Instagram is cleansing its service from bots, which is good news for everyone who didn't buy a bunch of bots to follow them and a real bummer for anyone who did.
Cruising through the now-humbled accounts, discovered via an amazing data set compiled by Zach Allia, I thought would be good for some schadenfreude—you know, all these people with their high and mighty follower accounts being unmasked as frauds. Instead it ended up making me feel the less popular German emotion of Fremdschämen, empathetically embarrassed for these people. It's like that kid who claimed to have a girlfriend in Canada being unmasked in front of everyone, not only for having an imaginary girlfriend, but also fake teeth, hair, and parents.
No one lost a higher percentage of followers than the Instagram user chiragchirag78, who went from 3,660,468 followers yesterday to only eight today, a drop of 99.9998 percent. In response, whoever was behind chiragchirag78 closed the account forever, leaving only unanswered questions: Who was chiragchirag78? Why won't chirag's Instagram account come up on the Internet Wayback machine? Why pay for millions of followers if you're only going to post two pictures? Who were these eight real people?
SocialBlade offers a few hints—chirag's picture is a drawing of Walter White; he (let's go with the masculine pronoun) followed 22 other accounts, and his account's history is simply declines with periodic, presumably paid, follower spikes.
But chiragchirag78 is gone. It's the survivors who are left to bum us out.
Wellington Campos is a Brazil-based marketing manager who was, as recently as June, famous being the most popular non-famous person on Instagram with nearly 6 million followers—more than Kris Jenner, more than Lady Gaga, more than Barack Obama. All—literally all—he posts are posed pictures of Woody from Toy Story.
Looking at his account yesterday, you might have just thought that pictures of Woody from Toy Story staged all over the world could have more followers than the supermodel Miranda Kerr because family entertainment is more universally appealing than supermodels. Today, you know better than that.
Nearly 60 percent of Campos's followers disappeared overnight, leaving Campos and his Woodyland gallery with 2,225,650 followers. Not an insignificant number, for certain, but fewer than even the likes of Bruno Mars.
If the Campos account was just something you came across, it might be charming: Woody eating a ton of Nutella! Ha ha! You might even find it impressive: Woody with Oscar Neymar Jr, a soccer player so popular that even I, an American, recognized him on sight. Woody in Europe, Brooklyn, and Brazil. Campos is a real jet-setter, if nothing else.
But knowing that likely thousands of dollars were spent inflating the follower account gives the endeavor a tragic and pathetic air. It's like hearing that the notoriously nice Tom Hanks ruined the careers of his rivals en route to becoming Woody. There's an incongruity here that skews towards being revolting.
I reached out to Campos but have yet to hear back. Sure, he doesn't have the massive follower count anymore, but he still has over two million people commenting and liking his posts. And for that reason, I can't really make sense of why he ended up getting greedy. Like Woody into a jar of Nutella, Campos plunged right into the world of fake Instagram followers and got burned. Now he looks as foolish as this picture of Woody, uh, also with a jar of Nutella.