As we have learned before, there is nothing so nice that it cannot be scorched by the vitriol of the Election of 2016. Instagram, even Instagram, the social media equivalent of a culinary diary (#foodporn), the repository of amateur shutterbug’s scenic landscapes (#nofilter), and propagator of our best angles and cutest outfits (#selfie) has also now too become infested with partisan trolls.
Hate, not just disagreement but hate, has been a prominent aspect of all things political this year, and has especially dominated the last stretch of the campaign until voting day. Neither old media nor new media can escape it and both blame each other for it.
Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube have been used to foster hate, but you could understandably think Instagram would be a political sanctuary site. Unfortunately, you would be wrong, although that does appear to have been the campaign’s original intention of use for the social media platform.
The vast majority of photos on Hillary Clinton’s Instagram account are of her smiling, hugging, and cheering. Absent here are the attacks on Candidate Trump. Instead, nearly every post is an affirmation of her candidacy, not a demonization of his. In much the same way the campaign’s YouTube channel appears designed to humanize the candidate and make her relatable, the Instagram account wants to be a center for warm feelings.
Unfortunately, people can comment on posts.
What’s perhaps worst about the nasty comments made on these posts is the fact that Instagram posts are not shareable within Instagram. If you do not follow Hillary Clinton, you will not see her posts. Your annoying liberal nephew isn’t going to shove something in your face as they could on Facebook that you feel you simply must respond to. You have to go out of your way to spread this hate. You have to follow Hillary Clinton or at least keep checking up on her Instagram to post your ugly comments.
Considering the effort someone has to put into leaving these comments, one has to wonder what exactly is the motivation? Sure, some trolls might just be taking a page from their candidate’s book and following his lead:
But the legitimacy of these accounts must also be considered. As anyone can create an Instagram account, or multiple accounts, do these accounts represent “real” people? Are they an organized effort by a group, domestic or foreign, to discredit Hillary Clinton at every turn? Or are they simply actual American voters that the communications department of the campaign have failed in their mission to persuade?
Whether they are from “real” people or not, the intention of the comments on Hillary Clinton’s Instagram posts have succeeded in not allowing the account to present the image of Hillary Clinton positively. Every single post has nearly as many anti-Hillary comments as it does comments of support. It is unclear if these posts are having any tangible effect on moving the dial one way or the other because there is no “conversation” happening. People do at times respond by tagging an original commenter, but they do not engage with each other the same way one might on Facebook, which an already disappointing and depressing bar not to clear. However, the posts may be influencing the Democratic base into forming a more well rounded view of their candidate. It appears Instagram is being used by the campaign to motivate their voters to “be with her,” rather than “be against him.”
Another very real possible motivation for the trolls to go out of their way to comment on Hillary Clinton’s posts is perhaps best summed up in the video below that they are primarily made up of: