly just browse the sites to see what other people in their networks have been up to. In my opinion, users that share content on social media very often are more likely to have looser privacy settings on their accounts.
In my personal life, two platforms that I use frequently are Twitter and Instagram. My Twitter feed is public, while my Instagram profile is private. This conversation with my friend sparked me to consider how I use these accounts differently and why I would maintain one in a certain way and not the other. Personally, I feel like incessant posting on sites like these is irritating to those in your immediate social groups, so I try to mainly browse and keep the amount of content I share to a minimum. Additionally, something that I found to be really interesting was that I tweet, on average, multiple times a day whereas I post on Instagram about once a week. This might be nothing more than confirmation bias, but this examination of my social media habits seems to verify my theory that individuals with stricter privacy settings are more selective with the amount of content that they share. The platform restrictions and uses might also factor into my decision and those decisions of many others to use their social media profiles in different ways to help craft an online persona. Twitter’s 140 character limit means that I can post a few short quips a day, as opposed to needing multiple, unique photos to make multiple Instagram posts a day.
Bringing the discussion back to the point of why users share content on their accounts and how reactions from other individuals could sway them to post more frequently or even delete the post entirely, I think that audiences on these social networks offer a sense of validation that did not exist previously. As many people go about their lives, they post on sites to keep their connections updated with their whereabouts and activities. Social media has become so infused with my lifestyle (and those of others) that if I were to post a photo on Instagram of a play that I went to see or a restaurant that I recently had a meal at and none of my few hundred followers liked the post, it would be fairly easy to perceive that as a disapproval of my choices and a hit to my self-esteem. Everyone likes to feel like their content is enjoyed by those in their social environments. I personally have never deleted a post because of this, but it’s not a stretch at all for me to imagine someone doing just that.
How do you feel about the intersection of privacy, social acceptance, and social media? Have you ever deleted a post because it didn’t receive the attention that you had hoped for? Why or why not?