In modern times, everyone has a sense — or yearns for — of constant connectivity. Recent projections show that by 2016 nine in ten college students will own smartphones (http://www.emarketer.com/newsroom/index.php/college-students-adopt-mobile-board/). Smartphones with constant access to the friends, internet, and apps will further the development of one very prevalent new trend in media, Instagram. This app, owned by the media giant, Facebook, was created specifically for iPhones or Androids. Instagram recently surpassed the 150 million user mark after launching in October 2010 (http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/important-instagram-stats/). The app, created for posting one’s photos, shows no signs of slowing down, and with Facebook’s wallet behind it, it is not likely the growth will stop anytime soon. I believe that Instagram and its users are “thriv[ing] through production, sharing, and consumption of culture with members of [online] community” (Wilson and Yochim, pg. 11).
By posting photos from around the world, Instagram has allowed it’s user to do something amazing – not only feel connected to people across the globe but let people feel like true artist on a daily basis. Filmmaker Thomas Jullien shows in his short film glorifying how over 800 Instagram photos can depict the journey from New York to Paris. (http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/video-instagram-pics-create-paris-new-york-trip-article-1.1528168.)People are constantly taking photos everywhere they are, projects like Julien’s can make the world seem smaller and more intimate. Instagram has also provides a sense of intrinsic value from creating “art” daily and getting likes from followers in the form of hearts. Users are seeking approval (probably subconsciously) from their followers of a picture of their dinner that that they posted, a photo from their weekend out with the girls, or a weekend walk in the woods. Suddenly we relentlessly use filters such as “Toaster” or “Sepia” to improve the quality of our amateur photos in order to get a leg up on the people that we are following.
However, I think it is important to look at the 150 million users that Instagram is attracting and providing service for every day. Our identity heuristic jumps to the latest greatest American teen trend: the “hipster”; a white middle-to-upper class American boy or girl posting artsy photos of a tea cup pig in a tea cup or their grandma skateboarding. Look at this artsy couple that met on Instagram simply over a series of liking one and other photos and commenting back and forth (http://jezebel.com/how-we-live-now-newly-engaged-couple-met-on-instagram-1458923029). They fit the cultural definition of hipster to a tee; proposal in a barn, flannel shirts, met through Instagram. The population of Instagram is mostly true of the users of the three year old app – most are white, 15-25 year olds, middle-to-upper class American women. I think this speaks to volumes to the images frequented on Instagram. There are has been huge resurgence of the DIY, environmental, and “foodie” movement. All of these movements have seemed to have an effect on the domestic sphere. “It is at the meeting point between pockets of everyday life and pockets of online data that digital media are imbedded with power” (Wilson and Yochim, pg. 3). Women start making their family’s dinner’s again, not only to benefit the environment by using organic materials. Canning jams, curating meat, and making foods from scratch has become a hobby as opposed to the 1950s when this when more essential (Matchar, 2013). Instagram simply emphasizes this resurgence of the cult of domesticity because of all the photos women see that make it to the most liked and most viewed of food, children, and photos of the environment. It seems that once through online media, women are continually feminized. Despite what seems to be a trend of “Mr. Mom” women still do an average of 31 hours household chores a week compared to men’s 14. Additionally, wives complete 93% of the food purchases and do 78% of the cooking. And only 3% of parents are stay-at-home dads. I think that it is also important to look at the black women counterparts of the white stay at home mom. She is often viewed as “welfare queen” while white mothers are praised for dedication to children (Matchar, pg. 14).
This brings us into the censorship debate; despite the beautiful community that Instagram has created online making people more connected and intimate than ever through the constant sharing of live photos, there always comes boundary lines. Recently, Instagram has lifted the ban on certain hashtags such(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/29/banned-instagram-hashtags_n_4171589.html) as #boobz (not #boobs though!), #foodorgasm, and #sexyback. Here is a list of hashtags that are still censored or uncensored (http://thedatapack.com/instagram-relaxes-censored-hashtags-hello-sexualwednesdays/). Do the executives of Instagram have the right to censor what users are saying and how they are using the app they created? Or are they doing for the younger users to protect them? Is protecting younger users’ eyes even art of their job? A man walked around to random strangers and told them random facts about their lives, often to get very negative responses. All the information he got about them he received from their Instagram accounts (http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/video-comedian-social-media-fake-psychic-article-1.1522092). Who wouldn’t be a little scared watching this video? Maybe this should make one question how much they are sharing online. Sometimes it is impossible to tell until you hear from a third party. On the flip side, in Canada, a women’s Instagram account was deleted by the Instagram executives without her consent because she shared a photo of her unshaved bikini line. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/petra-collins/why-instagram-censored-my-body_b_4118416.html) Just because she doesn’t fit our society’s culturally constructed ideas of ideal beauty, her rights to an Instagram were stripped of her. Moreover, Instagram was telling her what was proper and was not, regulating more than just the young women’s account but affecting the way that she thinks about her body.
In conclusion in the Brooks & Hebert reading “Gender , Race, and Media Representation” the authors state that our society much of what comes to seem important and relevant is in terms of what the media has deemed rightly so. However, with the dawn of new trends in media such as Twitter, Pinterest, Vine, and specifically Instagram, what is becoming important in our society is becoming more and more based off of what our peers’ judge us on. Instagram reinforces our society needing others to make their postings popular or liked. Additionally, the main photos that are being liked publicized are those that are reinforcing cultural and old gender boundaries. Finally, while Instagram may boast over 150 million users, I wonder how much freedom these users really feel like have because of the boundaries and recent censorship debates. So while Instagram may be revolutionary in connecting and socializing the world, it also has produced some trends and repercussions from 150 million users that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
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