Instagram is a social platform that allows people to share photos and videos with one another. The platform confines pictures to a square and allows users to put a filter on their photos. Once a picture is chosen to share, Instagram has many options for editing. It contains a sun icon that enhances the picture, a blur icon that allows users to focus on certain aspects of their picture, a border icon that allows users to put a border on their photos, and a tilt icon that allows users to straighten their photos. In addition to photos, a recent Instagram update now allows users to record a 15 second video. Once the user is happy with the way their photo looks, they can add a description, tag people, and use hashtags to share their photos. Instagram is linked to other sites such as Twitter and Facebook so that photos posted on Instagram can also be shared on other sites.
Instagram is similar to Twitter in the way that you follow people and have followers. On the newsfeed, one can like photos by double taping the picture or clicking the heart icon below the picture. Users are also able to comment on photos and report them as inappropriate.
Instagram is becoming very popular worldwide and is on the rise.
Two men named Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger began Instagram development in San Francisco. They both attended Stanford University and interned at large companies such as Odeo (which later became Twitter) and Microsoft. Initially, Systrom worked on an app that allowed "location-aware photo and note-sharing" called Burbn. Through this app, Systrom met Krieger who was very interested in design and development. Together, the two limited Burbn to only photos and changed the name to Instagram. "Our goal is to not just be a photo-sharing app, but to be the way you share your life when you're on the go," Systrom said. In October of 2010, Instagram launched on Apple's App Store. Within hours, Instagram already had over 10,000 users and within fifteen months, Instagram had over 30 million users. Today, Instagram is one of the most popular social platforms on the web. Along with Systrom and Krieger, Josh Riedel and Shayne Sweeney joined the Instagram team in 2010 as the Community Manager and Engineer respectively. In 2011, Jessica Zollman joined the team as a Community Evangelist. In September of 2011, Instagram 2.0 was released and in August of 2012, Instagram became available for Android. In April of 2012, Facebook acquired Instagram for 1 billion dollars in cash and stock. It was the largest acquisition in the history of social networks and will net Systrom 400 million dollars while Krieger will net 100 million dollars. Since the company is so small, all Instagram employees will make very large sums of money due to this acquisition. A total of 13 employees will receive part of a 100 million dollar pool. In response to this large transaction, Zuckerberg said, "This is an important milestone for Facebook because it’s the first time we’ve ever acquired a product and company with so many users. But providing the best photo sharing experience is one reason why so many people love Facebook and we knew it would be worth bringing these two companies together.”
In the book, Personal Connections in the Digital Age, Nancy Baym talks about seven key concepts that break down how media changes the way we interact. She says, "We need conceptual tools to differentiate media from one another and from face to face communication. We also need concepts to help us recognize the diversity amongst what may seem to be just one technology." (Baym, 6) In this quote, Baym explains why it is necessary to examine how media influences us in today's day and age. The seven concepts she introduces are: interactivity, temporal structure, social cues, storage, replicability, reach, and mobility. Nancy Baym defines interactivity as, "the ability of a medium to enable social interaction between groups and individuals." (Baym, 7) She goes on to give examples of interactivity when using a cell phone or the web. She gives two cases, arguing with your significant other on the phone or talking about current events on the web. Both of these examples show how technologies encourage social interaction and interactivity.
With regards to Instagram, the social platform does a great job of promoting interactivity. The site is set up to connect with people and share photographs or videos that a person has taken. People are allowed to like or comment on the majority of pictures which sometimes lead to discussions. There is also a tab on the bottom of the Instagram application that is entitled "Explore." This tab shows 15 of the most popular pictures and is updated regularly. By including this, Instagram is encouraging the spread of outstanding pictures as well as recognizing the people who took the photograph. One more way that Instagram works to incorporate interactivity is with hashtags. Hashtags allow people to connect with other people who are taking photos of the same topic or theme.
Along with interactivity, Baym talks about the temporal structure of a communication medium. In this section, Baym examines two ideas: synchronous communication and asynchronous communication. Synchronous communication occurs in real time. Some examples of synchronous communication are face to face conversations and phone calls. Asynchronous communication has time delays between messages. Some examples of asynchronous communication are emails and voicemails. Both types of communication have their advantages and disadvantages, however if something is very important synchronous communication is typically preferred. Instagram is a type of asynchronous communication although for some constant users, the social platform is synchronous. Since photographs and videos dominate the application, this type of platform is not meant to relay urgent messages. Instagram is meant to enjoy when people have time off or are in the mood to enjoy beautiful images. When people leave comments on Instagram posts, they are typically not looking to start a conversation, but rather compliment the photograph or video. How much a user enjoys Instagram typically determines how often they go on to check their newsfeed as well as their posts. Some people are almost always on Instagram and therefore the platform may have more of a synchronous feel to them; however, this is not the case for the majority of people who use it.
Reach and mobility are two aspects of digital media that describe the ease of using the media. Reach refers to the range of people that the digital media is capable of interacting with, and mobility refers to the capacity of the media to be absorbed in different locations.
Instagram has as wide a reach and as much mobility as almost any other form of digital media such as Facebook or Twitter. Instagram is accessible via the web, and it is a very popular app on smartphones. Thus, it is easy to carry the digital media around.
In the article, "Multiple Media Literacies," Meyrowitz talks about media content, media grammar, and media environment. As described in the article, media content focuses on elements such as ideas, themes, and topics. Instagram is a very simple site where text is hardly used. Because of the lack of text, Instagram lacks an abundance of media content.
Instead, the social network relies on media grammar. This element focuses on the "perception of media content." Instagram is a network that focuses on "showing" rather than "telling," therefore media grammar is very important to the social network. This concept concentrates on layouts, pictures versus text, and the use of color. Since Instagram is solely made up of pictures, catching the user's eye is very important.
Finally, media environment is very similar to Baym's seven concepts of media literacy. Media environment is mainly concerned with temporal structure, reach and accessibility, as well as sharing capabilities. Since Instagram is still developing and is fairly recent, the amount of users on the website is very insignificant compared to other social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Because of the site's lack of users and text, Instagram is not a synchronous method of communication. In regards to reach and accessibility, Instagram protects its users photographs and therefore does not allow its users to save other user's photographs. This limits the accessibility of the network while smartphones and access to the Internet limit the reach of Instagram. In order to use Instagram and see the photographs on the social network, one must have an account and be able to get on either a computer or a smartphone. Finally, in regards to sharing capabilities, Instagram is linked to Facebook and Twitter which allows people to share their photos across social networks very easily. However, users cannot share pictures that are not their own because of Instagram's privacy policies.
- Baym, Nancy K. Personal Connections in the Digital Age. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2010. Print.