Insta_Snoop

Instagram Is Trying to Make the App Less Horny, but Nothing Can Stop Our Desire to Snoop

The “Following” activity tab and likes may be gone, but the stalkers aren’t

Instagram is on a crusade to make the app less horny. First, they came for the sex workers. Then, they came for the underwear models, half-naked hotties and #FreeTheNipple campaigners. Now, they’re coming for us: the average horndog, spying self-saboteurs and self-proclaimed Insta-thots like myself whose endorphin levels are dependent upon the public attention we receive on the app. 

Instagram has spent the last few years cracking down on nudity and sexuality, citing its Community Guidelines, often in discriminatory and harmful ways — sex workers of all varieties have reported being blocked, having their content removed or being shadowbanned (where it becomes impossible for a user to easily find your account). These shifts may not have been noticeable for the average user, or at least didn’t impact the way they used the app, but the removal of likes and the “Following” tab means our daily interactions with Instagram will begin to look different. 

The “Following” tab, which documented the photos the people you follow have liked, their comments and whom they’ve newly followed, was quietly removed in early October. Instagram’s head of product, Vishal Shah, told BuzzFeed News that the removal came as a decision to simplify the app, claiming that it wasn’t widely used and that, more often than not, users found the feature to cause trouble in their social lives. 

Regarding the latter point, previously, the function granted you a streamlined way of seeing, for example, the thirst traps the guy you’re interested in liked of other women;  the culturally insensitive memes your friend thinks are funny; or that your exes recently started following each other. While this information is still technically publicly available, users must now go directly to someone’s profile to see who they’ve followed, or comb through the likes on a post to see who has interacted with it, making the process much more tedious and complicated.

Instagram has been talking about visibly removing likes, meanwhile, for months, and last week, CEO Adam Mosseri announced that the platform would begin to roll out the removal for “some” users. The change was tested in other countries over the summer, and while users could still like posts, they couldn’t see who else had liked the post or the number of likes a post had received overall, except on their own page. That is, I will still be able to gauge my self-worth based upon how many likes a photo I post receives, but said validation will only be apparent to me (obviously lessening all that validation).

Instagram has claimed that doing away with likes is a measure intended to make the app less competitive or detrimental to its users’ mental health, but, of course, the actual motivation behind the change could be far more cynical. While, yes, promoting a healthier user experience on the app could boost its profitability by increasing and retaining users, some have speculated that removing likes is really to prepare the app to serve as a middle man between influencers and brands, ensuring that Instagram receives a share of the profits. 

Influencers have already voiced concerns about the shift, saying it could impact their ability to make money on the app. Celebrities have further lamented the removal, with Cardi B claiming that the comments section is a far more toxic aspect of Instagram and Nicki Minaj threatening to stop using the app entirely. 

According to New York Times writer and digital culture expert Taylor Lorenz, though, removing likes won’t significantly change the dynamic of the app regarding influencer marketing. “Instagram’s new CEO has spoken a lot about his goals to reduce bullying and foster a healthy community,” Lorenz told CBS News on Monday. “And I think this is definitely in line with those efforts. That’s ultimately good for business.” According to Lorenz, the “like” is already an outdated measure of popularity on the app, and that other metrics, like Story views, are a stronger indicator of one’s engagement. “It won’t largely change what brands ask for, which is richer analytics data than just likes,” she writes to me via DM. 

Teens ‘Like’ Everything on Social Media Now

The everyday user is still suspicious, though. “I feel like removing likes doesn’t really impact me so much personally, as [much as] it makes me wonder if it’s to hide Instagram slowly shadowbanning you from your friends, and vice versa,” says Catie, a 22-year-old music student from Tampa and active Instagram user. “By removing likes (the indicator of whether or not your post has been seen or interacted with) they can more easily do that, and make it so you’re interacting with brands and paid posts without you being aware that your own organic posts are either underperforming or are never going to be shown to your friends. It’s essentially making Instagram like Facebook,” she says.

Whatever the motivation, until more major changes occur, Instagram continues to serve its primary function as a place to show off one’s lifestyle or looks and compare it to everyone else’s — as well as a place to quietly stalk your ex. 

While removing the “Following” tab and publicly visible likes may be a setback to snooping, public horniness and validation, the drives of sex and jealousy are surely too strong for mere technological shifts to overcome. What, then, should you do if, say, the “Following” option was your preferred method of snooping? 

True to their creepy nature, Barstool Sports’ Call Her Daddy podcast has previously suggested making a fake Instagram with which you only follow your boyfriend, essentially making said feed a document of all that person’s actions on the app. 

Others, meanwhile, are going straight to the source for intel. “Once in a while I’ll snoop my ex’s Instagram, going through every girl he follows, and see which photos of theirs he likes,” says Tiffany, 25, from Massachusetts. “He was also abusive and manipulative, so it’s a learned habit.” 

Really, there’s nothing at all stopping you from going directly to your person of interest’s Instagram the way Tiffany does, then combing through each and every bit of content there — it’s just far more time consuming than using the old Following tab. 

As for likes, although we may not be able to see how many likes someone else’s post has received, we’ll still be able to see the number of likes garnered by our own posts, and in some ways, this change could benefit those trying to be covert in their interest. “My girlfriend will get mad at me less,” admits Jeff, 26, from Massachusetts, pointing out that with visible likes gone, no one besides the photo owner themselves will ever know that you’ve liked the post. (Alternatively, some have entirely avoided the digital trail that likes leave behind by saving posts instead of liking them, creating something akin to a spank bank within the app.)

How Women Feel About You Jerking Off to Their Instagram Accounts

Perhaps, without visible likes, the emboldened ultra-horny will turn to the comments section, which, as noted earlier, is a medium capable of far greater horniness anyway. I myself receive such affirming comments as, “I’ll show you how a real man will set your panties on fire even while they’re dripping wet” on my posts, and nobody has put that man in jail yet. 

Better still for him, without the Following activity tab, it’s likely that no one in his circle will ever catch him and his brazen remarks, save for only the most dedicated of snoopers. 

Well, Godspeed.