My Twitter timeline was buzzing last week with commentary on Instagram's latest round of clean up efforts. If you didn't catch the "Changes to Followers" message on your activity feed last week, the Facebook-owned photo sharing app announced: "Your number of followers may change in the next few days as we clean up more spam accounts." The December clean up comes on the heels of a similar effort in April 2014, the first time Instagram deleted inactive, old and spam accounts on a mass scale for the first time. A spokesman for Instagram said: “We believe this will provide a more authentic experience and genuinely reflect people who are actually engaging with each other’s content.”
So, why is everyone freaking out? Well, as our friends over at Racked pointed out earlier this year, buying Instagram followers is a surprisingly commonplace tactic in fashion, with big name bloggers, brands, and models alike beefing up their audiences with a bunch of fake followers, which can be purchased on any number of sites. Just this week we learned that the three designer defendants in the recent Nike lawsuit reportedly bought up a significant number of their social media followers in order to "help create the false perception of buzz and popularity surrounding their design careers," or so says Nike. The Racked article echoed this sentiment, quite accurately stating: "Originality doesn't get bloggers noticed anymore—numbers do." This is especially true given the "hundreds of new fashion accounts that are popping up everyday," as the Huffington Post wrote last year of Instagram.
The practice of buying followers, and Instagram's subsequent push to limit these fake accounts, sheds some light on a larger problem in fashion, and in fashion blogging, as well. Not only is everything sped up (think: runway to red carpet in days and runway to fast fashion shelf in weeks), but quantity, whether it comes in the form of how many collections a house can show per year and thus, the bottom line it can capture in terms of sales, or the number of followers a blogger has on Instagram, reigns supreme. With this in mind, it seems that one of the underlying premises of the fast fashion movement, where quantity is held to a much, much higher standard than quality, permeated the blogosphere at some point. And as a result, substance and meaningful content took a backseat to make way for the pure numbers game that is personal style blogging and much of fashion, too.
While we can't undo the current state of fashion, partly because it is, after all, a commercial business, it would be nice to know that substance can coincide with commerce and thus, can still play a role in the grand scheme of things. So, instead of shaming those bloggers that suddenly have far less friends on social media, maybe we should shift our focus to something more productive: Acquiring followers in a meaningful and sustainable way … by producing quality content. Idealistic as this may sound, it is a worthy effort, no?