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social media stalking

Deleting my Fake Followers on Instagram

Like all good bloggers, I am an active member on Instagram – some of you reading this might have found me via this app. Up until recently, I had about 2.4k followers.

I joined Instagram when I decided to write my master thesis about The Dark Side of Social Media (which was also the reason I started writing this English blog). I was already a member on Facebook and Twitter and thought I should dive deeper into the social networks for my studies.

As you can read in the blog post about my master’s study, my research questions were how narcissism is linked to social media usage. Same thing for happiness, depression and other personality traits. To test how fake the Instagram reality is, I set up a variety of follow-for-follow programs and tested out different 2nd-party apps that can help automatize an Instagram account.

Follow 4 follow?

It was somewhere in this process I became a little addicted to Instagram and engaged in my account beyond what I needed for my master thesis. I spent way too much time figuring out the best automation mechanics, follow4follow strategies, hashtags, when to post, what to post, what filters to use, etc. My follower number steadily climbed up as I liked pictures and followed accounts just so they’d follow me back.

At a certain point, this number rose above 2.5 k but what I had been doing started to feel wrong. I justified my behavior because no one was getting hurt… right? I never bought followers or did any illegal shit like that. Still, I had become the fake Instagram user I had always criticized.

So, I stopped using any and all Instagram tools. This was about one and a half years ago when I decided I needed to stop treating Instagram as a tool and start doing whatever I want again. This has (of course) had a negative impact on my engagement on Instagram. In the beginning, I often played with the thought of going back to my old habits but in the end I’m glad that I never did.

Getting real

As a final cut, I have decided to delete my fake followers once and for all. So, I’ve downloaded one last Instagram automation app, called Instagram Cleaner. With this app I had my profile analyzed and fake and ghost followers removed, as far as possible. I honestly have to admit that this step does feel like I’ve deleted something I’ve worked on very hard, but I’ve also gained something far more valuable. The knowledge that my Instagram account is intact and for real again. The irony behind all of this is that while I never spent money on buying followers I did have to spend 4 euros on the app to mass-delete the bot and fake followers again.

An addictive game of numbers

Much of what happens on social media is a numbers game. If you wanna find out, how successful an account is, you have a look at the followers and the likes. I used to think like that too but I don’t wanna be that person anymore. It feels pretty amazing to free myself from that pressure and start measuring the value of accounts by the content, not the metrics.

As an interesting side note, I wanna add that Instagram never deeply affected the user count of my homepage. So, in the end, all my promo work on Instagram might have been useless. But it kinda always is, isn’t it?



More stories:

Pseudo-accurately calculating how many potential partners live near me
Quitting my Job (again)
40 Days without Weed
My DJ Set for your Weekend

Compulsive nonconformist who left the 9-to-5 world after studying psychology and has since then devoted himself to design and writing on a freelance basis. Has at least four different kinds of chips at home at any given time.


  • 28. May 2020

    I love that getting the followers was free – only costing time – but getting rid of them was four euros. Kind of an analogy for the toxicity of dating: it’s free – aside from the gym memberships, constant primping, cost of product and the time invested “on the apps” – but if you get a bad one, getting over the guy is gonna cost you a visit or twenty to a therapist.

  • 28. May 2020

    Fascinating! I just read the posts on your study. So my question is, do you think the issue is social media or that as a medium it generates a form of cross group access that didn’t exist before? Historically socialisation occurred based on established social markers, class and status playing a major role. So isn’t that the real subversion?

      • 29. May 2020

        If you think about it, society used to be extremely insular. Of course things will vary depending on where you’re born, but if you were born in middle America, or middle France, for that matter – you probably lived in a neighbourhood where the other residents were of (roughly) similar socio-cultural background and also similar economic status. You went to the neighbourhood school where this cohesion was also present. The standard was therefor in-group conventionality. I imagine that created a sense of comfort and belonging. Film and television were the escapism, but even that was visited and viewed from within the lens of the home group. Now what I think social media does is destroy the idea of adequacy by making what stands out seem to be the average, the standard. I’ve seen this tested in a number of different ways; but a very interesting one is, for example, people think the average salary in France is much higher than it is in reality.

          • 29. May 2020

            The problem is I think it’s a whole system that ends up deceiving people. Inadequacy creates psychological desire, and that desire leads to people buying things – and the people selling things need us to feel inadequate so they can sell more things.
            In the salary case I mentioned, the survey showed French people believed that the average salary was 3500€. In reality only 17% of the French population makes more than 3 thousand a month. So imagine all the things people have to do to measure up? To feel like they’re not inferior.

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