Where Instagram Fits?
The twenty-first century is the age of social interaction. The only way to survive and thrive in the new era of technical and cyber commerce is to bridge the gap once believed to be essential for the professional image. “Stand out and rise above,” they told us. “Let the world know you are larger than life.” Today, such an approach is outdated and detrimental to anyone who truly does wish to rise above. The key to the successful image now exists in the ability to bring ourselves to the level of our friends, fans, and followers. The public no longer wants mono-facetted companies or public figures who constantly remind everyone of the differences between us and them.
Sharing our daily comings and goings is what social media is all about—connecting strangers, and opening up about our lives fulfills the need to contribute to the overall online community. One of the more recent entities to take center stage on the social media scene is Instagram. You are undoubtedly familiar with the service, providing users with a free photo app for smartphones, allowing us to recreate the retro images of our past—ones that once required a toy camera and a roll of expired Kodak Gold to capture.
Instagram makes it possible for these photos to be created instantly without the hassle of a hard to find photo lab, and creates a platform for users to share these images with the online communities of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The popularity of the app has skyrocketed since her initial launch—catapulting her image even higher with the recent buy-out by Facebook for $1 billion in stocks and cash. What is it about the ability to create these technically inferior and dated-looking photos that draws the attention and interaction of over 50 million users? What is the real reason people love Instagram?
The constant effort to mimic reality in pictures—to present an image how it would actually appear to the human eye—is the driving force behind the photographic industry. A high number of mega-pixels and realistic coloring can only do so much, but will never match the capabilities of the human eye. While high-resolution, true-life photography is visually appealing, it often does little to provoke or challenge the mind of the audience. A beautiful landscape, designed to only portray the landscape how it appears in reality, evokes little more response than the acknowledgment of the beauty of scenic elements. At the same time, the viewer will still know this is nothing more than a photograph.
Because the visual capabilities of the human eye have never been matched, many photographers and visual artists have turned in the opposite direction—pursuing the abstract over the real. Abstract images use untraditional color and line pattern—while often ignoring traditional rules of composition—to create a work that exists without worldly visual references. As a result, the interpretations of the viewer are challenged, requiring the observer to play an active roll in the reception of the work, using their own experiences and feelings to try and interpret what the image is trying to say. Ultimately, through this relationship between the observer and the image, the viewer will have to invest more of their own feeling and emotion to fill in the missing elements, and they will walk away with a deeper connection to the photo.
Instagram photos extend into the category of abstract photography. The unnatural color and light patters, coupled with texture and filtered lens imperfections, create an image several steps removed from the impression of reality traditional photography often strives to capture. When presented with the varied hues and steeped saturation, our minds acknowledge the image as an artistic representation, and we work to imagine the reality surrounding the scene. We are absorbed with the idea that this reality could exist in a different time or place, and we work to connect ourselves with that altered reality. There is a story involved with what is represented in the separate place of the photo, and the mind pushes to learn, or invent the reasoning behind the image.
The idea that an Instagram photo simply mimics the effects of an old camera is only a baseline appeal for the Instagram app. What really attracts us to the visuals of Instagram is the association we make with the past. In a world visually saturated by media, we crave deeper meaning in our own expression. Photography in the digital age has resulted in a loss of permanence in the roll photos play in our lives. The perfect photo has become too easy to obtain; and now, the imperfections of previous methods of photography are ideal for artistic expression; highlighting the fact that life is flawed and imperfect, but what we take away from the experience is what defines us.
Photography fails to capture life outside the visual realm, like the sensations of sound an smell. As a result, we find ourselves looking for a way to make up for the lack of other sensual senses. The absence of these elements call for compensation, and our minds will use the existing visuals to overcome the shortfalls of the photo, often evoking our own personal memories as a means to fill in the gap. Instagram succeeds in simplifying the minds effort to stir up memory through the retro-style images Instagram was designed to create. The same elements which make Instagram abstract also serve as the means through which memory is provoked within the photo, calling to mind the sensual impressions held in the memories of past events, and tying them to our reception and interpretation of the image.The experience of this process occurring—though perhaps subconsciously—results in strong feelings of nostalgia, further solidifying a connection between the image and the viewer.
The subject of ostalgia is typically approached with apprehension. According to Webster’s Third International Dictionary, nostalgia is defined as a “wistful or excessively sentimental—sometimes abnormal—yearning for return to—or return of—some real or romanticized period, or irrecoverable condition or setting in the past.” Nostalgia is often met with scorn due to its ability to skew or romanticize a past that might not have existed as such; however, the emotion itself is powerful and binding, and the evocation of nostalgia in physical elements serves to truly link the viewer to the artifact. By using photographic filters to induce feelings nostalgia, Instagram creates an instant bond between the creator—or viewer—and the photographproduced. The immediate evolution of this link between parties adds significance to Instagram photos that is often void in amateur digital photography.
In the brief time since her inception, Instagram has thrived as a form of social media. She found her niche in her ability to allow users to tell a story in a unique and involved manner, proving to be a grounds on which users can express mood and feeling in the events and situations they photographically document. Due to the nostalgic nature of the images created, there is a portion of the author imbedded—whether visible or not—within every photograph. Profound intimacy and openness is displayed with each post, and followers experience this exposure, whether they recognize it or not. Revealing and experiencing these intimate moments create a deeper connection between members of the Instagram network than on other social media platforms.
