Spam accounts on Instagram an 'additional platform' for cyber bullying

This article is more than 12 months old

Young Instagram users say 80% of friends own such private accounts

Miss Kirstin Yip's main Instagram account, with 826 followers, is full of happy photos of friends, beautiful places and tantalising food.

Like many other young people, Miss Yip saves her "unglamorous" moments for her second account, which has fewer than 80 followers.

Such social media accounts are commonly known as spam or private accounts.

"It is where users share anything and everything and aren't afraid to bring up the bad things in their lives," explained the 19-year-old Singapore Polytechnic student.

Teenagers and Instagram users in their 20s told The Straits Times that about 80 per cent of their friends own spam accounts.

Only close friends are privy to these accounts, and it is a standing rule that they are not allowed to share or "screenshot" posts to show other people.

"My private account is for good friends who won't be so bothered by the numerous posts and who I am willing to share more with," said Miss Yip.

Social media expert Michael Netzley, principal in leadership consulting practice Heidrick and Struggles, said the use of multiple accounts "simply reflects the world we already live in" as the reality is that "each and every one of us already has multiple selves".

Spam accounts allow users to rant in their own posts any time they want.


It is like shouting into a void, said Miss Yip.

But Dr Netzley said the downside to such accounts is that they are additional platforms for cyber bullying.

"Spam accounts, or accounts created intentionally to avoid any kind of accountability, allow us to say things we might never say face to face," he said.

About 38 per cent of people in Singapore are active Instagram users, far more than the global average of 11 per cent, according to a recent report on social media and digital trends worldwide.

The study, released on Jan 29, was conducted by social media agency We Are Social and social media management platform Hootsuite.

Ms Lena Teo, deputy director of therapy and wellness services at Children-At-Risk Empowerment Association, or Care Singapore, said: "Cyber bullying on Instagram is on the rise. It often results in young people feeling depressed or feeling a sense of helplessness."

Young people are encouraged to report any abuse to their parents, teachers, counsellors or someone who can help, and block and unfollow the abusive person.

"Keeping quiet can cause anxiety, stress or even depressive symptoms," said Ms Teo.