Rules of Thumb, we are all about stories.
Warning: I say the word “like” 18 million times in this blog post.
We humans like stories. We are story tellers. We tell each other stories and most importantly we tell ourselves stories. We tell stories about who we are, what we do and where we came from. Often those stories are shaped by the culture we live in, the people who raised us, our friends and the behaviours and norms we’ve experience through life. Most importantly our stories are shaped by the stories we’ve been hearing and telling ourselves our whole lives. Here is a story, about the stories we tell ourselves about a photograph.
I’ve been wanting to talk about the egg, that is the instagram egg, for a little while. You may or may not of heard of it. Chances are you have, because you’re finding my blog post via twitter or Instagram and it means you are probably the owners of one or more of the approximately 1 billion Instagram accounts that exist or at least one of the 291 million twitter account owners. Baring that you might of seen the egg reported on the news or heard about it on the radio even. So I’m guessing you’ve probably heard of the egg.
But… in case you don’t know anything about Instagram, here’s what (I think) it is. Its a website or app where you post square shaped low resolution pictures (the app has built in filters and editing tools) and you also post a comment and/or location with the picture. Your followers (those who have chosen to see your pictures) are able to comment on the picture and click a tiny heart shape to “like” the picture. If you “like” the picture this is shown publicly to anyone who can see the picture or your account.
The world_record_egg picture on Instagram has around 53 million likes. The caption for the egg is
Let’s set a world record together and get the most liked post on Instagram. Beating the current world record held by Kylie Jenner (18 million)! We got this 🙌”
I wasn’t 100% sure who Kylie Jenner (I’d heard the name) is so I googled and she’s a reality TV star half-sister of Kim Kardashian, who I had heard of, of course. This is the picture they’re talking about…
So… what could I possibly have to add to this? Okay. It’s about stories and how compelled we are as humans by them. I’m not going to venture what the story is with the Kylie Jenner picture. It’s a well made picture and it has a lot of visual and emotional appeal. The 18 million people who liked that picture probably have a wildly varied variety of reasons for clicking that “like” heart.
Lets try to make a comparison between the picture of the egg and the picture of Kylie Jenner with her baby. What are we judging here? Is the picture or the egg better? Is the picture of Kylie Jenner with her baby better than the picture of the egg? How would we determine that. Do we like pictures of eggs more than we like pictures of people? Maybe its about the lighting, or the colours? Maybe its something to do with birth… If we “like” eggs more than we “like” Kylie Jenner or people in general do we click the “like” button?
So I’m going to say why I think we click the like button on the egg (and on Kylie Jenner and on any other picture) it is because we “like” the story it tells us. The egg could have been anything, it could have been a blank canvas perhaps. At least at first, I’d say people liked the story of “Lets make a picture of an egg the most liked picture on Instagram” way more than they actually liked a picture of an egg. Had the picture of been of, say a detractor of Kylie Jenner, i.e. another human, then would it have gained as many “likes”? The egg certainly doesn’t look as sultry as Kylie Jenner in her instagram feed.
I think we like the story, “lets make this simple picture of an egg, the most liked picture on instagram.” Some of us like the story, “lets make this simple picture of an egg, the most liked picture on instgram instead of Kylie Jenner.”
The story might have been, more likely “Ha ha look a picture of an egg has knocked Kylie Jenner off the top spot for most liked picture, THAT I like”. Or perhaps you see people who you hope to be like or that you like “liking” the egg and so you “like” it too.
What is the story Kylie Jenner is telling with her instagram feed? Well, I’d say its something about her style and fashion and her lifestyle. What story is the egg telling? Just one, can we knock Kylie Jenner off the top spot? Something like that, oh and charity of course.
Something else I noticed, Kylie Jenner’s “most liked” picture had 18 million likes at some point in the past, now has 10 million likes. I went to look because I was going to write about how the attention levied at the egg probably made even more attention for the Kylie Jenner picture, it did… however the story was (to some) about NOT liking Kylie Jenner’s picture, meaning that some 8 million of us chose to go and remove our “like” from her picture. Harsh really.
I expect it also has something to do with the nature of “Reality TV stars”. There is no “dislike” button on Instagram, the egg in some ways is a call to action for people to “dislike” Kylie Jenner. That in itself is another story to tell ourselves. As mentioned I know next to nothing about Kylie Jenner, but I’d be surprised if there isn’t a very large number of people who’s emotion relating to her don’t map across a whole spectrum from strong dislike and hatred to obsessive fanaticism with lots of people falling on the negative side of that bell curve. The thing about reality stars perhaps is that they are pretty much “straw-men” setup as much as objects of hatred as of love. They’re real people (of course) used as fake entertainment. I am not really a fan of reality television. I used to very much enjoy The Apprentice (UK version) and Big Brother (UK version) then, suddenly I stopped liking them, and felt repulsed by the artifice of it all. It sickened me how shows like The Apprentice and Dragons Den are setup as serious shows about business and career, whereas they have little to no basis in reality whatsoever and do not serve as a useful primer for anyone seeking to become an entrepreneur, business person, career professional or inventor. In fact I think they’re pretty toxic and I avoid them and avoid promoting them.
So in conclusion, we care little for the picture of the egg, and much more for the emotions that are generated by the story and to some extent by our perception of Kylie Jenner. What does this mean for you? It means that if you tell the right story, to the right people, it doesn’t really matter what you are making. What matters is the story other people tell themselves about it, the story that has been shaped by what the story YOU tell about it.
Or maybe you just really like photographs of eggs.
World Record Egg on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/world_record_egg
Kylie Jenner on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/kyliejenner
Dominic Morrow on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/chickengrylls
Abba2243 (see comments) points out the factual flaw in my post. I got the wrong picture from Kylie Jenner’s Instagram. This is the former record breaking picture:
The picture of Stormi Webster, Kylie Jenner’s daughter, still has 18 million likes! Phew! Anyway… my point more or less still holds, except for people unliking the image.