Today Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would purchase everyone's favorite hipster photo app, Instagram -- for a whopping $1 billion. While Instagram's 30 million users utilize the application on a number of platforms, Facebook and Instagram seem like a match made in social media heaven. Why? Let's be honest, here: Facebook is all about making your life look awesome, and Instagram makes everything look infinitely cooler.
While plenty of criticism of this Facebook / Instagram marriage has already emerged -- Steve Cheney of GroupMe and tech industry analyst Patrick Moorehead's 12-year-old daughter were among the many Twitter detractors -- I wouldn't be surprised if many women were pleased. The majority of Facebook's 845 million users are female. Women are among the social network's most engaged users and are far more likely than men to stay in touch with friends and family through social media platforms of all types. (As someone who works at a computer all day with Facebook constantly open, I count myself in these numbers.)
Women also feel more pressure to look appealing on Facebook. As a result of that pressure, authenticity isn't so much the site's ethos. Maintaining a Facebook page is an ongoing act of curation. You probably would opt to post a status update about the incredible concert you went to or your company's latest happy hour, but not your wicked case of strep throat or dating fail.
Women also tend to select the images they put on social networks very carefully. A survey Glamour conducted in February showed that 41 percent of women between 18 and 24, and 23 percent of women 25-29 digitally alter their personal photos. In addition to being potentially very time consuming, you'd be hard-pressed to find an activity that makes you feel more superficial and better reinforces your deepest insecurities about your appearance.
This is where the beauty of Instagram reaveals itself. In one sense, it plays right into the self-retouching trend, letting you get similar results in a fraction of the time. But Instagram also undermines that painstaking Facebook-inspired self-editing. While iPhoto creates the illusion that you might actually look as flawless in real life as the Retouch Tool allows you to online, Instagram users are aware that no one actually walks around looking like a faded polaroid from 1977.
With apps like Instagram and Hipstamatic, the inauthenticity is right out in the open. Even mundane objects look covetable once they've been filtered through "Nashville," "Toaster," "Earlybird" or "Lo-fi." To prove the point, I photographed a number of completely boring things around our office and worked some Instagram magic on them. The once hideous plastic rose on my co-worker's desk suddenly looks beautiful! The contact lenses I had delivered today have vintage charm!
So good job Facebook -- you've made yourself one smart purchase. Just don't be surprised if people start unfriending each other just to avoid seeing one too many black-and-white, faded photographs of dogs ... or soda bottles ... or brick buildings.
LOOK: How Instagram Makes Our Office Seem Super Cool