The f word in followers

In today’s digital era the word ‘followers’ is a universal term used on a wide range of platforms. In real life, a follower is a person who imitates, copies, or takes as a model or ideal, however on social media Webopedia defines a follower as ‘someone who subscribes to receives your updates.’ In this post, I’ll talk about what it means to have followers, online AND offline. Can our society function without status? To begin, think about the platform you use most regularly and ask yourself whether or not you can imagine it without followers. I’m analyzing the importance of followers on Instagram, especially in regard to using status as a tool for social media marketing. I found that the digital era, along with its continual growth of social media platforms has encouraged an addiction to social approval and image distortion. So how important are followers in today’s society?


To put into perspective how valued followers can be on social media here is an equation:

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I want to further build on this concept by looking at Instagram as a status symbol. Alice E. Marwick, an academic observer of American online culture argues the fluidity of status, in that a person can have it in one area and lose it in another just as easily. She says with Twitter for example that ‘not only does follower number literally measure popularity, it also implies a level of influence, viability and attention (Marwick 2013, pg 96).’ She’s right you know; as shown above, ratio plays a big part in society’s value of followers. Sadly, enough, if you’d like to witness this pitiful notion there’s an article by  The Business Insider from last year talking about the ‘cool ratio’ equation. This equation may have similar results in real life. For example, in 2001 Anderson et al (2001) of the American Psychology Association found that ‘one of the most important goals and outcomes of social life is to attain status in the groups to which we belong.’ We see this just by looking at our own social hierarchies that formed in high school. The ‘popular’ group was popular regardless of their online status. So does this mean the line is drawn between social status in real life and social status online?

Focusing back on Instagram, last year social media users got this notification…


It was Instagram cleaning up the spam accounts in a form of ‘spam purge’ and essentially taking away what looked like thousands of real followers from ‘popular’ accounts.
So what happens when we come across a popular Instagramer with a damn right ‘cool ratio’ number? Essentially, following almost no one but having thousands of followers. I’m cringing just addressing this concept but we have a perceived legitimacy based on the numbers. Sometimes we will think ‘how can YOU have these followers?’ But do we take into account the hashtagging, regularity of posts, other linked platforms, paid posts, collaborations OR worst of all ‘BOTNETTING’ (buying followers). As a regular Instagram user I’d like to think we do, but looking at the broader and even worse spectrum it’s hard to believe. Tindenberg and Gomez Cruz (2015) of the Digital Ethnography Research Centre state ‘images play an important role in how we experience being in the world and increasingly, due to the ubiquity of online interaction how we ‘shape’ our world’. This one sentence along with the thought of the contemporary quantified self can be a scary thought.

Overall, status applies to both the online and offline world. It is extremely valuable in today’s society. Having followers means you have status. There may not always be a connection between the status of an individual online vs the status they have offline. However, people interact so regularly online that a status highly regarded as one of the most important aspects of our world. Our society can not function without status as it has become more than just a number or a ratio, it’s a tool.

In previous research here is what I found to be the conclusion to getting rid of status online.

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.. just to make matters even worse, I suggest you give up your attempt to claim the ‘coolest ration number’ because Beyonce already won that award 6.1 mil times over.

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Anderson, C., John, O., Keltner, D. and Kring, A. (2001). Who attains social status? Effects of personality and physical attractiveness in social groups. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81(1), pp.116-132.

Katrin Tiidenberg and Edgar Gómez Cruz (2015) Selfies, Image and the Re-Making of the Body

Marwick, A. E.. (2013). Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age. Yale University Press.




In the digital era, audience studies are important in terms of space. This is because, along with seeing your audience as a market you are able to measure the dimensions of place between media and reality. I wished to further research this concept through the eyes of the Instagram square, I called this ‘Instagram Interaction’. Whereby I researched social marketing and construction whilst using my own experience with this platform as an example.

