The Curious History of an Instagram Photo

Strange things happen in our lives all the time that we can't quite quantify or explain. That post from a few years ago that went viral - that's one of those events. When someone you've not spoken to in years suddenly pops into your head minutes before they send you a text - that's one of those events. And recently, Instagram's thrown one up of those events.

The story starts a long time ago. 179 weeks ago from right now Connie and I were packed and getting ready to leave our flat in Aberdeen. We were heading to Toronto via London for a Christmas break home in Canada and I posted a photograph of our bed room with a scattering of cases, jackets, jumpers and other stuff, with the caption of "The Problem with #travelling is". The point was that we'd been packing for days (actually, Connie had been packing for days) and the photo, taken I assume just before we left very early that morning, was an offhand Instagram photo.

It has sat untouched for years. Literally years - 179 weeks is 3 and a half years ago. That photo, like most from my earlier Instagram life, is pointless and throw-away and, to be honest, I'd forgotten all about it. Here it is. 

Then, in March, out of the blue someone liked it. 

And then a few others liked it. Likes started to creep in from all over, randomly liking a photo that in all honesty has nothing to like about it - it's a shit photo. One of the worst, taken in low light on a shitty iPhone camera without a flash, of absolutely nothing. Nothing of note, worthy or interest. Yet, somehow, a range of folk really seem to like it. They are seeking it out, finding it and liking it.

And then just this past week, three different accounts commented on it with a simple "Awesome :-)". The comment is obviously a lie - it's neither awesome or colon hyphen closed parenthesis. What is happening?

Well, the clue is in my original caption - that "#travelling" part is probably the problem. Clicking on the hashtag brings up a total off 5,39,946 other photos on Instagram marked with that hashtag. It's probably one of the most tagged tags, I reckon, though I have no idea. What that means is that the only way to find my photo makes it one in five million that someone would find it. From years ago. Also, notice that freedom_roamingwalkabout_time and freedom_sighting all have the same profile photo... 

Curious, isn't it? It is also not the only photo that is getting attention like this. 175 weeks ago I posted a photo of a Wikipedia page featuring a list of persons with Lenny Henry noted as a comedian with [Citation Needed] marked by his name. I have no idea what the list is of anymore, but the humour of a comedian having his profession marked with Citation Needed tickled me. I tagged it with "#comedian" and #"wikipedia" and that has resulted in a raft of likes and recent comments.

To figure out what is going on, I decided to do a reverse Google Image search of the photos to see what came up, in case somewhere was linking to them. Nothing came up for both pictures.

So what is going on? No idea. Just one of those events, I guess.