Feeding your algorithm

The other day I included the phrase “stupid Instagram” in the caption for a photo on Instagram. I was quite proud of the photo, and figured it was a decent contribution to Mountain Monday. I was expecting a steady stream of likes, probably topping out around 30-40 or so (which is typical for me). So imagine my surprise when nothing happened. I got a couple of likes early on, then one or two more and finally another couple from followers whom I suspect have relatively short follower lists.

And that was it. A grand total of 9 likes in nearly 48 hours, none of which were from what I would describe as my “mutual admiration circle”; people with whom I tend to exchange likes. I was baffled, but then I began thinking about the fact that Instagram’s feed is now driven algorithmically and is not just a timestream (which I would prefer), and I wondered if the fact that I’d written “stupid Instagram” meant that Instagram’s algorithm significantly down-weighted my post to the point where almost none of my followers saw it? Could Instagram really be that sensitive to even the slightest perceived criticism?

Now, of course I realize that many of the people I follow have really long lists of others they follow, so it could simply be a numbers game. And I have seen that happen in the past, but I still usually rack up 20-30 likes. (By comparison, my latest photo is up to 35 likes in less than three hours.)

So I will try another experiment in the near future. I might even post the same photo, at the same time of day with all the same tags and caption, only with the perceived slight on Instagram’s part removed. And I’ll see what happens.

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