In August of last year, Instagram users spent, on average, 257 minutes accessing the site. In addition, more than five million photos are uploaded to the application each day. These are huge traffic numbers and they bring to mind two important questions: How has the application influenced culture? How has a 14.4 megabyte program changed our perpective?
1. It provides an open forum for opinion through images in a world saturated with text. Many of the users I follow on Instagram have become, unknowingly, the social monitors of our world. They post high-profile images that immediately capture your attention due to the message that the image sends. They are the social critics, the activists, and the political commentators of the social networking world, and have changed the way teens have become proactive in the issues that affect our society.
2. Instagram has provided clear evidence of an increasingly consumerist society. Every day as I swipe to and from images, I am bombarded by pictures that include the logos of brand name "things," for lack of a better word. They're usually accompanied by a variation of a caption of "Got a new ______ from the brand ______!" and provide companies with another marketing opportunity. Of course, seeing these images are almost inevitable, since approximately 40% of brands utilize Instagram for marketing. More importantly, it has become evident that teenagers are even more materialistic than ever before, going to great lengths to show off their new pair of $200 dollar shoes (or their $2 pack of gum).
3. It's allowed us to interact with people we would never even have the chance to meet.
I have a friend on Instagram that I follow who lives all the way in Sweden. He essentially provides a glimpse of what it's like to be a seventeen-year-old in a country 5,210 miles away. While he posts pictures of ski trips on snow-capped mountains, I post pictures of my friends and me in shorts... in winter.
4. It's given us an even easier access to a large amount of readily available information. No longer do we have to turn on the TV or the computer to read the news (after all, we are the laziest generation). All you have to do is get on Instagram. For example, when I searched up images hashtagged #fiscalcliff, it brought up 5,084 photos. Likewise, when I searched up images hashtagged #news, it brought up 294,836 photos, albeit some images having questionable relevancy.
With Instagram will come various applications and social media platforms that will continue to transform our culture. They will seek to allow us to have an easier and greater access to data and information. But overall, applications like Instagram have shown us that as we make our journey through the "New Information Age" and "Web 2.0", we will realize that this is all just the #beginning.