Instagram, the social networking and image-sharing service launched in 2010, currently has over 100 million members.
A great deal of this popularity is down to its simplicity; it is simple to upload and edit photographs, easy to view and share images, and easy for users to get their work seen and known amongst the Instagram community. It is useful for advertising a company or product, too; if the advertising images are concise, clear and memorable, it guarantees a large audience and swift, straightforward distribution. Certainly, it is a very useful service, both for those viewing the images and those creating them; but why is it so popular?
Part of the answer is the way it has taken some of the most popular features of other social networks and woven them into its own make-up. Photographs can be liked and commented on, much like they can on Facebook, and this level of interaction between those uploading the image and those viewing the images gives a strong feeling of community between the users. Added to this is the fact that, in a similar vein to Twitter, users can follow others and so be made aware when they have uploaded new images, reinforcing this air of community and connectivity. The service has also made it possible to link Twitter, Facebook and Flickr to a user’s Instragram account, both as a way of attracting new users from these sites and allowing one to connect and share with friends more easily and so greatly expanding its audience.
Yet the real secret behind Instagram’s popularity is not just the things it shares with these other social networking sites, but the ways in which it differs from them, and confirms its own unique identity. For example, it confines pictures to a square shape, rather than the 16:9 aspect ratio most mobile device cameras now use; this sets it apart from other services and gives the user a sense of being involved in something different from the norm, reaffirming the social circles in which they are moving in the service by distancing them from others. Its classic style has the same effect, making it distinctive and creating a distance between Instagram and other social networks.
Its main difference, and greatest strength, however, is in the creativity that runs through every post. Unlike on Facebook or Twitter, there is no wading through statuses about people’s breakfast habits; even the most mundane photographs can be enhanced with one of the distinctive filters Instagram supports. The media it is based on enhances this feeling of creativity; images can speak far louder than words, allowing emotions to be conveyed in seconds, and the way the images appear, not as small parts of a larger whole but as individual pictures, giving them added import and significance. Instagram is not just about sharing images, but sharing meaningful images; this, added to the tight social bonds it creates and enforces between users, accounts for its immense and still-growing popularity.
By Matthew Wells. Writer, blogger and aspiring journalist, whose blog can be found at www.whatgriffins.blogspot.co.
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