My Instagram profile is set to private. I am not a public figure, a famous person, or even the slightest bit interesting to anyone who doesn’t know me. Or probably to the people who do know me, to be honest. So I’m always a little taken aback when I get the notification “this perfect stranger wants to follow you”.
The idea behind social media is literally in the name; to be social, to connect, to engage with other people. I myself follow many people I don’t personally know but in those cases, it was either a direct link from a blog or YouTube video, encouraging followers, or the profiles are public and heavily focused on things I have an interest in. I follow profiles of writers, fellow bloggers, musicians and people who share the same music tastes, sewists, artists, the odd nude model, witchy folk…but many of those profiles I’ve found on the Instagram discover feed, and are intended to gain followers.
Something like this blog is different. It’s a form of social media, sure, but the whole point of a blog site is to have people read what you’re putting out there. If having a private profile were an option here, how could anyone find other writers/bloggers they like to read. But on an app entirely based on photos, there’s a reason having a private profile is an option, and many reasons why mine is not public.
I, and my private profile, am not all that fascinating. Especially, I imagine, to the influx of people wanting to follow me lately. For example, as a misanthropic, anti-religious, perpetually angry heathen, I know I wouldn’t appeal to the three very openly Christian people who have requested to follow me recently. When one’s bio reads “consistently seeking to better myself for the Lord” I can guarantee that my blatant skepticism and disapproval of organized religion would be an affront to their delicate sensibilities. My own bio reads “I geek, I create, I don’t trust garden gnomes.” which I suppose might be enough to pique the curiosity of a stranger? Who knows.
I know that I often get a string of follow requests just after I’ve followed a new page. There’s probably some technological reason for that, which is beyond my understanding of the app. And of course, there’s always the spam profiles that I decline instantly. I’m not concerned with my number of followers. Unlike some, I could care less whether I have ten or ten thousand. So I feel no urge to accept every request to boost my numbers, and rather become increasingly perplexed by the sheer amount of them. To reiterate; I am not interesting. I don’t even have a cute pet…yet.
The paranoiac in me can’t help the wariness that surges up when I see that notification. I confess, more than once I’ve thought “who are you, why do you want to follow me, are you going to steal my identity?!” But then of course, the rational part of my brain says “shut up, you idiot, and just decline.” Which I then promptly do, to almost every stranger. Request, denied.