When used effectively, the loaded nature of Instagram photos proves to be a unique and memorable way to tell a story. Each photo serves as a vignette—a moment so significant, the user felt it worthy to share as a representation of himself. A series of Instagram photos can be combined into a single collage to tell a more thorough story, giving multiple perspectives on the moment without overloading the feed. Instagram is the scrapbook of the users life—a thread of memory and experience, offering an artistic view into the life of another. This is the behind the scenes look—the open diary; entrusted to the followers of the post. The potential for self-expression is endless, and enable to creator to leave a more meaningful mark on his history apart from a simple 140-character byline or status rant.
An Instagram storyline calls for greater user involvement. The interpretation of art and abstract photography is dependant on the reception and reflection of the viewer. There is endless potential for analysis and understanding, challenging the intelligence and life experience of the audience, and each viewer’s impression of the image will tell a different story unique to that observer. Storytelling as an art form requires a close relationship between the chronicler and audience, meaning no story can be truly be told the same way twice. While the Instagram photo may have permanent exposure online, the experience is different for each user who views that portion of the story. In the end, viewers will respect that they were allowed to experience is side of someone else’s life.
The ability for business to connect with clientele has been a perk of social media from the get-go. Regardless of the specific platform, social media sites have served to bridge the gap between corporations and the public in a less intrusive way. Facebook and Twitter serve as a means for brands to communicate and interact with fans and followers, effectively giving a personable face to the once faceless entity. Through social media, the branded business found a new outlet into the lives of fans without the invasive and typically manipulative nature often associated with classic ad campaigns. Social media is fast, cheap, and effective—the ideal technique of outreach business needs to connect with the public.
Instagram is proving to be a powerful outlet for businesses to level with the public, offering visual proof that they, like the public, take time to post about their lives. The same principles that make the individual use of Instagram so popular also apply with business entities. People will likely follow the feeds of businesses they appreciate, whether they feel an intimate connection or not, but Instagram allows businesses to create apersonalenvironment for their followers. By using Instagram to tell their story, brands can break away from the traditional press-release format of communication, and allow each viewer to interpret the message in his or her own way, while also creatingeffective product placementat no additional cost. The evocation of nostalgia in the picture will also serve to link the company with the personal life of the follower, potentially embedding the image of their brand into a memory created through the viewing process.
The behind the scenes concept of storytelling with Instagram is also key in breaking past the barrier partitioning businesses frompeople. Through seeing the faces behind a brand, individuals form a link in their mind, associating themselves with the people working to provide the services they know and love. The process allows the public to create a mentality that they have an exclusive look behind the curtain, solidifying a special connection between them and their brand of choice. Furthermore, Instagram provides the opportunity for fan photo contests, driving traffic and interaction with the brand’s page. Encouraging followers to contribute with hash tags, can accelerate the exposure of the company to other users who may not be familiar with the brands presence on Instagram or other social media outlets. The service also functions to give a unique, user generated voice to the fans and followers.
Instagram is a powerful tool, but like many public outlets and media platforms there are more effective ways to operate the service than others. The potential to cause harm to the image you are working to create, whether personal or professional, is a hazard you should work to avoid. Below are a few tips to help you keep on track, and avoid some of the common pitfalls of ineffectively using and posting on Instagram.
Keep it Local: Avoid sharing too many of your Instagram photos on other social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. While Instagram does provide this opportunity, over exposing yourself in this way will cause followers to grow tired of seeing the same images more than once, and they may consider un-following you since they can get your content elsewhere.
Keep it Fresh: A pitfall for any social media interaction is failure to post regularly. Try to post at consistent points in the day, and stick to that schedule. If you are too unpredictable, your fans will be frustrated when they check your page and there is nothing new when there should be. If you do not post new images regularly, followers will think you have nothing to contribute, and may leave as well.
Keep it Relevant: Work to create a theme or storyline and stick to it. You do not want your followers to become confused or scattered. Instagram is more effective for linear storylines than the other social media sites, and you do not want ruin this opportunity to stand out.
Keep it Fluid: Your page should have a solid flow in appearance and purpose. Try to stick to one or two filters for your photos. If you decide a photo does not fit with your photo grid, don’t be afraid to delete it. The entire site is based on visuals, so you want this aspect to really stand out if you want to attract followers.
Keep it Solid: Never feel the need to publish every photo you take. If you are unsure about something, take some time to think about it. Instagram is meant to be more of a micro-blog and less of a thought-train. Wait for the good photos you know will represent you and your story the best. Also, don’t be afraid to us other photo editing apps before posting the image. Take that little extra time to bring the image to the place you want it.
Keep it Fun: This is your Instagram and your story. Have fun with it. Your followers will appreciate you more if posting is a pleasure, and not a chore.
It’s impossible to determine exactly what the future may be for Instagram. Social media is proving to be a more valuable resource than anyone could have imagined during her initial inception, particularly in the professional world. For each user, Instagram means something different. Instagram is an art form, a means of self-expression, and a virtual stage for storytelling in the twenty-first century; most importantly, Instagram is a way for people to experience a world separate from their own. It is an opportunity to build greater understanding between people across the globe, and a chance to find beauty in the simple moments of life.