Chasing fake Internet points

The primary reward I receive for what I publish online is interaction with you.

Some of that interaction is of high quality: namely, when you leave an interesting comment, especially one that teaches me something I didn’t know or helps me see something from a different perspective.

But most of what I get is in the form of likes. Or hearts or upvotes or favorites or claps or whatever it’s called on whichever platform I’m on. It’s a form of acknowledgement that whatever I posted resonated somehow.

One of those platforms is Imgur (here’s my user page), where Imgurians call them “fake Internet points.” Being Imgur, there are memes.


It is fashionable now to pooh-pooh chasing after fake Internet points. Chasing them is, at the end of the day, a waste of time and accomplishes little.


Yet each fake Internet point delivers a small dopamine hit. In moderation, what’s wrong with that?


The primary place I go for fake Internet points is Instagram. I have tried to use it as a way of promoting this blog’s film-photography posts, but it’s not really working. I might get one or two clickthroughs from each Instagram post.

But my followers keep clicking the little heart on my posts, and it feels good to get them.

When you chase fake Internet points you need to consider return on investment and opportunity cost. Do the good feelings you get from likes, favorites, et. al., seem like a reasonable reward for the time you spent posting? And would that time you spent posting have been better spent doing something else?

make time to write in this blog: I get up early and write in it each morning. It’s because the reward I’ve received for doing it seems to be worth it. Your comments have taught me so much. They’ve also affirmed me as a photographer. Also, it’s just smashing fun when one of my posts gets shared around the Internet and gets a lot of visits. But most importantly, I’ve found community through this blog and many other photography blogs.

I post to Instagram opportunistically, that is, when I have some downtime that I couldn’t profitably use in some other way. When you find a new Instagram post from me, you can assume I had five minutes between appointments with little to do but wait. It’s a nice use of my wait time for the return I get in those sweet, sweet fake Internet points.


29 responses to “Chasing fake Internet points”

  1. Sadah Avatar

    This is so nice.

  2. Dan James Avatar

    Very interesting post Jim, I’ve had a post in draft about this for a few months, trying to find a diplomatic way of expressing my thoughts. Which, in short, are I think “likes” on blogs are completely pointless (even worse is just “liking” a comment, rather than replying!).

    I just don’t get it. If you do indeed like a post that someone has gone to the time and trouble to write and share, then please do them the courtesy of leaving a comment to say so, and why. It helps us as bloggers see which posts resonate most with people, and build the conversation, and community, as you talked about.

    Can you imagine a community in the offline world where there was no conversation, and people just all nodded at each other in passing? Nothing would ever get done, no relationships around common interests could ever form, no learning from each other could ever take place. It would be bizarre!

    I really couldn’t care less about “likes” (this is why I have abandoned Instragram and Google+ again) but LOVE people to comment on my blog, and we can have, you know, an actual, real, person to person exchange of words, feelings and ideas…

    I really like your comments on return on investment. We need to think about this long and hard as bloggers. Why do we blog, what do we hope to get from it, what’s the point? I expect for anyone who has a public blog, “to connect and communicate with others about a shared interest” is pretty high up on this list of reasons. “Likes” (and any other form of “fake internet points”), for me, play no part in that.

    And without wanting to sound too paranoid about it, we forget (or maybe some have never known) the whole “like” device was invented to hook people on apps like Facebook, ultimately to make them click on more ads (ever more targeted of course, based on what you “like”), spend more money, and make the social networks richer.

    Um, I think I’m done. : )

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      There are simply times when I read somebody’s blog post and appreciated it, but have nothing meaningful to offer in response. In those moments, being able to click the like button at least allows me to acknowledge to the author that I liked what they had to say.

      This is just like in face-to-face conversation. Sometimes somebody will tell me a story, and while I enjoyed hearing the story, I have nothing meaningful to add. So I will say something encouraging like, “oh how fascinating!” this is the verbal equivalent of clicking like.

      I prefer comments on my blog to likes all day long. But I also know that sometimes I’ve written something that a reader really just has nothing meaningful to say about. In those moments, I really appreciate that they took a moment to click like – it lets me know they’re there.

      1. Reinhold Graf Avatar

        This is my approach too.
        If I have something to comment or to add I’ll do so.

        With ‘likes’ I think it’s worth differentiating ‘likes’ you set in blogs or in the large image platforms.

        Likes on image platforms are something very momentary … while browsing a hundred pictures an evening. Quickly stating … that looks cool, nice, interresting … some kind of rating.

        Likes set on a blogs means more … appreciating the authors work (on an article), thought, attitude, statement … some kind of agreement.

        Maybe I’m wrong with that ;)

        1. Dan James Avatar

          Reinhold, this is another problem – all “likes” are not equal, even in the eyes of one person! To some they’re important, to others pretty meaningless. I’d rather say nothing if I haven’t got something to say that adds to the conversation and/or appreciates and encourages the person who wrote the blog post in the first place.

          “Likes” on WordPress have really confused me, because I’ve turned them off in my settings so they’re not visible and when I look at my blog, I can’t any “like” buttons, like the little stars here on Jim’s. But I can see I’ve still been getting dozens of “likes” a month in my stats! Anyone know how this works?! Jim??

          1. Reinhold Graf Avatar

            That’s pretty funny, as it shows my principal concern … in these days where our communication more often is not worth beeing called ‘communication’, there’s room for interpretation. I see it daily when writing via messengers.

            Clicking a ‘like’ button can be interpreted – from both sides – and no one really knows what you meant. Writing a short comment – aka giving a written ‘like’ – might be the same.

