Since the 1880s, vending machines have been dispensing stamps, chocolate bars and cool beverages, but a new vending machine is now looking to quench a thirst that’s familiar to most millennials — that of social validation.
Social media users in Russia can now buy fake likes while on the go, thanks to a new vending machine that’s been strategically placed around malls in the country. Users can enter in their account details, and for reasonable rates get their social profiles an instant boost. For $0.89 (Rs. 55), users can get 100 Instagram likes on the pictures of their choice, while Rs. 115 gets them 100 new followers.
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 pic.twitter.com/ZZt189opgd
— Alexey Kovalev (@Alexey__Kovalev) June 5, 2017
The vending machine doesn’t just dispense fake likes — it acts as a mini photo booth, helping people take instant selfies and print them. Apart from Instagram, it also sells likes for VKontakte, a popular Russian social network. And the user who snapped the picture says these machines are littered across Moscow, with some being installed even in bookshops.
While these vending machines might seem like a curious oddity, they’re yet another sign of the inexorable mingling of digital and physical worlds that’s taking place right now. Fake likes are a thriving cottage industry online, with thousands of sketchy websites dedicated to providing likes and retweets at rock-bottom rates. But even this industry — which provides a service which is only valuable online — has found it useful to let people access it while in the physical world.
And these vending machines also illustrate how the fake likes phenomenon has now caught on amongst the general public. For several years, fake likes were used primarily be brands in order to quickly build their online presences. These fake likes were traded in large numbers, often in the thousands or hundreds of thousands. But to have a vending machine provide human-sized fake like packages shows that ordinary people are willing to buy fake likes for their social profiles just to appear popular to their friends and family, not necessarily to make money.
That’s simultaneously a hilarious and terrifying thought — especially if you’ve watched Black Mirror.