“Just give me a second. I need to take a picture of this, edit it, check us in…”
“Are you done? Hey come on, can we eat now?”
Every time I go out with a friend, she is most likely updating the world about what we’re doing at the moment through some form of social media. I certainly understand the devotion to the smartphone and social media, but spending those minutes editing and posting makes me feel that our meeting is more about showing off to the world what we’re doing than the actual meeting itself.
I see that my friend posted about our date on Instagram, which has lately been the obsession of social media junkies everywhere, including myself. Don’t get me wrong, I love Instagram. It’s visually appealing and a compulsive time-killer. However, I don’t just see her post in Instagram, but on all her other social media as well.
Currently, “Instagrammers” are able to e-mail their photos and post them on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and Foursquare. These popular social networks offer different features: Facebook is more about keeping in touch with other people by posting on each other’s timelines (and the occasional stalking), Tumblr is about fun blogs and self-expression, and Flickr is about building and organizing a photo home. Despite their differences, they share a similar goal, which is to make it easier for people to communicate and share with others.
And while Instagram maintains a beautiful relationship with its social media buddies, it gets to be its own platform. Users can follow, like, and comment within Instagram without having to go to other media. Not only does the app gives users an easy one-stop place to create content that can immediately appear on all their profiles, but it’s integration with its fellow media brothers and sisters has further boosted its reputation as a notable social media platform.
Although Instagram started in 2010 as a mobile application that made photo-taking and sharing fun, quick, and simple, its fast growth to now 150 million monthly active users shows how much people adore this application. In 2012, the company created web profiles for users. Rather than taking away Instagram’s appeal, the supplemental web function has so far appeared to have enhanced the brand by making the program available online. Instagram’s popularity has even spawned a grand move by Social Network King Facebook which bought Instagram for $1 billion.
Obviously, Instagram has become a success. But what is the social network really about? Is Instagram about offering an array of choices or overwhelming users by allowing easy connections between all social media platforms right at our fingertips? It seems that “instagramming” has become a way for people to engage in other peoples’ lives at a more frequent pace, straying them away from what’s happening in the moment, and causing major distractions.
In her book, Personal Connections in the Digital Age, Nancy Baym defines the concept of technological determinism:
“There is a strong tendency, especially when technologies are new, to view them as causal agents, entering societies as active forces of change that humans have little power to resist” (Baym 24).
As a fairly new form of technology, I believe that Instagram definitely exemplifies the components of technological determinism. The application has entered our society and altered the lives of smartphone users, turning them into instant photographers who have quickly become addicted to the simplicity [and many gorgeous filters] of Instagram.
And while it may be convenient to have the choice to upload a single picture to all of one’s social media platforms, Instagram manipulates users. Sure, you don’t have to post your photo to everything manually, but with so many choices, it’s hard to resist posting the photo everywhere for the eyes of all the different friends you have on different platforms. It’s hard to resist snapping and editing dozens of those flattering and colorful square-shaped photos. And with so much of the same content on different sites, programs like Instagram are causing an unnecessary excess of information all over the web.
Despite the pros of social networks like Instagram, I feel like I’m losing my friends. I’m no longer able to enjoy my time with them without waiting for photos to be snapped and uploaded, and having to keep up with all the different social media networks our night has popped up in. They no longer care whether I’m okay with them publicizing our evening, which demonstrates how much social networks have a hold on them and have altered their perception of human interaction. For them, human interaction has been replaced by social network interaction. The underlying problem is that with social network interaction, information about ourselves just keeps piling up over an array of places amongst the cyber world. And rather than making my life convenient, Instagram and its buddies are overloading my social media and negatively manipulating the experiences I have with my friends.