Picture this situation: On a quiet afternoon, you check your Instagram on your phone. You have a grand time browsing and checking out the different photos shared by other users, soaking it in through your Instagram account. All of a sudden, you notice a photo that looks exactly like the photo you posted on Facebook a few days ago.
You look at the user’s Instagram account, and what you find shocks you. This unknown individual, it seems, has reposted your photos and selfies! This Instagram account has few followers but it follows many accounts.
At this point, you could probably say with certainty that the Instagram account in question is what they call a fake Instagram account. It would be very shocking to see that someone on Instagram is pretending to be you. It’s even more shocking to know that there are fake accounts existing in this photo-sharing social media site.
There are quite a few questions here, though. Why do these accounts even exist? Are there different kinds of fake Instagram accounts? Should we worry about them? How do we spot them? And what should we do with them?
Let us explore the different kinds of fake Instagram accounts as we go over this article.
What Are Fake Instagram Accounts?
It’s pretty simple. Fake Instagram accounts are not real because the account does not belong to a real user, or behaves differently compared to the behavior of a real user.
Fake Instagram accounts exist for a number of reasons, and we need to identify the different kinds of fake Instagram accounts. Yes, there are different kinds of fake Instagram accounts, and each kind has a different purpose or function. Let’s look at these three kinds of fake Instagram accounts.
A poser is an Instagram account that seems to be real but is actually impersonating someone, or in other words, an impostor. A poser uses someone’s photos to portray a new (and of course fake) identity, and behaves in Instagram as a real account. It is considered as a fake Instagram account because it produces a fake identity (fake name, personality, and activity). Additionally, it illegally steals someone’s content to use as his or her own account.
Poser accounts are rampant not just on Instagram, but on almost all social media sites (such as Facebook and Twitter). Some poser accounts create a new identity, using photos from the real user. Meanwhile, others just copy the same profile and pretend to be the real user, including their names and content from the real user’s posts. Many people are misled and fooled by these accounts. People mistakenly assume that these accounts are real or that they believe that the poser account is the real account.
The thing is, a poser account is not created by the real user (that is, the one who takes and owns the photos). Worse, the real user is not even aware that there is a poser account of him/her. The real user may (or may never) find out that there is a poser account of him/her!
A bot is an Instagram account that either impersonates a real user, or does not impersonate someone or something at all. The difference between bots and posers is that posers behave in a way that is similar to the real user, while bots behave by making inorganic and fake engagements. It’s fake because… it’s obviously fake as you see how it behaves in Instagram.
Today’s tech adept create bots to serve real accounts. Most of them are Instagram accounts of different companies. Instagram users take advantage of these in order to gain likes, views, followers, and engagements in a fast, easy, and utterly inorganic way. Companies pay these bots to make inorganic engagements, and it doesn’t matter if a user’s growth is organic or not, as long as it is growing statistically. These automated users typically behave by following the target accounts, liking posts, and commenting on the posts of the target accounts where comments are generally cliche, weird, and just words that are related on a hashtag or a trending keyword.
News sources and data research show that 95 million accounts on Instagram are bots. That’s one-tenth of the total number of Instagram users worldwide! Even though Instagram have made efforts to purge these accounts, bot accounts continue to grow dramatically.
Fake Instagram accounts, or “finstas” for short, are quite different compared to bots and posers. Finstas are created by real users and they resemble their alternate identities. Other terms of finstas are “alters” or “spam accounts.” Most of these accounts are private, and only few or selected people know the finsta of a real user.
Finstas, even though similar with posers because they are alternate identities of the real users, are different because finstas are created, controlled, and curated by the real users themselves. Finstas are completely different from bots, because bots serve to make inorganic engagements to a target account, while finstas do not serve a particular user, or they just serve themselves.
Real users create finstas to show the other side of their selves. Some use finstas to hide their scandalous or their sexual behaviors from other people, or show their raw or truest identities, or show a curated version of themselves. Finstas are usually private spaces for close or real friends of the users, and they are used for their private interests or even used to boost their own fame.
Should We Worry About Fake Instagram Accounts?
Let us take a look at posers first. Basically, they steal your content. Stealing your content is already illegal, because you have your right on your intellectual property. Stealing an identity also imposes a threat in your security. Someone who steals your identity in Instagram could be using your identity for bad purposes such as crime or illegal transactions, and you don’t even know about it. Poser accounts may be used to stalk others’ accounts. Sometimes, they may even disturb the private space of the user. Additionally, such accounts could also be used for cyberbullying and hateful words.
