I Commented "LB" Under Celebrity Photos & This Is What Happened

Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Have you noticed the comments that fans leave under photos posted on Instagram by celebrities like Kylie Jenner, Zendaya, and even Beyoncé? In addition to heart-eye emoji and guarantees of 25% off on Ray-Ban sunglasses, you’ve probably seen an endless stream of "LB"s. I certainly did; and I assumed that it mean “like back,” but I didn’t understand why people were doing it. I couldn’t figure out why so many people thought their comments would stand out to celebrities when there are thousands of others that say exactly the same thing. Also, isn’t begging for likes a bit of a faux pas? I started a “kids these days days” rant to myself about how social media etiquette “sure has changed.”
So to satisfy my desire to be young again curiosity, I decided to do a little social media experiment to find out the science behind "LB.’" Over the course of a few days, I left the comment under few celebrity pictures — and it worked! Before you get too excited, Kylie Jenner did not follow me on Instagram, nor did any of the other celebrities I included in my test run. In fact, none of them engaged with me at all. I got at least a dozen new followers after testing the theory out on just three celebrity pictures. But I got about 50 likes, collectively, on various posts on my profile.
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Almost immediately, it was clear to me that the LB phenomenon wasn’t about celebrities at all. Essentially, it’s a community of Instagram users who are willing to help each other rack up likes and comments using two simple letters. Essentially, it’s the same concept as trends like #like4like or #l4l. Here, instead of catching the attention of other users who have to intentionally search one of those hashtags to participate, targeting celebrity posts organically leads to eyes on your comments and engagement with your profile.
Because this is obviously science, I needed to confirm my findings. So I reached out to a few of the other users I noticed using the LB method. One user told me that she, like me, only recently figured out what LB stood for, and initially thought it was “a shoutout for Kylie to notice [her] haha.” When she realized that she would get an influx of likes after posting it, she started to do so regularly. “So whenever I need a likers-boost for e.g… for this popularity photo contest, I just do it,” she explained. Another user confirmed that they use it as a way “to get likes and to like other people's photos in return.” Both users preferred to remain anonymous.
Instagram users without follower counts in the millions have figured out a way to boost engagement by taking advantage of the visibility of celebrity feeds. One of my concerns going into this experiment was that one of the celebrities would block me immediately. But the likelihood of that is similar to getting that coveted Kylie Jenner follow. They simply receive too many comments to be bothered. And if LB has taught me anything, it’s that there is strength in numbers.