The photo and video sharing app has more than 1 billion users.
This week marks 10 years since the founding of Instagram, the hugely popular social media app that boasts more than a billion users.
Sarah Frier is the author of “No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram.” She says Instagram’s growth over the last decade, especially after it was acquired by Facebook for $1 billion in 2012, is widespread and easy to see.
“It’s a platform where you can look around you and see the impact of the app, in a way that you can’t as easily see the impact of a Facebook or a Twitter,” Frier said.
One of the most prominent Instagram features is its photo-editing tools: namely, its selection of colorful filters. Frier says the customization that Instagram affords its users has produced millions of eye-catching photos. But it’s also had an impact on the way we behave.
“It gave us permission to perform a little bit on the internet, and polish what we had been through for the consumption of others,” says Frier.
She says the app has even influenced what we eat, and where we travel.
“We started seeking out different experiences- going to restaurants where we cared more about what the food looked like than what it tasted like, taking vacations to places that were ‘Instagrammable.'”
But those changes in behavior haven’t always painted a pretty picture.
“It has had a profound effect on the mental health of young people,” says Frier. “It has essentially trained us all to have this Facebook-like mindset, that bigger numbers [are] better.”
This week Instagram is rolling out tools designed to combat abusive comments on the platform, including a system that warns users who may be about to post an aggressive comment.
Another facet of Instagram’s influence has to do with businesses. The company launched a slate of tools in 2016 which allowed companies to set up dedicated profiles and create ads. Frier says it has now become virtually indispensable for business to be on the platform.
“Literally anything that’s visual, you will need to have a presence on Instagram, or at least a reverence for the kinds of content that Instagram rewards.”
Today, the company says 90% of accounts on its platform follow at least one business account.
According to Frier, that push for more companies to do business on Instagram is part of Facebook’s larger efforts to grow in the online retail space.
“Now, I think that Facebook is trying to put more of its stamp onto Instagram.”
And that gives social media fans a clue into Facebook’s plans for Instagram in the coming years.
“This tool that started out as this creative place for opening windows into other people’s lives is going to become a little bit more like a mall. And one that is more overtly owned by Facebook.”