Does Your Instagram ‘Explore’ Page Reveal Your True Self?
When I first approach a friend (let’s call him Matt) to let me look at his ‘Explore’ page for this story, he recoils defensively. Adamantly, he refuses, as though I’ve asked to look through his mother’s collection of his embarrassing baby pictures.
After much pressing, he wavers, saying, “It’s all just influencers la okay, nothing to see.”
“What do you mean?” I counter, feigning ignorance.
As it turns out, his ‘Explore’ page is filled with nothing but sweet young things. From women posing provocatively in swimwear to conventional looking sponsored posts, his ‘Explore’ page looks more like an edgy catalog for millennial shoppers than it does a curated feed of Instagram “suggestions” that are based on what he likes.
Or maybe this is what Instagram thinks he likes.
According to Instagram’s Help page, “Posts [on one’s Search & Explore page] are selected automatically based on things like the people you follow or the posts you like.”
Eventually, he admits that this is what he uses Instagram for. He adds, “It used to be more intentional whenever we wanted to look at hot girls. Now it’s just a casual thing. Who doesn’t want to look at good looking people when they need to kill some time? And the more you look at it, the more Instagram gives you.”
Almost everyone else I ask to show me their ‘Explore’ pages insists that these are bad reflections of who they are or what they’re interested in.
“Would you say that your ‘Explore’ page is who you are when no one is looking?” is the question I ask all of them.
“NO” and “I hope not!” are the only answers I get.
As one of them explains, “It’s more importantly based off what the people who liked the stuff I like, also like.”
It’s then possibly more accurate to argue that our ‘Explore’ pages reflect who Instagram thinks we are. On top of this, it also curates ‘suggestions’ that are influenced by the ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ of our followers and who we follow.
But theories aside, it’s still hard to deny that our personal social media ’Explore’ pages do not in some way reflect our interests. Algorithms, after all, work off hard data rather through some computer’s abstract intuition.
For 26-year old Regina, her ‘Explore’ page is filled with nothing but clips and pictures of puppies. There are puppies chasing their own tails, puppies running into and falling over each other, and even puppies tumbling down stairs and miraculously bouncing back up, alive and squealing.
Is this unequivocally who she is?
“Yes,” she concedes.
It is our responsibility, at least in my opinion, to just let them be.
After all, platforms like Instagram allow us to constantly witness how easily people forget their social media activity is actually public. On Instagram, we see every single post someone likes and every single profile someone chooses to follow—all in real time.
We’ve become familiar with the amusement of watching someone like nine consecutive pictures of some cute, manic pixie dream girl type, only to find ourselves asking, “Isn’t he afraid his girlfriend is going to see this?”
So while folks might insist otherwise, we know what’s really going on. We know what they do when they think no one is looking. And this fact just becomes all the more delicious when they then assert otherwise.