Amazon Spark Is Just Like Instagram, Only it Wants to Empty Your Wallet

Woman hands with mobile smart phone taking a photo of Spanish water dog over red background.
Eva Blanco/Getty Images

Remember when you could scroll through Facebook without seeing a news feed clogged up with ads for something you looked at online last week?

Remember when no one could pay for posts on Instagram, leaving the invisible hand to control the timeline of adorable puppy photos?

It’s like every social network out there is trying to get you to spend money — including the newest, which seems to exist for the sole purpose of putting space between you and your cash.

Amazon Spark is a mashup of Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, inviting you to post text and images relating to products you’ve purchased from the megaretailer. You must be a Prime member to post content or comment.

It’s cute. It’s easy to use. And if you like to shop, it’s dangerous.

Amazon Spark: The Social Network We Really Don’t Need

Amazon Spark is tucked within the features of the iOS Amazon app, where it lives exclusively for now. Choose your favorite browsable interests, then scroll to see stylized, shoppable lifestyle photos from individuals, brands and, dare I say it, influencers.

That’s right. Just as the Federal Trade Commission has started cracking down on celebs who neglect to disclose product placements on their Instagram accounts, here comes a new social channel that’s already gunked up with ads.

While select influencers have been invited to post sponsored content, Spark does not yet offer an option for regular Joes and Janes to make money sharing images of their favorite Amazon products.

Amazon does, however, plan to reward Spark “enthusiasts” (aka users) with badges, which TechCrunch notes signals a move away from calling out “Top Reviewers” on the site. But those badges are probably just for show, forever. Amazon also recently started allowing users to share their old text-based product reviews on their Spark profiles. (Amazon can’t possibly nix traditional reviews that gave us these greatest hits… can it?)

Ads or not, Amazon Spark is like candy for the aspirational shopper trying to get just the right look for their closet, home or social life.

And by housing the network — along with its “smiles” and comments — within the Amazon app, the company is keeping you where it wants you: looking at its products all the time.

Lisa Rowan is a writer and producer at The Penny Hoarder.