The Great Instagram Purge Is Turning Us Into Mean Girls

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Photo: Steven Mark Needham/Getty Images

Those Instagram users who go to bed each night confident that their followers are real — that there are actual humans out there admiring their avocado toast — might soon awake to find out their fragile construction of self has collapsed. Yesterday, on the heels of reaching 300 million ‘grammers, the company announced new initiatives (like verified accounts) and a continued effort to rid the app of fake and spammy accounts via a post on their profile.

Actually, Instagram has been deactivating spambots since April, but the drop in followers hasn’t been noticeable so far. Now there’s a bigger push to delete these accounts rather than just deactivate them, which will have a greater effect. In fact, many users may have noticed a message from Instagram when they opened the app, warning them that they might see a "change in follower count," with a link to a further explanation of new policies. (Full text here.) 

Cue the panic alarm: Our carefree,  bot-bolstered days are numbered. 

If this 2014 purge is anything like the Great Twitter Purge of 2013, people will stand to lose lots of followers: Instagram stars like Kim Kardashian, Beyoncé, and Eva Chen could see a decrease by tens of thousands. Don’t weep for them — they’ll probably be just fine without their bot-friends — but it’s the Instagram-famous bloggers and personalities who stand to suffer the most. First off, if your sponsorship deals are based on your popularity, followers are basically your livelihood. Some "influencers" could be revealed as all bot, no action.

But perhaps even more damaging than the loss of income is the irreparable blow to ego. Since Instagram announced phase II of the purge, there’s been some serious shade being thrown on accounts people assume are feigning popularity — it’s like a Twitter-based reenactment of Heathers. There are some who are eagerly waiting to see which popular “fake” bloggers might be dethroned post-purge.

Give it two more days, and we might reach Gladiator levels of shade.

It takes the real cold light of a social-media crisis to reveal who your enemies truly are. But, perhaps, it’s also a time for social-media stars find out how genuine their fanbase is — or their fame is just a meaningless lie. Let’s see what happens when we stop getting spammy, and start getting real.