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Did Justin Bieber almost break Instagram?

Justin Bieber posts a photo of his ex-girlfriend Selena Gomez to Instagram and people lost it. Then Instagram went down for some users. Coincidence?  


Kate Knibbs


Posted on Mar 3, 2014   Updated on May 31, 2021, 4:43 pm CDT

Justin Bieber’s recent track record is a gross hodgepodge of bad decisions and increasingly frat-bratty moves. From urinating in a restaurant’s mop bucket to urinating in a jail cell after a night spent drag racing to abandoning a monkey, Bieber has been putting the “tit” in “entitled” for a while now.

But this morning he did something sweet, something that almost makes one look past his history of harassing women and wearing overalls: He posted a picture of his ex-girlfriend, Selena Gomez, and called her the “most elegant princess in the world.”  

Bieber has millions of fervent fans who tolerate him even when his douche knob is cranked to 11, so this display of humanity and endorsing someone other than himself was met with an outpouring of fan activity. There are over 165,000 comments on the picture, and it has 922,000 favorites and counting. And he only posted the photo four hours ago, so those numbers continue to go up.

Bieber’s photo inspired the kind of rabid user engagement that social media platforms like Instagram hope to achieve, but it may have caused the photo-sharing service to slow down; Instagram confirmed to TechCrunch that it did experience an outage but denied that it was Bieber’s doing. Of course, it seems an awfully strange coincidence that there would be a spike in activity and an outage at the same time without them being related. But as they say, seeing is beliebing, and there’s no definite proof that it was Bieber’s photo that caused the problems.

“As much as we hope for a blissful reunion between two of America’s sweethearts, we have no reason to believe that Justin Bieber’s recent Instagram post caused the site to slow down this morning. However, a small number of people were affected and we apologize for the inconvenience,” an Instagram spokesperson told the Daily Dot.

However, there’s definitely precedent for usage surges impacting social media, including one celebrity-fueled outage occurring during the Academy Awards. Ellen DeGeneres posted a photo of herself and a group of celebrities taking a selfie at the Academy Awards and asked people to make it the most retweeted picture, and it worked: People responded and retweeted and it was all in good fun, but it did cause Twitter to buckle briefly under the pressure. 

Sorry, our bad. #Oscars

— The Academy (@TheAcademy) March 3, 2014

Twitter has a history of going down when its servers get overloaded, while Instagram and parent company Facebook are more stable. And Ellen’s photo was shared and favorited to a much greater extent. So there’s no direct comparison to be made. Instagram could be right that Bieber is not the outage-causer, especially since many of Bieber’s recent posts actually have more favorites and comments than this valentine to Gomez. A picture he posted of a panda a few days ago, for instance, got over 1 million favorites, and did no damage to Instagram.

But then, what did cause the Instagram outage? Instagram didn’t elaborate. Another persistent mystery: why is Justin Bieber generating all of this activity on Instagram when he has a stake in rival startup Shots of Me?                                                                                  

H/T TechCrunch | Photo via Flickr/Adam Sundana (CC BY-SA 2.0)                                                                                                                                                                                                     


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*First Published: Mar 3, 2014, 5:43 pm CST