About a month ago, I was chatting to an acquaintance whose Instagram following has mysteriously skyrocketed in the last year.
“How did that happen?” I asked her, full of curiosity and about 45 tablespoons of cynicism.
“Oh, you know. I just post really regularly and engage with other people’s content,” she told me like a total liar. “It happened, you know, like, super organically.”
I smelt a rat. A big, fat Instagram rat. After the New York Times reported that a heap of Instagram influencers are fraudulently acquiring their followers, my interest was well and truly piqued: In 2018, can you really become Instagram famous without cheating the system?
Naturally, I decided to find out. On my own account. In 10 days.
Aaaaaaaand here we are.
This is what I, along with my Instagram brainstrust – which consisted of an established beauty influencer, male model, and food blogger – decided was required for this extremely important ‘Make Mich Insta Famous’ experiment:
- I must post one thing to my Instagram feed every day, and one thing to my Instagram Story every day.
- I must formulate a “content plan” and stick to it.
- I must like/comment/interact with over 100 images a day. (I’m told this helps. I have absolutely no idea why.)
With a green tick from my manager, a heart filled with regret, and an exceedingly wary boyfriend, I embarked on my mission.
Instagram fame, Here. I. Come.
Day One: Le selfie
A staple of any good Instagram profile, right?
I get home from work and begin applying makeup for absolutely no reason other than to take a photo of my own face. I take a total of 44 selfies.
They're all... not great.
I pick one and upload, before spending the next 90 minutes on the couch, commenting on and liking strangers' posts. My boyfriend looks at my phone with a mixture of befuddlement and sadness. He says "are you really doing this Instagram thing for 10 days?" twice before heading to bed, likely dreaming of how nice it'd be to date an accountant and not a writer.
I gain three followers.
Day Two: The 'I Just Happened To Walk Past An Amazing Florist And Candidly Took A Snap!'
Ah, the post that influencers whip out for the kill all the time.
I set off on my lunch break in search of an Instagram-worthy florist. Google Maps says there's one in my area! Easy-peasy!
After 28 minutes of walking through various arcades and side streets, it appears that the florist has shut down. There is no longer a florist in my area. Google Maps has failed me. After divulging my dilemma to the helpful lady at a nearby Indian takeaway store, she tells me, "there is a nice cafe just down there, that would be a lovely picture!"
I'm supposed to be back at my laptop, so hurriedly take a snap of the stupid cafe instead.
I trudge back to the office and thrust my phone in my colleagues' faces. "IS THIS OK TO POST? DOES IT LOOK LEGIT? WILL IT MAKE ME FAMOUS?" I ask, a bead of sweat rolling down my face.
Sophie and Zara shake their heads in disgust. I scroll through my camera roll and find a photo of Valentine's Day flowers I took in 2017, add a stupid filter and press 'publish'.
I lose three followers.
Days Three and Four: Literally stuff I had in my camera roll
I'm slipping. It's day three and I'm slipping.
I keep forgetting that I'm an influencer now and continually make the grave mistake of living my life instead. For two consecutive days I don't post a thing until 11pm. Both things are from my camera roll. One's a holiday throw-back and the other is a mushy meme I found two months ago.
My mum's friend sees my holiday throwback - which I hashtagged with #bali and #fbf - and LITERALLY MESSAGES ME VERY HELPFUL SUGGESTIONS OF WHERE I SHOULD GO WHILE I'M IN SEMINYAK. Then she wishes me a safe trip. And puts xoxo on the end. I fight the urge to delete the photo/my Instagram account/my self from existence.
I feel... hollow.
I gain 24 followers across two days.
Probably definitely because my tits were involved.
Day Five: The iced-latte shot
You know the one.
I make my sister take 109 photos of me holding an iced latte just so I can post a stupid effing photo of it, in which time my iced latte melts.
I gain eight followers...
... but my freshly downloaded InstaFollower app informs me my ex-boyfriend, my first boyfriend ever, unfollows me. So does a woman I worked with in retail for two years. Amazing.
Day Six: TIME TO RAMP THINGS UP
Gaining about 40 followers in five days is nice. It's fine. But when you're halfway through an experiment where the end goal is Instagram fame, it doesn't really cut the mustard, ya know?
