Ten years ago, our lives were forever changed by Instagram, its feed and it’s many influencing ways. What was life before gifs, #foodporn #throwback or #travelgram? The social app has vastly affected how its one billion users connect, share, eat, travel and purchase.
On 6 October 2010, two Americans named Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger launched Instagram as a social network dedicated to photo sharing. The novelty? The app offered filters to adjust brightness, contrast and colour to create the perfect photo in an instant. It was an immediate success. Two years later, the app was bought by Facebook and by that time, it had become the world’s most popular platform for uploading endless streams of selfies.
Our every move and milestone in life is recorded on Instagram and its Stories. Travel spots, brunches, parties, gyms and countless locations have become a backdrop for capturing a self portrait for public consumption. “We have entered the era of ‘the internet reality’ where one can only exist through what one publishes on social networks. I selfie, therefore I am,” said Michael Stora, psychologist and president of the French research collective Observatory of Digital Worlds in Humanities (OMNSH).
Ten years on from its launch, Instagram has evolved far beyond selfies, as it redefines “experiences” and blurs the lines between reality and someone’s carefully curated personal brand.
The app has become the preferred platform for luxury brands, particularly fast-fashion labels which have developed powerful digital marketing strategies to attract millions of users on the platform.
A shopping function introduced in 2019 has turned Instagram into an e-commerce site, allowing companies to use their profiles as virtual storefronts so users can shop and pay without ever leaving the app. It has also launched countless careers of digital “influencers” who churn out daily content to their loyal followers, striking endorsement deals along the way.
“They send me the product and I provide all the service around it… Brands no longer need to call on an advertising agency. We take care of everything,” says Pauline Privez, a 36-year-old fashion and beauty influencer since 2009.
Instagram has also made luxury brands more accessible, as they are able to interact daily with users through their own accounts, says fashion historian Audrey Millet. “By freely publishing content they open up to everyone, shedding the image of snobbery that has been attached to them.”
Travel and food guides
The application has also revolutionised the dining experience. Restaurateurs can count on carefully staged photos of their dishes, or moody shots within their cosy interiors to attract new clients. It is even possible to reserve a table at some restaurants directly through the app.
The platform has become a place to search for inspiration in the kitchen, where anyone can access the recipes of famous chefs who have invested heavily in their feed, such as Jamie Oliver who is followed by 8.3 million people and posts new recipes daily. Look up any celebrated chef worth their salt and you’ll find they have an Instagram account, if not of themselves, their dining establishments.
Maelle Bourras, a Parisian in her 30s, follows “about 15 chefs” including Alain Passard, who has half a million subscribers, and Cyril Lignac, with 2.5 million. “On weekends I try to reproduce some of their creations. It’s free and accessible, and allows me to vary from the usual dishes,” she says.
Others use Instagram to choose their next vacation, and tourist offices rely heavily on content creators to promote their destinations.
Digital influencers like Privez publish their “experiences” and in return are paid, in addition to the free trips. She has 140,000 subscribers and makes between six and seven “sponsored trips” per year, “not counting the two-day press trips”, she reveals.
Around the world, museums and pop-up “experiences” are increasingly offering interactive installations solely for visitors to take selfies and post them on Instagram and other social media platforms.
Pressure for perfection
View this post on Instagram
Not all social media celebrities are in it for the money, however. Sylvain Hawawini, known as Dr Shawa Vet to his 107,000 followers, poses with animals in hundreds of photos from locations around the world, so that others can “discover landscapes or places still little known”.
The insatiable quest for Instagram “likes” has made the platform addictive for some, and can have devastating effects, particularly for younger people, explains Stora. Instagram gives teenagers a false sense of reality and pressure for perfection “that they cannot live up to”.
Influencers can feel the pressure as well. Privez says, “I am forced to stay with it for my professional life, but in my personal life, I am becoming more and more detached from it.”
Source: AFP Relax News