Hashtag Hell: A Journey Into the Asshole of Instagram

I love Instagram about as much as the next hip youngster with a smartphone, but the whole experience is really beginning to turn sour for me. Instagram is cool, undoubtedly, and undeniably popular. As of July 26th, 2012, Instagram has 80 million users. That’s a ton of pictures with retro filters, but a large user base can truly mean something awful.

 The other night while browsing my Instagram feed, I decided to explore a little bit. First, I tapped on the screen name of a person who had liked a friends picture. The account was fairly normal: pictures of food, animals, the occasional screenshot or meme– you know, typical Instagram stuff. No surprise there. But then I tapped on another account. And another account. And another. Eventually, I reached something truly awful.

 Shit. Complete shit. As far as the eye could see.  No matter what direction I moved, there was no good content. It was like good content had completely ceased to exist, and I now had to deal with this... this giant ball of garbage. Uninspired, over-hash-tagged, drivel. One account I found was literally all pictures of some dude shirtless in the mirror. I mean, how many pictures can one possibly take in the mirror? How vain could you possibly be? Another one I found was all screenshots of text messages. Seriously, there wasn’t a single picture in the bunch that was taken with the phone’s camera. Yet another, was filled with reposts of images that people you hate on Facebook repost on a daily basis. You know. The type of shit that makes you click that “hide” button, and eventually the “unfriend” button.

 The sadder part, all of these accounts seemed to be extremely popular. They all had large amounts of followers, and several likes on each picture. Honestly, not to toot my own horn, but I swear my account is 3 times as interesting as any of the crap that I had to wade through. I found myself confused, enraged, sad, and then compelled to remove Instagram from my phone forever – because I felt as though I had seen the future.

 As the community grows and grows, Instagram will go the way of every other social networking site on the internet. (These statistics are completely made up) Thirty-five percent will be engaged content creators, whose perspectives truly align with the brand. The other sixty-five percent will be these nothing accounts. Aggregators of complete crap in an attempt to steal the attention of uninspired users.

 It happened with Myspace, it happened with Twitter, it happened with Facebook, and now Instagram is next. I don’t know what I’m saying, it’s already happened. I’ve already stumbled my way into hashtag hell once. As time progresses, it’s just going to become easier for me to find myself there.

 What I don’t understand is this. Why do people even create these accounts in the first place? I assume that it has something to do with attention or popularity, because somewhere in each of these pictures that I saw, there was comment somewhere to the effect of, “like this picture!” It was either imposed over the image itself, or located in the caption field, but it was always there.

 What is the benefit of getting likes on Instagram? It’s not like there’s some company out there converting your likes to cash and paying you a check at the end of each month. Is it really that important to win a pissing contest? Or is this legitimately a scam that you can make a ton of money off of? Because as far as I can tell, these accounts are curated by either robots, twelve year olds, or idiots.

 If it is a popularity contest, why must it happen within every social sphere? Can’t you just stick to one community and not ruin another? Go create a group on Facebook called, “We really suck, let’s post our shitty shit here.” Or whatever you want to do, but stop tainting everything cool! You’re ruining it for the rest of us.

 Instagram used to be a place where people could share their perspective with one another. There was an art form to filter selection, framing, and captioning. Don’t get me wrong, that sort of thing still exists; but it’s only a matter of time before the infection spreads and everyone who once had a good time decides to defect because they start getting followed by bots who comment things in broken english like, “Hey u liek yr picture, go to instalike.com for super fun times now!”

 I mean, it’s the same reason I don’t use twitter very often. I feel like it’s so clouded with terrible, fake, and annoying users that I have to wade through a million terrible things just to find one good one. I don’t know. Maybe I’m asking for too much, but I’ll be damned if there aren’t a million other people who feel just like me.

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