Diverse demographics of people use various forms of social media such as Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter. Social media allows people to build relationships, explore contents, and make partnerships. However, social media may also have a negative influence on people. For example, on October 4th, Senators accused Facebook of their inaction despite years of mental and emotional harm among young generations due to Instagram. According to the New York Times, Instagram’s features have “created a fraught environment for young users and made many teenagers feel worse about themselves.” Regardless of the initial intent as a photo sharing application, social media has become a dangerous and problematic tool if used with malicious intent. Other than uploading posts and sharing social life, Instagram is also used as a platform to make money. Advertisers and companies pay you larger sums of money to promote their product if you have more followers on your account. The need and the desire to make money caused people to not only upload unrealistically edited aesthetic posts, but also seek improper ways to purchase followers. In recent years, the development of highly sophisticated editing techniques has allowed people to gain fake followers on social media. There are three potential ways to gain inauthentic followers: purchasing bot followers, making extremely unrealistic photo edits to grab people’s attention, and committing identity theft by impersonating others. This article will examine the methods of gaining followers on Instagram and its consequences, as well as some approaches to solutions for aspiring Instagram influencers.
In general, people decide to create an Instagram account to connect with their family members and friends. Instagram can allow individuals to share their lives by posting photos and messaging each other. People might also consider making Instagram accounts to market their business. Influencers can make use of Instagram to share positive influence on their followers. Furthermore, people like Instagram because social media is meant to connect people. Individuals can be inspired or influenced by the posts others have made and post something on their account. As a global social media, Instagram allows people to virtually travel the world by viewing people’s stories and posts from all over the world. To the younger generation, Instagram can be seen as a necessary platform to have a social life. They might think that they are excluded from what is happening around them without social media. People might simply use Instagram because it is the trend. There are various reasons why Instagram is popular, and if used properly, Instagram can be a convenient device for individuals to leverage conversations and open up their social life.
However, some people take inappropriate measures to gain followers. On online social media platforms like Instagram, there are various ways to gain followers. Although some measures are justified, oftentimes people take improper measures to gain followers. There are mainly three ways to inauthentically acquire followers: buying bot followers, making extreme photo edits, and impersonating other people.
In addition to the possibility of purchasing real followers, nowadays, people can purchase bot followers. Hackers and programmers have created bot followers by writing a code to steal random identities using people’s profile photos, names, and biography. Currently, there are hundreds of millions of bots in existence and numerous bot buying sites, including Twicsy, Buzzoid, Rushmax, DVY Labs, and iDigic. As of 2018, there were approximately 95 million Instagram bot accounts. The bot followers can be purchased online, and they can be used to spread misinformation on top of making people appear more popular than in reality.
Another option for people to attract followers is uploading pictures with excessive photo edits. Instagram users have access to numerous photo editing tools such as Photoshop, picsArt and Facetune. These tools, if used properly, allow photos to have a refined image. However, oftentimes, the editing tools are used to distort an image to an extent that the new image defeats the purpose of photography. Photos are used to capture special moments in time, and by employing tools to alter the original image, the essence of the photo no longer exists.
Photo edits can lead to building followers as an influential profile that seems impressive enough to follow. This domino effect of validation starts with uploading a sensational (edited) photo. New people will follow the account and like that post. Then, it is more likely to gain even more followers as the post can be posted on the discover page.
The most infamous method to gain followers is by taking other people’s photos from their account and impersonating them. Creating an Instagram account is remarkably simple. One user can create multiple accounts, and this policy opens the possibility of creating fake profile accounts for anyone. Majority of the impersonating accounts come from pretending to be a celebrity. Instagram users might mix up the real celebrity account and the fake accounts and accidentally follow the fake account, or they might follow the fake celebrity account knowing that it is a fake account simply because users appreciate the celebrity photos uploaded in the fake account.
The ambiguity in the boundary between what is a personal preference and what is creating fake news creates chaos in social media identification. This situation brings confusion as to whether the accounts with many followers have real or fake fame . Furthermore, social media edits can negatively impact the young generation. For example, social media posts with edits may create unrealistic beauty standards. Young people may find the need to make edits on their photos to catch up to the beauty standards which causes a negative chain effect of the continuation of edited photo posts. This situation also causes the growth of body dysmorphia as well as mental health issues. Furthermore, impersonating an account is a form of identity theft. Although the accounts may be simply used to gain followers, in other instances, the accounts may be used to intentionally reach out to certain contacts or information. With the increase of these fake identity accounts, the level of comfort people feel towards the disclosure of personal information on Instagram goes down.
Currently, Instagram takes some measures to combat this issue. First, there are a lot of blogs and websites that walk-through spotting fake or impersonated profiles. There are several criteria to check in determining the validity of an Instagram account. First, if the first post was created recently, this might be an indication of a fake account. In other cases, the fake accounts may post multiple posts in one day to efficiently upload necessary pictures and fake biography in a fleeting time span. Another great identifier is to check the following and follower ratio. If there is an abnormally vast number of following but almost no followers, that account is most likely a bot. Few other methods include having no profile and low-quality bios.
Further, although there are different motives behind using social media, if the users’ purpose is to share photos with family and friends and retain memories, the users can keep their posts private on Instagram. By simply changing account privacy to private, users can prevent strangers from following their Instagram account. The only way for strangers to follow an individual's account will be if the individual accepts the follow request, improving the filtration of strangers and bot followers. However, if the Instagram users must have their account as public due to reasons such as sponsorships with business brands, then making another, more personal account will be helpful. The users can make personal posts on their private account while maintaining sponsorships with brands with their public account. By having personal information or special photos stored into a private account, the users can potentially prevent huge consequences of identity theft.
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