Professor studies 'deceptive' behaviour of buying likes on Instagram

A new study about like-seeking behavior on Instagram reveals young people are not above "buying likes" or even giving themselves a "digital nose job" in pursuit of appearing more popular online.

The report, which was recently published in Computers in Human Behavior, involved surveying 463 emerging adults who use Instagram. Huron College professor Tara Dumas said the study found 12 to 55 per cent of respondents admitted to using "deceptive like-seeking behaviours."

"They all had an element of dishonesty," she said. "These were things like actually modifying your physical appearance using software … and also purchasing likes and followers."

Dumas said her research was inspired by conversations with her students about the great lengths their peers would go to in order to boost their public profile on social media, including "buying" followers.

"They kept telling me it was ... quite common for young people to do that," the psychology professor said, adding that her own skepticism pushed her to look into the issue further.

The study found "normative like-seeking" activity, such as using filters or hashtags to increase interactions, were common, but those who relied on "deceptive like-seeking" strategies tended to feel less connected and less valued than their peers.

Dumas said they also tended to have a higher level of narcissism and wanted to "increase their popularity and seeming more creative to people online."

The professor said further study is needed to determine whether the deceptive like-seeking is harmful to other areas of people's lives and whether similar strategies are used on other social media, such as Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat.

One preliminary result to come out of the study is that it does not appear using deceptive like-seeking techniques actually help posts become more popular, according to Dumas.

"You don't have to do these dishonest things online to get more likes," she said. "Maybe you don't need to spend your hard-earned money to buying likes or followers."