Dec 19, 2014 · 2 minutes

Instagram recently decided to permanently delete many of the spam accounts it's discovered on its service. The move was meant to help the network remain "authentic" because "it’s a place where real people share real moments," Instagram said at the time. But apparently some of the users affected by this decision aren't happy about its impact.

Business Insider reports "thousands of people" have reached out to Instagram asking it to restore their old follower counts in the wake of what it calls the "Instagram Rapture." This despite Instagram's warning that follower counts would change as the result of its New Year's cleaning -- and the fact that those followers were little more than spam bots.

This is in keeping with what some have suspected about Instagram for a while. For example, I argued last year that the addition of video features to the service wasn't about communication, like co-founder Kevin Systrom said, but about its users' narcissism:

Instagram is still very much about presentation. You don’t just share a video of your cuppa with your friends; you capture the video, apply a filter, throw away a slice of the recording, and choose the frame they’re most likely to “like” from their feeds. Other services don’t allow anything like this. Vine simply captures video and allows you to share the result when you’re done. Snapchat makes it easy to share unfiltered messages and photos with your friends. These apps and services are communications tools — Instagram, like Facebook, is a vanity mirror.
The reaction to this so-called rapture lends support to that idea. If Instagram were really about communication or creating a "highlights reel of your life" losing a few followers -- or a few million followers, if you're a celebrity -- wouldn't have caused such an uproar. But it has, which is hilariously depressing.

These are people mourning the fact that an arbitrary number on a social network shrank because that network decided it only wanted real people to count towards that number. Instagram didn't go out and kill someone's friends so it could reduce their follower count; it erased the tally marks left by many bundles of software.

And here Spike Jonze thought software would have to be almost-human for someone to mourn its loss, as shown in "Her," the film in which a lonely man falls for his operating system. Turns out all it takes is for a few million spam bots promising their targets fast cash or longer-lasting erections to be erased en masse from an image-sharing network.

[illustration by Hallie Bateman]