Untangling Instagram’s Growing Web of Influence

Five Years on: Untangling Instagram’s Growing Web of Influence 

By Tom Jenkins, for CNN … Instagram’s fifth birthday party had a guest list stretching to 400 million. That’s how many monthly active users the photo-sharing app now has and almost half of them are under 25. In the triumvirate of social media (along with Facebook and Twitter), it’s definitely the cool one.

Much of the platform’s appeal lies in it simplicity, hence developers have changed very little since its inception. But with the introduction of sponsored posts it feel like Instagram is at something of a crossroads. Will it lose its idiosyncratic creative spirit or simply push on to the next level with a whole host of new features?

Only time will tell, but let’s get serious for a minute and forget the filtering fun and unobtainable constructed reality, and examine how Instagram really is changing the world.

Travel

Instagram is broadening our horizons as we seek ever more photogenic locations, while travel brands are commissioning popular Instagram photographers as part of their marketing approach.

Eelco Roos, who has shot for Travel Alberta, as well as brands such as Samsung and Ducati, quit his job as an IT Consultant for IBM and is now one of the most popular photographers on Instagram. “For travel brands, Instagram is more measurable than traditional media in terms of finding out what an audience thinks. I haven’t experienced hostility from ‘traditional’ photographers, but I do have to defend ways of photography other than the traditional ones sometimes.”

Instagram is also opening Western eyes to more inaccessible places, Iran for example, where Facebook and Twitter are banned, and accounts such as @everydayafricaare challenging preconceptions. Taylor Pemberton, a designer and creative director, left his home in New York earlier this year to pursue a nomadic lifestyle as a photographer. He eventually found himself in North Korea: “I had this hope that even though the tourism experience is sanctioned, my camera could see past the façade and bring forth the everyday nuances that exist in human life. I think a platform like Instagram is giving people a glimpse into other worlds, cultures, and topics. Like other forms of media, some Instagram accounts create more education than controversy, more conviction than humour.”

Food

It’s also making us more adventurous with what we eat.

Without Instagram, there would be no food porn. As with fashion, this is where trends become reality and food writers such as Hemsley and Hemsley, whose super healthy dishes, with their rich and often bold colour palettes, seem almost tailor-made for the format, enjoy huge followings.

However, eating out (and in) has become such a documentable event that many people spend more time trying to get the perfect shot than enjoying the food. “Sometimes I wonder if guests are present at the table when they are obsessing about photographing everything they eat,” says Massimo Bottura, chef patron of Osteria Francescana, voted second best restaurant in the world. “One time a guest suggested I change the colour of the plates (from white to black) because he said the photographs would look better.”

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