INFLUENCER CULTURE & ALGORITHMIC APARTHEID ON GAY INSTAGRAM
Keywords:influencer, Instagram, LGBTQ studies
AbstractResearch on social media influencers has concluded that influencers’ status is always contingent upon meeting followers’ demand for specific “performances-of-self,” as well as making themselves and their content available and visible. However, few scholars have addressed the role that algorithms play in determining which influencers might be made visible, and therefore the manner by which platform design predetermines who may attain influencer status. This project seeks to address this gap in this research by providing critical ethnographic insights into what is colloquially referred to as “gay Instagram.” Throughout a three-year period, I maintained an Instagram account through which I observed trends in the production and consumption of homoerotic content utilizing a variety of methods. Of these, “algorithmic audits” provided the most insight into the manner by which algorithmic and social biases compound one another to hyper-visibilize a small minority of homoerotic content creators. Once Instagram has determined that a user is interested in homoerotic content, that user can expect the overrepresentation of white, mostly American Instagays on their “explore” page, in the promoted content featured on their feed, and so on. In effect, determinations of the most desirable homoerotic content are made through a variety of selection biases that make access to visibility an unequal enterprise on Instagram. Through these biases, white elites in Western metropolises are made more visible to Instagram users, even when others could conceivably fulfill their same representational function, troubling the notion that influencer status can be attained through an individual’s “labor” without algorithmic assistance.
How to Cite
Quick, T. (2021). INFLUENCER CULTURE & ALGORITHMIC APARTHEID ON GAY INSTAGRAM. AoIR Selected Papers of Internet Research, 2021. https://doi.org/10.5210/spir.v2021i0.12019