Bots are one of the serious issues of Instagram. In fact, Instagram have already made a step in purging bot accounts. The existence of bots implies the existence of selling Instagram accounts to companies or users to boost their social media influence. Bots also disrupt the user experience, as these bots make inorganic engagements, and users see these while using Instagram. Tech-savvy partisan politicians also use bots to spread fake news and political propaganda. They are particularly effective in spreading misinformation to Instagram users.
Just a small problem
Compared to posers and bots, finstas are a considerably smaller problem. That’s because most of these accounts are private and only interact with a select few individuals. But they impose a concern on the current generation of teenagers. Most of the finstas are created and curated to make them more appealing to others, rather than to create accounts that show their true selves. This phenomenon is called the “avatar effect,” where a person can freely create an ideal version of themselves that would boost their self-esteem and would make people love them. Teenagers use finstas to hide their true selves. Finstas aren’t much a problem, but their existence and implications merit extensive discussion. Finstas could also hide the users’ scandalous or sexual behavior. Even worse, trolls can use these accounts for cyberbullying and hate speech.
It would be tricky to label a finsta as a fake Instagram account. It’s real to the extent that a finsta account is just an alternative account of a real user. In other words, a real user controls it, compared to posers or bots. But most finstas are fake. That’s because not all alternative accounts, even though they are controlled by their real users, show the true identity of the users. Hence, the term finstas. Sometimes, finstas are more real than the user’s curated accounts. That’s because their posts show their raw and true selves in a private space.
Others create fake Instagram accounts to stalk unsuspecting users, mostly private accounts. Still, a few create fake Instagram accounts to bully another user through hate speech or produce hate content that directly attacks said user. Nevertheless, there are different kinds of fake Instagram accounts and these accounts have different functions. But they are all similar because they are not real. Furthermore, they do not reflect real people through their identities and activities on the photo-sharing site.
How Can We Fight Fake Instagram Accounts?
We don’t need to worry over fake Instagram accounts to the extent that we would stop using Instagram or deactivate our accounts. Fake instagram accounts are a concern for us, true. However, authorities and concerned users are already making steps to address these issues. We could still use and enjoy Instagram at this point. However, we need to be more responsible in addressing the issue of fake Instagram accounts.
Make no mistake: Fighting fake Instagram accounts is essentially a group effort. Many of us may have encountered a fake Instagram account. Perhaps some of us have never encountered a fake Instagram account before.
Here are some tips on how to spot fake Instagram accounts and what to do with these accounts:
Unrealistic Profiles and Weird Posts. Look at their profile pictures and their shared posts. Sometimes fake accounts don’t have profile pictures. On most occasions, they feature profile photos that actual, breathing human beings wouldn’t normally use. Sometimes, they even use photos of other people to make the fake account even more convincing.
Unusual Activities. Unusual activities include uploading a certain number of posts in just one day, newly created accounts, just a few uploaded posts, a higher ratio of following compared to followers, and spam comments.
Check Their Photos on Other Sites. Google Images has an image search option where you can search in Google by uploading a photo. You can verify if the account is fake by getting the photo through a screenshot then use image search. If the results show that a different user altogether actually the original photo, then the account is almost certainly fake.
What To Do With These Fake Instagram Accounts
- When you encounter a fake Instagram account, report it to Instagram immediately. You can use your Instagram app to report unusual activities or impersonation of other accounts or people. They will send you a form and you need is to provide all the requested information and a photo of your government-issued ID.
- If you can track down the victims of those fake accounts, tell them about what you saw. It would certainly be kind to inform them, even if you don’t know them personally, that fake accounts are using their photos or their identities. This will make them aware of the situation. Hopefull, they will respond by taking the necessary actions to protect their privacy.
- If you spot a finsta, it would be better not to bother them, as long as they’re not bothering you. It would be good to respect their private space and let them be who they are (or who they want to be), as long as they are not harmful to anyone. If there are cases of using these accounts to bully someone, then it would be best to report the account for bullying.
Now there you have it! Now you know why there are fake instagram accounts. You’re also aware of how to identify them, and what to do when you encounter them. The goal here is essentially to make the Internet and Instagram a better place. In order to ensure a meaningful and high-quality experience in using Instagram, we need to exercise responsibility in using it.
Remember: It’s always better to be real than to pretend to be someone. Inadvertently, pretenders cause harm not just to others, but also to themselves. So don’t be one.