Sunday, March 30, 2014

What is Instagram All About? An Average Joe's Perspective by Gary Feltman

My Personal Social Media Experience 
At first I thought Instagram was primarily for females; another form of Pinterest so to speak..

Then I learned that teens are flocking towards Instagram, for the most part just to socialize and get away from parents and other adults. (They haven't completely disowned or stopped using Facebook, it's just a new and different outlet of expression and communication). I've also learned from experience that adults are using it for another bunch of reasons altogether.

I use Twitter mainly for professional educational research and networking purposes, but I also use it to chat about pop culture, occasionally express my thoughts, opinions, archive resources, and share typical internet trends, or news.

I do have rather strong opinions about reasons I dislike Facebook, but I keep coming back for more. I also feel Twitter can be a powerful tool if used correctly and appropriately, especially for educators.

Partly for professional reasons, and partly for human curiosity, I make a strong effort to keep up with new internet and technology trends. I try to give most popular and trending social media or apps an honest try, for example Snapchat, Whisper, Glide, Secret, Kik…etc. Of course I'm familiar with the more mainstream social media trends or apps like Spotify, Shazam, Starbucks, and Vine. Of course I haven't named them all; there's thousands out there.

So I Gave Instagram a Try
I got to talking one night with a close neighborhood friend who is not very active on Facebook or Twitter. He was one his phone, and I was wondering, "What the heck are you doing on your phone?" So I asked him. He told me Instagram. I thought, "WHAT?!?!"

It just so happens, a few days before that, I opened an Instagram account and posted my first picture…still being clueless of why or how to use Instagram. So when my friend told me he was on Instagram, I got excited. "What's your handle? Can I follow you?" Little did I know, this guy had well over 200 hundred followers on Instagram, and he used it to push his artistic creations and agenda. I thought: "this guy's big time."

This made me realize that there was a whole other world of marketing and expression through Instagram, especially related to the arts (my artistic neighbor pushes her art through Tumblr). Not only that, I guess I didn't realize how popular it was.

So I went to work, and asked one of my co-workers the questions any normal person would ask when trying something new: "What's the purpose of this?" Followed by "Why would I do this?" "Is this supposed to be fun?" "Do I just use a bunch of hashtags?" and "What kind of pictures do I put up?"

So I dived in…as someone once told me…"You don't learn to ski by reading skiing magazines."

So What's the Purpose of Instagram?
So with some new knowledge, and a weekend getaway, I decided to post some of my pictures up to Instagram with hashtags. I gotta say, it's pretty cool! For me, here's a few purposes:

  • For one, it's an outlet for all these seemingly stupid and random pictures taken throughout the day with your phone.
  • It also allows creativity with hashtags. You pretty much make up your own hashtag, and put as many as you want per picture.
  • Compared to Facebook, it's a way to connect without being obligated to respond or get caught up in the drama.
  • Compared to Twitter, it's a lot less reading, and a seemingly more chill virtual environment.
  • In general, Instagram seems to be the perfect outlet for senselessly sharing pictures, including family moments, food, memes, quotes, memories or just silly pictures not relevant to anything; especially the things people are tired of seeing on Facebook and Twitter.
One neat thing: you'd be surprised how many other people have used the same hashtag you thought you just created by just clicking on it, and seeing anywhere between 0 to thousands of pictures with the hashtag. Looking back, I've accumulated a pretty cool collection of pictures which I've shared through Instagram.

How do I use Instagram Now?
Well, it's definitely on my "things I need to do before I go to bed and as soon as I wake up" list. Not that I need any more to do, which is a stressful idea in itself, but it keeps things fun and interesting.

I don't post daily, but I post what sometimes interests me, and sometimes what I think my followers might enjoy seeing.

I've been posting my favorite pictures of my kids and family; it's a little more private than Facebook.

Also one thing I enjoy doing is taking pictures of beautiful scenery or interesting relics. It's kind of exciting to have somewhere to put them, where the occasional Instagram user will appreciate it by liking it. So now I take and share pictures of neighborhood staples or local relics and moments after I go for a neighborhood jog.

In Closing
Several friends, family members, and co-workers already had Instagram accounts and were using them regularly.

Another coincidence, is that as I was creating and learning how to use my Instagram account for the first time, several co-workers were exploring with their new accounts as well. That made it a lot of fun when weeks later we all discovered we were all new to Instagram, each one of us thinking the others had been on for quite some time.

A seemingly obvious thing to note, is that my perspective is solely based on my background and motivations. There are many people in the world with various backgrounds and different motives. I do realize that others might use it for different reasons and motivations based on individual demographics and life purposes. These reasons may include networking, socializing, having fun, professional, marketing, or just plain boredom.

Some things I wonder are:
  • What other purposes do people use this for that I'm unaware of?
  • Is there drama or expression of differing opinions similar to other social networks?
  • How has Instagram evolved over time?
  • How will this evolve over the short term and long term?

Thanks for reading.
I welcome comments and questions.
@garyfeltman on Twitter