Piggybacking off of what Betty said, the only competition I feel on Instagram is with myself, trying to take the best photo I can. I do think it’s the most basic medium however because it’s so conducive to snap-judgements based on “do i like this photo? yes/no.”
I think in general though platforms are making a bigger deal of the quantitative number of likes and shares for two reasons.
1. Everyone wants feedback. People want to know how good they are at social media or how popular they are, I think it appeals to our competitiveness as you were saying. Companies want data on engagement to drive sales and marketing pitches and make content that will spread better.
2. With news feeds curating everything for us, we spend less and less time writing on other people’s profiles, especially with texting, snapchat, messenger, and email. What’s the point of writing on someone’s wall if not just to get likes?