Instagram is a platform that keeps a portfolio of photo memories along with users’ tagged locations and a feed of continually streamed photos, thus being a perfect content analysis for research narratives and space over time. As mentioned in my first post, exploring the distortions and limitations of reality that images in the 612 x 612 pixels square can achieve would further my understanding of the relationship place has on audiences.

Essentially, these photographs sum up my project.

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To begin my research, I wanted to understand how the audience as a market, effects the space between reality and most Instagram posts. Instagram is said by Villegas (2015) to be a ‘social movement that will increase your customer base and your social media engagement.’ However, one of the main ideas addressed in Villegas’s blog post is that sponsored posts are a powerful tool for marketing. She states ‘sponsored posts on Instagram come across as organic and relevant’. The ‘comes across’ space between audience and reality or truth is what I explored in my research.

This idea allowed me to want to further understand the realistic aspect of place addressed in deGuzman and Crawford (2013) ‘I forgot my phone’.

In order to achieve this, I went a week without Instagram. As addressed in my second post, this was more difficult than expected. An attachment to instant gratification and social approval is something that was evident the more I limited myself. Exploring this place allowed me to understand the reality that Instagram is able to distort.

Coinciding with this, to explore the ‘comes across’ dimension I used content analysis on my own Instagram account. Using five of my previously posted photos, I critically analysed them in terms of ‘what Instagram sees’ (the distorted space) and ‘what Instagram doesn’t see’ (the reality). Exploring these photos in depth allowed me to understand the lies, edits and practical truths behind them.  In terms of the photo itself, researching the way we can distort the image gave me an understanding that the audience can see something entirely different. From a photography perspective Caruana and Fox (2012) explore dynamic bodies of work that bring new dimensions to images. Similarly, Instagram provides tools that contribute to the act of distortion, Hochman and Manovich (2013) call these ‘manipulation tools’. For example, cropping, straightening, captioning, filtering and adding a location all change the message communicated to your audience in which Instagram stores as a memory. Hochman and Manovich (2013) argue that ‘each filter evokes a different “feel’’ and that ‘while taking a photo of a specific time and place, we apply a filter to it to suggest a different time or atmosphere’. This is shown in the analysis of my own Instagram account, whereby certain atmospheres and times of day weren’t truthfully conveyed through the photoScreen Shot 2015-11-02 at 1.40.03 PMScreen Shot 2015-11-02 at 1.40.18 PM Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 1.40.29 PM

With the emergence of the ‘attention based economy’ people have become more distracted than ever before. Therefore, we are living in a world where instant gratification defines our use of social media. Not being completely understanding of our distractedness in relation to the truth of an image could have negative effects on individuals. In terms of the distorted space versus reality, how does this affect the audience? Sunstrum (2015) argues that ‘because of this strict control of the way we are viewed, we are often fooled into believing other people’s lives are much better than our own.’ Overall, this can be seen as a problem in for the future of the structure of Instagram due to the negative implications for the audience arising when a dimension of an image is distorted.

Information about the research behind this project:

The form of research in which I carried out myself was a content analysis of my Instagram account. A qualitative form of research that allowed me to understand in greater detail the secondary research I had formed.  In order to convince media industries or stakeholder groups further research into the area of image distortion would help create an understanding of the truth about misrepresentation involved in the Instagram square.

How can these stories be used effectively?

From the research I have gathered above and the issues which have evolved from our addiction to social approval and image distortion I believe there needs to be a platform in which social media has no social status component, no likes and no editing tools. One of which people are able to express their own true lives with an inevitably raw feature. I believe this would be a great approach to assisting people in the natural aspect of social media. This is because we wouldn’t be able to see those with the most Instagram followers and base our opinions on the products they are promoting purely off their status. We would have to use our OWN minds, how scary.


Caruana, N. and Fox, A. (2012). Basics Creative Photography. 1000 Lausanne: Ava Publishing SA.

deGuzman, C. and Crawford, M. (2013). I forgot my phone. Available at: [Accessed 2 Nov. 2015].

