When speaking with my younger sibling on this matter (as I soon realised, I’m not cool enough for a spam account!), I was informed that the younger generation are favouring their “spam” accounts to their “main”. They are using spam accounts as a way to separate their public and private selves while still using social media. Often, main accounts are open to the public, while spam accounts are private and require the poster to accept any followers in order to permit access to one’s social media content. A spam account also makes it possible for people to easily communicate in a group without prying public eyes, and of course, their parents. It is therefore common for a spam account to have a reduced number of approved followers, in comparison to their “main”, as the former has been created to post at leisure, with no judgment for it. Only those deemed close friends, that the poster chooses to approve as followers will see the uncensored aspect of their activities on spam accounts.
One difference noticed between the two types of accounts is that a spam account contains a selection of posts or Instagram stories depicting a young person’s day out, likely showing any images captured in the moment, such as food they ate, any sights they saw, or people they interacted with. Spam accounts are designed for under-25s to post content without thinking about what they are doing. In contrast, a young person’s “main” account may contain just one image captured on that day, which has been carefully selected so that it fits the theme of their Instagram feed or will receive likes. My research has therefore shown that young people’s use of social media is constantly shifting in response to how social media platforms are used, the age of the user and the social context.
Of particular interest, is that many under-25s create “spam” accounts using limited information. They may hide their surname, preferring to use just their forename, a mixture of their initials or the name of a favourite character. During NetWatch investigations, we often see examples such as ‘@kelsey_spammm’ or ‘@kc9.backup’ arise, which evidently informs other Instagram users that they are operating a “spam” or “back-up” account. While many young people will attempt to create accounts that that they believe are untraceable to them, they will not have taken into consideration the tools and skills available to the OSINT professionals at NetWatch.
For more information on Social Media Investigation from NetWatch please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.