Despite past failures, Instagram has recently declared war (again) against “Instagram bots” — non-human automated programs designed to assist Instagram accounts in gaining followers, comments, and likes. These Instagram bots generate a constant stream of pseudo-interactions, mainly used to help promote individuals, brands, or companies. Some bots perform similar duties across a variety of social media platforms, such as Facebook or Twitter, while others are Instagram-specific. Either way, the end result is an increased amount of non-human content on the web, which begs the question: what effect do bots have on Instagram — and all of social media, for that matter?
Cultivating a Community of Imposters
Digital Trends, an online publication, notes that Instagram’s bold actions may be a positive move on the company’s part. “Many Instagram users are celebrating the platform’s work to cut down interactions that aren’t from actual people.” The article goes on to note that one unfortunate effect of bot services occurs when an automated comment appears on a personal — and sad — post, leaving other followers confused or upset.
These kinds of disingenuous exchanges do force us to pause and consider the point of non-human interaction on websites and apps that were, we thought, created with the intention of increasing human interaction, even if it does take place in the form of a pixelated smiley-face with two hearts for eyes. What’s the point of having friends or followers who are actually computer-generated algorithms?
The Bot Economy
Well, let’s examine why an Instagram user would want to purchase an Instagram bot service. The answer is fairly obvious: to make money, of course! The old saying, “Fake it ’til you make it,” certainly applies to this situation. Serious Instagrammers need to have huge followings as well as posts that illicit thousands of “likes” if they plan on gaining sponsors, attracting agents, or raking in advertising cuts.
The Washington Post poked fun at these types of users back in December 2014, after Instagram made its first push to discontinue the use of Instagram bots on its application. However, there’s not much that can be done now that non-human interaction has been accepted as an inevitable presence on social media. Instagram can eliminate bots, but they’re bound to come back, spawning in droves, much like their calculated contributions to our shared web space.
So, whether bots are a force for good or evil, it’s likely they’re here to stay. The alternative is that users can purchase Instagram’s own promotional service, the mere existence of which seems a little hypocritical, causing one to wonder if Instagram just wants to kill its competition and monopolize the market on false fame.
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