Is Instagram about to be ruined?


Facebook was fun at first because it was anchored in the real world. You used your real name to sign up; real world networks were laid bare.

Friending someone from school/work/Little Athletics was like a lucky dip. Would you find gossip, something to envy, or a new connection? Any of those options were delightful; in those halcyon early days of friending it was impossible to lose.

But precisely because Facebook friendships were based on “real life,” they became boring: you already knew these people, and now you knew more than you cared to.

The buzz wore off. (We started Facebook culls. “I don’t even know who this person is,” and tightening our privacy settings.)


Regaining that buzz of connection and self-expression is what Twitter’s for: with the added ability to follow whoever you want without being made to feel like a stalker.

A huge bonus of Twitter is that there’s the small possibility you could be RTed by a celebrity.

Twitter’s a world that favours being clever, witty, and interesting, tweet by tweet over time – rather than what school you went to, or the parties to which you get invited. (Supposedly.)

People used to take their digital cameras everywhere to flesh out their Facebook albums. But the act of ruthlessly documenting small gatherings with a real camera became frowned upon. (Big gatherings, such as weddings, are different and still documented via albums.)

Even though having an iPhone now is the equivalent of a quality point-and-shoot in your pocket, many people never returned to using Facebook albums to post party pics.

Instead, Instagram is the new go-to platform for saying “I live a full life and here is photographic proof.”

Posting constant #selfies on Facebook is frowned upon as narcissistic. But posting a lighthearted selfie on Instagram is fun.

Photoshopping your party/holiday pics is vain. But applying a filter to or Snapseeding your iPhone pics is creative.

Instagram is like Twitter in that you can follow strangers without feeling like a creep.

A Twitter follow is saying “I like your mind.” An Instragram follow is saying “I like your eye.” What does a Facebook add say? It’s complex.

Everyone prefers to be the added not the adder on Facebook.

To follow and not be followed back on Twitter is a mild disappointment. To have your Facebook friendship denied is a disaster.

A Facebook like is less exciting to receive than a Twitter fave.

No one yet knows what a Twitter fave really means. (Does it mean “I want to keep this tweet filed away so I can look at it again?” – that’s weird. Or is this person using the fave as a like?)

Sometimes people use the Twitter fave button to say “I am acknowledging this tweet with gratitude but content to let the conversation end.” (If only there was a way of doing this with email and real-life convos too.)

Neither a Facebook like nor a Twitter fave is as good as an RT using the RT button.

Getting an RT using the RT button is a more straightforward high than getting an old fashioned manual RT. (Exception: if the person precedes the manual RT with a compliment, agreement or joke, adding value to your original.)

Also problematic is an MT – hardly anyone knows that MT means “modified tweet” and sometimes your original tweet becomes truncated/loses its meaning. What if the followers of the person who MTed it think you’re illiterate?

Nothing is more bittersweet than getting a tweet with a typo RTed.

Unless it ends with an exclamation mark, a tweet of “ha” or “haha” can sound sarcastic.

But Tweets of more than three (3) ha-s are straightforward acknowledgments of humour.

Only approximately 10% of “LOL” or “Hahaha” social media remarks are accompanied by the person laughing in real life.

A photo of your boyfriend or girlfriend on Instagram will get surprisingly little response however good it is, because no one is sure yet whether a like in that circumstance means “I like the photo” or “he/she is hot.”

A photo of a pet on Instagram is somehow cuter than one on Facebook.

Tumblr is for gathering photos of the self you’ll be when you grow up.

Pinterest is for gathering photos of the self you’ll be when you get the money.

Instagram becomes web ready
So now that Instagram will soon be viewable on web profile pages, it's understandable that people are kicking up a fuss about it.

When Instagram came along, there was a lovely period of time when only early adopters (aka, “cool people”) had it and used it.

It became a safe space for a certain type of expression: self portraits (selfies) and “art,” enabled by filters.

You can’t take and post unlimited selfies on Facebook without:

  • being uncomfortably aware that most/many of your friends see you in real life and know you don’t look that good everyday


  • knowing they think you’re arrogant for for posting so many pics of yourself

Similarly, Facebook is not really the place for expressing yourself artistically. You could post a pic of a cake you made, sure. That is anchored in the real world. But a puddle reflecting a tree and the night sky? That’s too ephemeral for Facebook. It’s perfect for Instagram.

Furthermore, with Instragram, there was always the chance that your photos of you and of your “art” would attract the attention of strangers and the love of the crowd. Isn’t that what we all want? You can’t get that kind of exponential, viral attention on Facebook because you have to be friends with people you really know. Yawn.

Lastly, there was no chance that “boring people” would see your pics because they weren’t cool enough to have Insta on their phone.

That’s why people are furious that Instagram will now be on the web too.

It is a feeling of betrayal and sadness that the trust we placed in Instagram (“I will post unlimited photos of myself and art and life without judgment”) has been broken.

Now all the pics are accessible by people who are NOT doing the same thing. The archive can be perused and judgments formed. The context has collapsed leaving all our shy attempts at selfhood and self expression languishing on beach of the internet like a jellyfish washed up on a tide. (Whatever; Instagram it.)

This story first appeared on STW Group's business and creativity blog Nextness, republished with permission.



  • I have been using Instagram for a while now. I love it for all the reasons identified above.

    It is like blogging but without the time commitment and competition, Twitter without the wierdos, and FB without the blandness.

    Part of the attraction is its immediacy, but it is mostly, as you say, about the fact that you have to be doing it to participate - so there is a real feeling of reciprocity (although I have followers on IG who have only posted a couple of photos or sometimes none). And for some strange reason, it does not feel as vain and self centred as FB pics do. I deleted my FB account last year so when FB bought IG, I felt a shiver. It will change, and probably not for the better.

    Date and time
    November 08, 2012, 10:47AM
    • Instagram and pinterest are too pictorial for me, twitter too brief and wordy.

      Tumblr is a happy medium for me and its vibe genuinely pleasant for most of the time. Its the company of strangers sharing the same interests and some of the creativity on display that makes the day so much better.

      But I agree - I have fallen out of love with all those facebook friends I reconnected with:)

      Girl in Sydney
      Date and time
      November 08, 2012, 4:49PM
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