            1. Dan James Avatar

              Yes I’ve had many text and email messages misinterpreted over the years! I guess we just have to try to communicate our intentions and thoughts as clearly as we can and hope that the majority of the time it comes across as we intended…

        2. Jim Grey Avatar

          Dan, anybody reading your blog in the WordPress Reader can “like” your posts even if you have Liking turned off. The Reader ignores that setting.

        3. Dan James Avatar

          Thanks Jim. That’s kind of annoying isn’t it! Do you know if the stats include people reading via email and WP Reader or just people visiting the blog directly?

      2. Dan James Avatar

        I think you’re more grateful than me Jim, to your credit! : )

        Taking an extra couple of seconds even to actually type “I really like this post” for me is a hundred times more thoughtful and encouraging than clicking a “like” button. Actually I switched off “likes” on my blog, at least we have that option.

      3. Jim Grey Avatar

        I am pretty sure that views via Reader count like views directly to your blog. But don’t take that to the bank.

  3. Mike Avatar

    Totally agree on the fake internet points. I find when I post a picture on Instagram that if it doesn’t get a bunch of likes (10-20) that I start to think that the picture I posted wasn’t good.

    I am getting to the point with IG I just post the pictures I want to. No one is asking me to take their pictures based on what I have on my Instagram.

    I take pictures for me and the few people who have asked me to make pictures for them. Those are the people whose opinions really matter.

    Keep up the great blog Jim.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I enjoy following other film photographers on IG and that is what most of my feed is. I just lament the phone-sized images. I feel like I’m missing out on detail!

  4. Film Beginnings Avatar

    A great read. Nearly every thought you wrote about has at one time another passed through my mind. It’s hard for me to weigh in because I’m so detached from the internet points system or at least I think I am. Before starting my blog, I purposely decided it would be a site with no advertising and I knew I won’t spend any time trying to build a following. It would simply be an organization of my thoughts as I rediscover film photography. If people followed along, it would simply be a fun bonus. Instagram on the other hand, I love. Not because of the “heart” system but because it does something for me that I can’t do I my own. After finishing some images, I’ve always grabbed out a few that I liked and put them in a folder. Instagram is now, in a weird way, that folder for me. Now for the part I can’t do on my own . . . the bonus is that I can go there and quickly look at a bunch of images that are somewhat tailored to what interests me. Also, when I “heart” an Instagram image, the thought “Thanks for sharing” always passes through my mind and that’s about it. It’s why I now have two very specific Instagram accounts. Prior to having this revelation, my Instagram feed was complete chaos. Endless images advertising cameras, links to sport feeds, pictures of peoples cats, etc. But now they are two fairly specific streams of 1) Images taken on film and 2) Images of Street Photography. So for me, it’s a tool and one I really enjoy using. And frankly, the hearts I receive mean nothing to me. I find that when I’m wandering around taking pictures that a lot of the Instagram photos that I’ve seen and hearted are flowing through my head and that helps inspire me. Thanks for sharing. I’d “like” your post but I didn’t even realize you could “like” blog posts until you made this post so I guess I’ll just continue not liking posts. :)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve always wanted to build a following. Now that I have one I’m not entirely sure what to do with it other than keep writing and sharing photographs!

      1. Dan James Avatar

        I sometimes feel just like this Jim. I enjoy seeing my views and visits steadily increasing month to month, and the conversations taking place… But I’m not sure what my end goal is. Or if there even needs to be one!

  5. Heide Avatar

    Thank you for yet another great, thought-provoking post. I suppose there are almost as many reasons for blogging as there are blogs — though I do know a few (mostly younger) bloggers who seem fixated on the number of “likes” they get. But like you, I’m much more interested in engagement. I greatly enjoy hearing the memories my posts spark for readers, or even different perspectives and opinions. That said, I don’t begrudge anyone for simply clicking “like.” Sometimes there isn’t anything to add to a conversation, except for a smile and a tip of the hat.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I know there’s this whole “L4L” (like for like) subculture out there where people just like each others Internet posts. But I don’t do that. If I click Like, I genuinely like the thing you posted!

      1. Heide Avatar

        L4L sounds like an acronym for people in need of a better hobby. I’m in your camp, Jim: Clicking Like means that I genuinely like something. (That’s why I Liked your reply.)

  6. M.B. Henry Avatar

    A great reminder about what really matters when it comes to blogging. I’m pretty new to it myself, but I’m already surprised by the community I have built up with my followers and the people that I follow back (like you!). I feel like I’ve made some real friends among them. It’s also given me a lot of extra confidence in my writing, and I will need that, as I will soon be marketing a completed historical fiction novel to agents! Thanks for sharing your thoughts (and the memes of course)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Post interesting stuff and people will eventually come around, and stick around! Good luck with your novel!!

  7. DougD Avatar

    Feh, I’m real and I know you’re real and I like your photography and blog.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You are one of the few people here who can be sure I’m real!

  8. Ankush Avatar


  9. Photography Journal Blog Avatar

    I’m one of those who clicks the heart on your Instagram posts. I don’t click through there though, as your blog posts come through my reader. I click the like button a lot on posts that I look at. From my point of view, it is a way of acknowledging the post, and the creative energy of the person behind it. I leave comments when I feel like it. I think all of us approach our social media a bit differently, so I try to do what makes me happy.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I agree: a Like is an acknowledgement. But also, to each his own in social media.

  10. fyidivorce Avatar

    First and foremost, you should do what you do because you like doing it. Engagement from others is a perk, not a requirement. Secondly, if you get caught up in the nuances of communication you are losing sight of your goal which is to produce great interesting content. Keep it up!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Doing what I do because I like it? Check! :-) But I don’t know if I’d’ve kept this up 11 years if people weren’t reading it and engaging with it. It really does keep me going!

  11. satyendrar595316623 Avatar

    Very Nice brother….

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