Hochman, N. and Manovich, L. (2013). Zooming into an Instagram City: Reading the local through social media. First Monday, 18(7).

Sunstrum, K. (2015). How Social Media Affects Our Self-Perception. [Blog] The world of Psychology. Available at: [Accessed 2 Nov. 2015].

Villegas, F. (2015). Ten Reasons to Adopt Instagram as a Marketing Tool. [online] LevelTen Dallas, TX. Available at: [Accessed 1 Nov. 2015].


As part of my final compilation post for BCM240 I decided to restrict myself from the use of social media (especially Instagram and Facebook).

This may be seen as an unambiguous way to finalise a research project, it will all become clearer in my concluding reflection post.

However, this mode of research is a big part of my study. As previously addressed in PART ONE of my research the ‘big social media players’ in my life are there as an effective way to boost my ego. In saying this, to round up my project ‘Instagram Interaction’ I wanted to draw myself away from the platform.

This may not seem like a large measure to take in terms of research, however when I checked the statistics of my social media use I was proven otherwise.  I have used an app called Followers+ which tells you the analytics of your Instagram account. I was very much surprised to see that I had uploaded 3.1 photos per week.

With this information I decided that I wanted to break from this idea of social approval and addiction to social media for at least one week to experience the space between Instagram and real life.


Every living day the moment I wake I turn to my charging Iphone, unlock it and begin checking every single social media account I have. Beginning with the most influential social media platform in my life, Instagram. Taking myself away from this luxury was seemingly difficult. Despite making sure I restricted myself from uploading posts, I still found myself wanting to scroll through the thousands and thousands of photos posted everyday.

The overall momentum was this anxious feeling of me wanting to continue to use the app whenever I was bored, alone or just plain had a moment to spare (how wasteful when you think about it ).

This mini research ties in with my project as it helped me understand ‘Instagram Interaction’ from the dimension of the audience or from those who perceive. I realise from this that I have an addiction to the luxury, successful and painted lives that people live in the small window that we see through the Instagram square.

What I mean by ‘the dimensions of the instagram square’…

The 612 by 612 pixels square that we all see everyday of our lives. What is the true meaning of this space and the limits of what we don’t see beyond the square?  

These are all examples of my own Instagram posts, they are here to support my argument of ‘Instagram Interaction’.



A perfectly (strategically) neat set out table of food, with the right amount of lighting.


The ‘holiday’ referred to in the caption was in fact one of the worst I’ve had. Terrible, terrible storms forced us to stay inside the whole time. Not to mention the lighting only looks good because there’s a filter making it brighter.


(I am hesitant to categorise this photo with the rest as Italy truly is beautiful, however there really is more than meets the Instagram square)


The most beautiful angle in Italy. Sitting in a gondola, lapping up the sun, whilst peering out at some of the oldest buildings in the city of Venice.


Weather 40+ degrees

Disgusting smell

Gross water

Packed and crowded streets

There is one thing to note that throughout this entire gondola ride, although looking back now is very much appreciated, was spent wishing we could get off because the sun and heat was overbearing. It was also cut short because of this.



A seemingly candid photo that has my arm, a watermelon juice and my contiki booklet all sprawled out on a colourful sarong. So naturally beautiful, right?


Wrong. My watermelon juice went warm within minutes of being in the 37 degree heat. I was burnt within seconds. It was windy that day so when I lay down the sand whipped me and lastly I took over 20 photos all whilst trying to avoid other beach goers catching me out. I stayed for literally 5 minutes. Throw a filter over the top and all appears fine.



Square aesthetics featuring my legs, so creative..


This was inside a dingy bar’s bathroom.



Beautiful blue skies, nails elongating my fingers and a generic Voss bottle filled with fruit.


I was laying on my driveway between my cars, the nail that appears in the photo was the only one that looked this good, it was a hot day so the water went warm and by the time I got halfway through drinking it the fruit tasted horrible inside the bottle.

As you can see with the above examples the Instagram square can easily block the space between reality.