Instagram bots: cease all motor functions

For a long time I resisted Instagram as a medium for sharing photos. The interface and the constant stream of photos with retro filters reeked of pretentiousness.

“HURR look at me and my friends. We look like we’re out of some old photo album from the 70s.” Every Instagram user, ever.

It wasn’t until earlier this year that I finally decided to sign up so I could subscript to a cool car decal account and follow a few other people. Hell, I kind of wanted to join in on some of the fun with sharing some non-serious photos (no coffee/food photo rule still applies though). I also figured it would be a good way to connect with some people with similar photography interests.

Holy fuck was I wrong.

Instagram is mostly filled with “like” and “follow” bots that randomly interact with your account when you

  • Follow someone popular
  • Use a popular tag
  • Sign in

The other day I decided to follow all sorts of fitness icons that I also follow on YouTube. Within a day my account started getting “followed” by other, smaller fitness Instagram accounts. I don’t post fitness photos. I don’t post fitness motivational posters. I mostly post pictures of me and my dog or random shit from around Chicago.

Of course, using popular tags was the most understandable way to receive bot traffic. I mean, that’s how a lot of articles try to trick search engines to funnel traffic is to flood their pages with popular tags. I get it. Social media is a “numbers game” and you want to get as much exposure as possible. But at some point there is an apex of diminished returns. There are only so many tags you can throw on a photo before people will ignore your shit regardless.

I’ve noticed that just merely signing in will get bots to “like” one of your photos in order for you to check out their profile page, which 99% of the time is a business or an Instagram “personality”. I found this out after going a week or two from signing into Instagram, then after signing in and browsing my subscriptions, within a minute later an account would “like” one of my most recent uploads. This could be confirmation bias, but the pattern keeps reinforcing itself all the time.

This seems to be a growing trend among lots of social media platforms. A lot of them seem to cater to the same vulnerability of being subject to bot farms, of which a lot of people feel like they need to buy “likes” from in order to stay afloat and relevant among these platforms’ popularity algorithms. This is what it feels like to be afloat in the sea of banality with sensational titles and tags.

I want to look at “real” people’s photos. And not pictures of fucking restaurant meals, latte foam, or the same tired old selfie mirror style shot, or stupid memes. They’re more boring than studying the mating thrust depth of insects. I want simple beautiful photos of people just being people. Or nice thought-out photos of environments. Or clever themes.

But then again, it’s not my right to say what I want on a free platform. On a free platform, I’m not the user, I’m the product. It’s my information that’s being used and sold. If I’m so fucking hip, like I’m the Sheriff of photographs, then it’s my job to do something interesting, right? Maybe.

Maybe I just need to find more quality people to follow on Instagram. If I come up with a good list I’ll post a follow-up to this blog post.