Instagram: Friend or Foe?

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How many of you have spent more time than you should picking out, filtering, and captioning a picture on Instagram? You better believe I have! It is a meticulous process where you want to make sure you have the absolute best Instagram post. If your caption is too over the top or not enough, you are not going to maximize the number of likes you have.

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I have been a member of the Instagram community since April of 2012. It blows my mind to think that I have been a part of Instagram for over 4 years! However, there have been a multitude of changes that Instagram has rolled out over the past few years. Author Andy Crouch published an essay outlining the guilt and shame culture in America. The distinction that was created was that in a guilt culture you know you are good or bad by what your conscience feels. In a shame culture, you know you are good or bad by what your community says to you, whether it honors or excludes you. The essay argues that the omnipresence of social media creates a shame culture. I found this interesting because as human beings, we want to be loved and desired and praised in our communities. This is an unequivocal fact that no matter what level in the hierarchy you are, middle school, high school, or even in the working world, we want to feel included.

Now, this is not completely bad. There are good things that come from a shame culture. For example, the shame culture could rebrand society from the individualistic tendencies and help nurture a more inclusive social culture. However, this system is based on being in or out, and there are no permanent standards. The standards are constantly shifting based on what society wants to include as good or bad. One day you could be at the top of the mountain and at the next you are out. A Times article wrote on the “Secret Language of Girls on Instagram” and found a few way girls are leveraging Instagram past sharing photos. However, I would argue this phenomenon is not only prevalent in women, but also men. Instagram is used as a public barometer of popularity, elaborate birthday collages, and know what friends think about you. Kids in grade schools are now finding creative ways to bully others from using these social media outlets. For example, kids will “tag” someone on an a hurtful post/caption, write mean hashtags under a photo, or create a fake account in a students name. I do not want to paint a grim picture of Instagram, there are many good things that come from using Instagram. I want to attempt to provide a more holistic view of the impact social media has on people lives.

Instagram has helped people struggling with different illnesses and continues to be a tool for men, women, and children to rally and share their story. Using Instagram can help children who are struggling fighting cancer gain love and support. Instagram is also a fantastic way to share your story where other people could be going through the same thing. Below is a picture of Daisy, who wanted to share her journey of recovering form her eating disorder, hoping to inspire and support people who are going through a similar situation. the-mental-health-warriors-of-instagram-body-image-1450243909

Not only does Instagram have great benefits between people, but also between businesses and their customers. Businesses who utilize Instagram efficiently see an increase in their customer base and engagement. A study was done where analysts attempted to discover what marketers are focusing on and what they’re not, and only 19% of marketers said they will give Instagram a high priority in 2014, while 23% said they will not consider the platform at all. However, numbers do not lie and when looking at the infographic below, you can see the benefits that are created from properly using Instagram for your business.

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Like anything in life there are both pros and cons for everything. I wanted to attempt to create a holistic view of Instagram and the impact it has on our lives. I think the benefits of Instagram heavily outweigh the cons, but we should find ways to minimize the bad. I know Instagram has attempted to work on erasing offensive comments/posts/accounts, but it is going to be a process. I am curious to see how Instagram will change in the next four to six years, what do you think it will be like? If you do not believe me it will change, look at this video of how the original Instagram operated!

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12 comments

  1. You did a good job giving a general overview of Instagram. My favorite part seeing the video of Instagram’s first UI. It was really interesting to compare it to the Instagram I use today. If you’re looking for ways on how to expand this topic for future blog posts, it would be great to read your take on Instagram’s newest feature: the algorithmic feed of photos (not just a time series).

  2. Nice overview of Instagram! It’s probably my favorite (and most used) social media channel. Like you mentioned in the first paragraph, I often find myself meticulously planning photos and captions way too far in advance. I actually have a caption idea ready for my 21st birthday, which is sadly seven months away. For how superficial Instagram can get, I’m glad to see that there’s some positive content floating around, like Daisy’s. I’m interested to see how the feed change to an algorithm (which I’m not a fan of) will change the way we all used Instagram, now that us users will now have to clamor for a spot on our friends’ feeds.

