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Instagram knows exactly what I'm horny for and it’s derailing my life

At this point, you’re probably aware that algorithms have mapped your existence. What you eat, where you sleep, what you want to buy, and who you want to be president. These are all known quantities to the data gods. But recently, I’ve noticed that Instagram algorithms have gotten better at detecting the kind of person I’m thirsting after, and it’s derailing my life.

An accidental tap on my Instagram discover tab absolutely guarantees that I will spend anywhere from five to 38 minutes scrolling down some stranger’s feed of thirst traps and sponsored content. I’ve fallen victim to Tara, Katya, Kara, and also Rome, Gaspar, Blake. A mash of body parts and aesthetic goals, seemingly at an endless supply. It’s not simply a generic brand of hotness, it is my brand of hotness. Grown out roots on bleach blonde hair, chin-dominant selfies, dark eyes, prominent eyebrows, nice hands. DJs, travelers, creatives, environmental organizers, poets. I thought my “type” had no clear boundaries, but after accounting the number many times these features pop-up, Instagram obviously has me figured out.

How they’re doing this isn’t that much of a mystery; The Verge lays out the way the social media behemoth gets your data and curates your explore tab. A program that does something similar to “word embedding” determines how alike any two accounts on the platform are. Then, using the content you’ve liked or saved, Instagram develops your explore page. So the technical aspect of this isn’t much of a challenge to understand. Every time I like (or, um, save) a pic of a person I find attractive that factors into the discover page. The fact that I exclusively have post notifications on for Michael B. Jordan probably affects things too.

Perhaps, if you are only engaging with content from friends and the cute animal pages you follow, then your explore page doesn’t set your pants on fire. But for those of us that use Instagram to not only socially interact with the people we know, but to create a digital mood board of what we desire and aspire to, the explore page is like a minefield. Some friends have even reported that Instagram's intimate knowledge of romantic their taste has spilled over into the sponsored posts in their feeds.

Like, imagine walking around in 1999. You would see maybe four people per day that you genuinely physically attracted to, on a super good day. Maybe four people a week, plus on the off chance that you were attracted to the stars of whatever television shows you watched. If you wanted to look at bikini pics? You had to go out and buy copies FHM or Maxim or Men’s Fitness or whatever, and hope that the hot people they chose were people you not only found hot but also attractive. Maybe you subscribed to Sports Illustrated.

Now, I can know that the British Virgins Island influencer I follow sometimes drives around in a pink jeep. All thanks to the explore page, where a photo of her emerging from the sea like a siren once popped up. Same for the Spanish influencer who posts a ton of architecture photos alongside his fit pics.

It’s tough to be shown what you want so often, but I’m managing.