When I was in high school I remember being so jealous of my peers because of how many likes and followers they had on Instagram. I didn’t understand how someone could get so much engagement on such low quality posts. I was introverted, so I credited their high number of followers to the fact that they were probably just more social than I was. And being more social, means having more followers… right? 

One night I had an epiphany. Did my peers’ ability to make friends correlate with the high numbers on their social media accounts? Does having good numbers make people subconsciously desire to be your friend? I was determined to know the answer.

So, I devised a secret 30 day case study on how people treated me based on my social media numbers. The catch was that I planned on increasing my social media engagement through acquiring fake followers and likes. Best of all was that the plan didn’t require that I actually had to leave the comfort of my dorm room.

As a way to decrease variables in this social experiment, I stayed true to myself and didn’t waver from my usual “Insta routine”. So the quality and frequency of my posts stayed the same. The only difference was that I was using outside apps and strategies to gain “fake” engagement. 

Here are two of the strategies I adopted for the 30 days: 

  • I used an app called like4like in which users can like and follow strangers and in return gain points which can then be spent on receiving likes and followers. 

  • I gained followers by following verified badge accounts that belong to celebrities. Why? Apparently Beliebers (a.k.a. Justin Bieber fans) really like following other Beliebers. So they make it their life goal to follow everyone who also follows Justin. Some fans do this out of the hope that you will follow their Justin Bieber fan page. And this “fan follow back” culture applies to most celebrities with a large fan base.

After the 30 days were up, I gained over 500 “fake” followers and I went from an average of 35 likes per post to over 120. 

(Note that this all happened on an account that I have now deleted, so you will just have to take my word for it.)

After the 30 days I stopped using strategies to increase likes and followers, and what happened next was crazy…my “like” average and number of followers didn’t totally plummet. Yes, my stats did decrease, but the engagement on my account was still well over double what I had started with at the beginning of the 30 days. 

After those 30 days, guess where my new followers were coming from? And guess who liked my photos the most? People I knew. 

Hot damn, I was right. People I knew thought I was more worthy of following simply because of my numbers. 

And as fucked up as it sounds, all of my social media growth actually changed my social life. Somehow my voice became a little more valid in group discussions in the cafeteria. I became “relevant”, as high schoolers say (eye roll). People would bring up social media and someone would mention my latest photo. I received more compliments and was invited to more social events. And, as far as I know, no one caught on to the fact that I had acquired traction though “fake” means. And even if they did know, my accounts forward momentum after the 30 days was over didn’t lie. 

So yes, social media numbers (fake or otherwise) can actually influence your social life.

I realized there was no reason for me to feel jealous of my peers social media numbers. Yeah sure… I did gain some popularity though this experience, but I never gained any new real friends of substance. Somehow I became more worthy of my peers attention, but I knew that this new intrigue in me was founded on something petty and superficial. 

The outcome of this experiment may not be that big of a surprise, especially considering I was in high school. But even now, I think this shift I experienced in social status is defiantly worth noting.

A couple other things I learned… 

  • The number of followers and likes a person has says very little about their social life. 

  • Don’t allow your treatment towards others to be influenced by the numbers on their social media. 

  • If all of your followers follow you because they think you love Justin Bieber but really you don’t, then you will likely have to compromise your true self in order to maintain your follower’s attention. Maybe you can find a common ground, but at the end of the day you are still being disingenuous. That isn’t healthy.

Fake follows, as a whole, don’t serve you well. They generally only follow for selfish motives. Fake followers are getting payed in some way to follow you and they often expect you to follow them back. If they don’t unfollow you sooner or later, then they will likely never add value to your account though engagement. And now that anyone can pay for followers, the value of quality engagement is more in demand.

Using strategies to gain fake followers will only bring you superficial value, online and in real life.

Learning this liberated me.

Right now I am on a quest to teach myself how to use strategies to gain real, amazing, and faithful followers who love me for who I truly am, who are invested in me and interested in my life journey. I want the numbers on my account to be an understatement of the value that is exchanged between my followers and me.

Much Love,


Ria Hardcastle