Instagram and its Effect on the Millenial Generation
Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation*
Instagram is a photo-sharing social media service that allows users to take pictures, edit them, and post them to the Instagram website, Facebook, or Twitter. It was recently purchased by Facebook for $1 billion, though users are still able to share photos on other social media services such as Foursquare, Tumblr, and Flickr. This photo-based “app” quickly became wildly popular among social media users reaching 40 million users within 18 months. It is now available as an app for iPhone, iPad, iPods, and Androids.
Our generation, the Millenial generation, is consistently updating “friends” about what we are doing at every moment of every day. The Instagram social media service has taken that popular pastime to a higher level. Now, instead of just writing a message on Facebook or Twitter saying “Out to see the Cherry Blossoms!” the post would also include a picture of the cherry blossoms. But not just any cherry blossoms! You have taken your picture of the cherry blossoms and “transformed its look and feel” (instagram.com) before posting it for the public to see. This allows the user an extra element of creativity with their public form of communication.
Millenials are bringing social media into every aspect of daily life. We take pictures of things that happen at work and post them on Instagram or Facebook- illustrating for our “friends” all the things that are happening to us at work, school, home, and every other part of our lives. Some people are even snapping pictures and posting them while driving! As Millenials, we are always posting pictures of ourselves when we are having fun or when things are going well, so as to present our best selves to the Instagram or Facebook audience that follows us.
In the past few years several questions have been raised about the impact of social media on narcissism. In a 2009 article from USAToday, the writer uses the results of a poll of over 1,000 college students in which 57% said that social networking sites are used primarily by their peers for self promotion, narcissism, and attention-seeking. She poses the question to several experts of whether the current generation is more narcissistic due to social networking sites. The Instagram and photo-sharing aspects of social media fit especially well into the theory that these sites are being used for self-promotion and thus promoting narcissism. Millenials are more frequently posting their personalized Instagram photos alongside their usual status updates for even further self promotion. This is another area where the narcissism is very apparent because Millenials are only posting pictures that present them in the best light, and Instagram allows the user to alter the image even further. The posting of pictures on social media through Instagram and other services, is an excellent example of the narcissism that is being promoted in general by social media. The writer of the USAToday article does a good job of addressing the possibility that the word “narcissism” is too harsh, saying that the use of social media is really “a celebration of individuality and sort of promotion of one’s own personality.” (USAToday, 2009)
In an article posted on CNN.com from 2010, the writer, Jolie O’Dell, very specifically points out the impact of photo sharing in social media when she reveals results from another study that showed “Female users with narcissistic tendencies tended to use images in their self-promotion, uploading content that “include[d] revealing, flashy and adorned photos of their physical appearance” (CNN.com, 2010). O’Dell also points out that “the survey’s results showed ‘significant positive correlations between narcissism and self-promotional content in the following areas: Main Photo, View Photos, Status Updates and Notes,’” which supports the idea that the special photo-sharing services are very tightly tied to narcissism because these uploaded photos end up in three out of those four categories. The Instagram photo that a user uploads can end up as the main photo, in the View Photos Collection, or in the user’s status updates. O’Dell also discusses the fact that the study in question is only a preliminary study that needs further development and research. Social Networking media continues to advance every day so this will likely continue to be a field of interest for years to come.
*Chorus from the song “My Generation” by The Who, 1965