Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Instagram Syndrome

Below is the second in a series of posts examining various social media sites and what function they play for teens, parents and the world at large.


Instagram is the new Facebook. Not for you, necessarily, but for a a legion of teens on the run from their parent's constant supervision. My hypothesis is that the more parents hopped on Facebook the more teens took off for the hills. And the hills are called Instagram.

Instagram is basically a photo-sharing site, where selfies (self portraits), friend pics, funny pictures and memes rule the day. (In case you aren't up on the lingo a meme is any video or picture that gets transmitted around the web). Applications exist to create photo montages for Instagram or to create your own meme. For example, bright text boxes that say things like: That Awkward Moment When You Realize You Don't Know What a Meme Is or Repost if You Feel Tired Today.

A few key Instagram features include:

  • A short Twitter-like bio and profile pic
  • Higher levels of perceived anonymity than some other sides, many people use twitter-like "handles" instead of their full names like Supergirl21 or Teddybear119.
  • Photosharing is an important part of the site. Every "status" has to be a photo. You can choose to add a caption or not. 
  • Your connections are called followers. This can lead to more connections that originate online versus in the physical world. 
  •  Use of # to create a link to a topic other users might search for or @ to highlight your post for another user. So I might list: #Instagram for this article and I might @mymom to alert her to my brillance.
  • Users can post comments in a thread under a photogrpah to build a connected conversation, much like this blog.
I've watched entire relationships bud, grow, flourish and self destruct over Instagram, highlighting how publicly the new generation is willing to live their lives. What I haven't seen are very many older adults (read: parents) on the scene.

I think a fair number of retailers and corporations that cater to teens have seen the shift. I was recently in Urban Outfitters and saw a promotion focused entirely on Instagram. I predict this site will continue to take the younger generation away from Facebook until the older generations start jumping on board. After that? Who knows? The way the web moves it could be anywhere...

You can find me on Instagram at @jennagrinstead