“If you’re on our side then you have to believe this too…”

It seems like there are less cults.

There are certainly less of the crazy, bonkers ones.

Except for NXIVM which provided some salacious, voyeuristic content for a couple of news cycles.

But really cults are now much bigger.

So big that often we don’t see them.

Proud Boys, Scientology are small fry, it’s now mega cults like “pro-lockdown” / “anti-mask” mainstream “Left” and “Right”.

If you look dispassionately, cults are everywhere.

You might even be in a cult without realising it.

Let’s apply the standard characteristics associated with cults to Instagram and see what happens…

To make things clear, every occurrence of the word cult is replaced with ‘Instagram’:

  • The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to Instagram 
  • Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished by Instagram.
  • Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, or debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s) – I would suggest that the habit forming digital hypnosis of infinite scroll and gaming dopamine reward system in the body counts as a mind altering practice that is used in excess.
  • Instagram dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel 
  • Instagram is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and its prominent members
  • Instagram is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders, or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).
  • Instagram teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (e.g., ‘doing it for the ‘Gram).
  • Instagram induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and control members. Often this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
  • Subservience to the Instagram requires members radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.
  • Instagram is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
  • Instagram is preoccupied with making money.
  • Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the Instagram and Instagram-related activities.
  • Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other Instagram members.
  • The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of instagram. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave—or even consider leaving— Instagram.

Two bonus cult characteristics which may or may not be relevant:

Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.
No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.