  3. Great overall perspective of IG. I have been a user for a while now as well and feel I am losing interest. I am just getting to the point where I dont care that much to see all these pictures that are just posted to justify fun events. As you mentioned I do think the pros outweigh the cons but those cons definitely shouldnt go unnoticed. There will always be people to exploit platforms for negative use. I think IG has done a good job though to limit the hurtful and offensive comments. IG is also one of the better social media platforms where people I think dont go to for cyberbullying.

  4. I love instagram, but I think peoples’ obsession with likes is a serious problem, particularly teenagers. I’m also not a fan of the proposed algorithm, particularly if I can’t refine it. I hate how facebook thinks it knows what I want to see–I recently had to unfollow a friend when I really just wanted to see fewer of his posts. There wasn’t a way for me to tell facebook that. I will likely have to unfollow Instagram accounts with the algorithm change because it will show me too much of the same stuff.

  5. Really nice post. I would have liked for you to link to a few of the articles you mentioned here because I (and I suspect others) would like to read some of the sources you referenced. Consider it a compliment for finding good stuff.

    1. Thank you for the feedback! I went back and linked the articles I used if you are interesting in reading more.

  6. Great insight into how Instagram has developed and changed over the years. Not only does Instagram respond to the community and what they want to see in the app but it the community also finds new and different ways to leverage the app. It’s more popular than ever, in my opinion. I find myself mindlessly scrolling through the explore section and inevitably “stalking” other users. The visual nature makes it even more appealing–I think there are definitely negative aspects but the positives associated with the app outweigh them. Going forward, I think that although we are all apprehensive of the algorithm, we will nevertheless adjust and get used to it as we do all other application updates.

  7. I love instagram. It seems like being a platform dedicated simply to pictures would limit its uses, but that isnt the case. I can keep up with my friends, follow news accounts, and even find the dankest memes. But i am starting to think the days of instragram might be coming to an end. What else can they add to the service with out drastically changing it? how long until people get bored and a better service comes around.

  8. willybbolton · ·

    I enjoyed this post. As a musical artist, I’m a big user of Instagram, and I love the platform. I have this theory called the “Instagram Effect” which is that everyone is always looking at what other people are doing. Everyone is also presenting the best possible ‘larger than life’ picture of themself on social media. I believe this can actually make people feel left out and depressed because you’re always looking at the best things everyone else does instead of focusing on yourself.

  9. Really good post, It’s amazing how the guilt and shame culture has evolved as social media has evolved. I think there are benefits as you mentioned and there are positives and negatives of these platforms. I hate when people start to treat each other poorly on an online platform. But I think the platform really is what you made it right? Our news feeds are made up of who we choose to follow. With that being said, if you don’t like what you see, make different choices- I enjoy that part of IG

  10. I know we’re supposed to stray away from commenting on posts that have comments in the double digits, but as an Instagram addict I couldn’t help but take a look at yours. I love Instagram because as opposed to Facebook where you are constantly bombarded with pictures and posts, Instagram is simpler which allows you to easily connect with your friends since all you’re seeing is one photo as opposed to an entire album. I am, however, cautious of Instagram. I agree with your initial statement that people spend a ton of time making the picture more beautiful and the caption something that grabs attention. People want to make sure that they’re getting as many likes and comments as they can and feel validated when they do. This however goes back to my blog post this week “Connected, but alone?” which was based off of a ted talk in which Sherry Turkle says that the way we require social media to verify our popularity can ultimately make people feel very alone. I don’t see myself giving up my Instagram addiction anytime soon, but I do think the people (and probably younger people more specifically) need to be cautious to not let the amount of likes they get on Instagram define how they feel about themselves.

  11. I really enjoyed reading your post-it is well-organized and captivating! I agree with you that there are many aspects to Instagram that are beneficial to our society and positive. We tend to look at the negative things in life too much, including the negative impact Instagram and other social media sites have on our lives. It was interesting to hear how high schoolers and middle schoolers are using Instagram to bully their peers, but it does not surprise me. Cyberbullying is a serious issue, especially in high school. On a side note, I would love to find statistics on what social media platforms students in middle school and high school are using or not using. Great blog post!

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