In 1917, Russia became the world’s first constitutionally socialist state. One hundred years later, and a few blocks from the building where Vladimir Lenin ruled the Soviet government, young Russians can stroll around the Okhotny Ryad underground shopping mall where they will find the ultimate monument to capitalist excess — a vending machine that sells Instagram likes.
Russian journalist Vasily Sonkin first spotted the machine in the downtown Moscow shopping center, and his colleague Alexey Kovalev later posted a picture of it on Twitter with the caption: “Russia takes the worst excesses of capitalism to the extreme, so here’s a vending machine in a mall for buying Likes for your Instagram pics.”
The machine lets customers buy likes and followers for their social media accounts, because, why not? For 50 Russian rubles, or $0.89, you can buy 100 fake likes for your most recent bathroom selfie. For $1.77 you can buy 100 new Instagram followers. And according to Mashable, if you’re truly serious about becoming a social media influencer, $850 will buy you 150,000 new Instagram followers, who will deliver up to 1,500 likes per post. The machine also takes selfies and prints Instagram photos. No word yet on how much it would cost to separate one’s sense of self-worth from how many likes you get on a ‘gram post.
This is not the only vending machine of its kind in the Russian capital. Kovalev told VICE that he had spotted similar vending machines throughout the city, including one in a book store. Because, if you snap a picture of a book and it doesn’t get 1,500 likes from your fake followers, did you even read it?
While vending machines are the most recent and efficient form of buying fake likes, the practice is not new. Celebrities, businesses, and government agencies have paid money to “click farms” to boost their social media presence. Whole industries have emerged to provide likes. The website Buzzoid sells 100 Instagram likes for $2.97, and 10,000 likes for $69.99 (a steal!). Buy-cheap-social.com ensures that the 500 Facebook likes you can buy for $10 will come from Active Users, which makes it more difficult for Facebook to crack down on them.
Last month, the Russian site English Russia uploaded a video of a Chinese click farm, where thousands of smartphones are used to boost likes and app downloads for individuals and companies.
As for the vending machine, Kovalev can’t verify whether it works or not, but he plans to take a video of it in action soon. Until then, let’s enjoy our final days in the twilight of capitalism, friends.