A new trend has arisen among teenagers known as the “100 club.” The so-called “100 club” affects teens and college students everywhere, and it is ingrained in popular culture and in teenage identity today. The “club” consists of social media users who have received at least 100 “likes” on a particular post or photo. But for sophomore Vikram Patel, 19, receiving 100 “likes” is nothing but strategy.

“In high school I was very proud of not having many followers but having very dedicated followers to ‘like’ all of my posts,” Patel said.  “I mean, you would see people with 1,000 followers and they would get 100 ‘likes’ and then you’d see me with about two or three hundred followers and I would end up getting 100 ‘likes,’ too. It was just strategy. For me there are three different parts to getting 100 ‘likes’ on say, Instagram: picture, quote, and the time of the day. That’s it.”

According to data gathered by the Pew Research Center, young adults (ages 18 to 29) are “the most likely to use social media” with a usage rate of 90 percent. This is a 78-percentage point jump since 2005. And the adoption rate for social media usage is at “76 percent for those with a college or graduate degree.” Patel said he thinks students feel inclined to post and check their profiles so frequently due to a fear of missing out.

“People want others to see that they’re having fun and that they aren’t missing out on anything,” Patel said. “I mean I’m subject to that, too. If I’m doing something like that, then I want people to laugh at or enjoy it and see that I am enjoying myself.”

Intrigued by the prevalence of social media, seniors Davis Alcorn and Luisa Ruge-Jones worked together this past summer to conduct research on what motivates people to “like” certain Facebook posts rather that others online.

“When we first started looking into what dimension of social media we should look at, we found that not much research had been done on Facebook ‘likes,’ so we decided to pursue that route as to have a good shot of finding new, meaningful results,” Alcorn said. “We found that people ‘like’ for three main reasons. Those are: 1) content-based motivations; 2) relationship-based motivations; and 3) self-expression and public identity motivations. These three categories encompass many subcategories but generally hold true for all ‘likes’ reported in our study.”

One of the categories identified by the pair is the self-expression and public identity motivation. Alcorn described this as a way to promote one’s own image as well as reaffirm certain online identities.

“You can also ‘like’ something to promote or affirm parts of your identity,” Alcorn said. “For instance, I might ‘like’ a political post to reinforce my particular ideology. I might also ‘like’ something to push my own agenda, knowing that if I ‘like’ something it is more likely to show up on my friends’ timelines. That is that self-promotion/expression side.”

This brings users back to the idea of the “100 club.” Popular media oftentimes critique those on social media for using these platforms to create skewed versions of reality and then presenting them as truth to followers and friends.

“I think social media allows people to represent whatever parts of themselves they want, especially a side of them that is harder to present in person,” Ruge-Jones said. “You can be anything you want, good or bad.”

Alcorn agreed but said he has noticed new trends within the realm of social media to appear more “real.”

“We all know that person who posts all of their vacation photos, tweets out their good grades and generally puts up only things that make their online friends think better of them,” Alcorn said. “I personally have also noticed a trend emerging from my friends of using self-deprecating humor and to come off as ‘real’ and relate to their peers in that sense.”

However, for Patel social media is an opportunity to present himself in the best way possible.

“I usually just try to stick with looking professional but also being funny at the same time. I don’t want to give myself a bad rep or anything through social media, so I never tweet bad things about anyone or anything like that,” Patel said. “I never post bad pictures. I think, especially with Snapchat now, people who are making the Snapchat stories want to flaunt how much fun they are having, even if they are not having that much fun. So they will just have stories where they present themselves as if an event they are at is just so great even if it’s not.”

But the “100 club” is not only about reaching 100 “likes”; it is also about maintaining an online presence that consistently reaches 100 “likes” while also planning the next post, photo, or piece of the identity.

“If people see their online friends as being dependent on one’s posts, maybe they are more likely to post — like if you have a huge twitter following or something,” Alcorn said. “There also is definitely a need to be seen on social media as doing relevant, cool things that help prove to your friends, and maybe even yourself, that you are relevant in the huge masses of information passed on the internet. I can imagine that those people who often get large numbers of ‘likes’ now feel the need to meet this threshold to feel as though their post is up to standards or is getting seen by enough people to make yourself feel relevant.”

For Ruge-Jones, “likes” do not only show status, but they can also be a source of validation and affirmation.

“I think getting ‘likes’ is a good affirmation of existence for most people,” Ruge-Jones said. “There is often at least one person who identifies with you, cares about your family or laughs at your joke, and they can tell you about it by one little click, no matter how well they know you. That situation feels good to a lot of people — like being constantly complimented. It’s good.”

But when it all boils down to that core, no matter the motivation behind the “like,” Patel said he still thinks the drive for 100 “likes” and the pull to post stems from other societal values altogether.

“For me personally it is definitely ego — it’s kind of a narcissistic thing. I can say that I am a little narcissistic,” Patel said. “A lot of times you look at other people’s feeds and see their photos, see their tweets, or look at their Snapchat stories. But at the end of the day I’m looking at my own stuff more than other people are.”