I decide to ramp up my Insta game with the help of my food blogger pal. He tells me an industry hack that's... not exactly illegal, but is absolutely frowned upon. Let's just say it's the ball tampering of Instagram.
A robot. I buy a $50 Instagram robot.
This robot - who will, from this point forward, be referred to as David Warner - does all the annoying stuff for me. While I live my life, even while I sleep, David Warner likes THOUSANDS OF PHOTOS on my behalf. He also comments on strangers' stuff with reckless abandon. And follows random people in the hopes they follow me back. When they do follow me, he unfollows them. He's ruthless and I bloody love him. It becomes clear that this is clearly how all the other Instagram influencers are doing it, because there are hundreds of Instagram robot businesses online.
I'd call it cheating, but is it really cheating when everyone's doing it?
Telling myself that helps me sleep at night.
I gain 30 followers in a day, without really lifting a finger. I feel very fondly towards David Warner.
Day Seven and Eight: So many followers and so much regret
So it turns out David Warner is talented and flawed in equal parts.
Talented because he's getting me so many Insta followers I want to cuddle his little robot face, but flawed because he keeps commenting the most inappropriate shit on my acquaintances' posts.
For instance, David Warner thought it was appropriate to comment love heart emojis on my ex's photo. It... it was a photo of him and his new girlfriend. Apparently I felt so strongly about that I left him green heart emojis in celebration. Brilliant.
David Warner also thought it was cool to comment "amazing post, love this!" on my guy mate's video. It's a shame my guy mate is an exercise physiologist, because said video was of an elderly man getting physiotherapy. He replied, "Lol, thanks Mich?" and I think that's when I choked on an Easter bunny and my soul left my body.
There were cringeworthy comments on Japanese K-Pop videos. On porn accounts. On celebrities' photos.
On MY BOSS'S PHOTOS.
I gain over 100 followers in two days. It's absolutely not worth it.
Day Nine: Numbness
I can see the finish line. I now have David Warner doing all the hard stuff for me so sit back, post a selfie from a year ago, and let my gorgeous follower count wash over me.
David Warner keeps following dental offices and gynaecologists from the US, but who am I to judge?
I gain 75 followers. I'd be salty that four girls from high school unfollow me but at this point I'm too numb to care. Also, pretty sure I have every dentist in Texas following me in their place, so that helps.
Day Ten: Sweet, sweet relief
It's over. IT'S EFFING OVER.
I force Mitchell to take a photo with me because despite the initial stormy outlook, I have lived the life of an Instagram influencer for 10 days and nobody broke up with me.
Day 10 is blissful, aside from the gentle panic now that I've given my bank details over to David Warner's creators and I can't find an option to cancel my robot subscription anywhere. I email customer support three times. I'm not exactly looking forward to telling the Westpac support lady that my debit card details have been stolen after I gave them to a dodgy Instagram robot.
At Saturday night drinks, I drunkenly tell every friend I see that IT'S OKAY I'M NOT AN INSTAGRAM DICKHEAD I SWEAR I'M WRITING A STORY HA HA HA HA. I'm pretty sure at least 70 per cent of them don't believe me. One person visibly mouthed the word "sure" to her girlfriend across the table and oh god just let this end.
I gain 35 followers.
Opening follower count: 2630
Closing follower count: 2855
I DIDN'T EVEN GAIN THAT MANY FOLLOWERS despite me doing all the things. Whipping my boobs out. Adding all the hashtags. Losing all the dignity. Etc.
David Warner made a valiant effort, and I'm absolutely positive that the majority of influencers have their own Instagram robots working for them behind the scenes, but he also made me die inside.
Working on this story has made me agree with publications like The New York Times and Sydney Morning Herald - a great deal, if not the majority, of influencers are buying followers. They MUST be. I seriously don't see another way to have a meteoric rise to Instagram stardom. (Unless they post boob shots every day. Boob shots are the only other plausible way.)
So, is trying to become an Instagram influencer a worthwhile exercise? Absolutely effing not.
Have you ever tried to become insta famous? How much time do you spend on your online profiles?