“A picture is worth a thousand words”. This refers to the notion that a complex idea can be conveyed with just a single still image. It also characterizes the main goals of visualization, making it possible to absorb large amounts of data quickly. (Wikipedia)
“Images don’t need translations, they have a unique language with no censor or translator needed”- Phil Gonzalez Instagram Blog
In response, McLuhan would state that the “Medium is the message.”
Instagram’s medium told the tale of the elements as users shared photos of the West Texas fertilizer plant explosion, The Boston/Watertown bombings and the Typhoon in The Philippines.
In 2013, Instagram users shared the world around them to capture the most notable events of the year including,
- Egyptians revolt against President Morsi
- US Supreme Court on same-sex marriage in California.
- The passing of Nelson Mandela
Instagram has exploded in popularity over the past few years, since launching the smartphone application in October 2010 and since then being acquired by Facebook in April 2012.
“With more than 150 million people involved in the community, more images are shared today and there is a larger volume of photos related to newsworthy events.”- Kris Holt The Daily Dot
From the start, Instagram’s users posted all sorts of pictures from dogs, hot dog legs and even fingernail fashion. However, with 150 million users Instagram is now relevant in the media.
Instagram won’t be the news magazine of the future. But, news magazines will have to integrate Instagram as they did with Twitter.
As McLuhan put it, “For the “message” of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs”
Instagram needs a new platform to help users photos go viral organically.
The “explore” page allows users to search or see the most popular photos at that time on the app. However, you are limited to resharing a photo organically, without having to screenshot the image and reupload to your account.
Instead, Instagram relies on other social networking sites to spread the word about users photos like, Twitter, Tumblr and WordPress.
The very nature of news is essentially, “getting it out there” simply put, more integration is needed. However, Facebook now shows Instagram likes on photos you share.
Raymond Williams believes, “that the importance of the medium comes from the greatly increase of physical mobility”
Since Instagram’s early days, users have posted images to newsworthy events including The Japan earthquake and Tsunami. The Tsunami, which happened six months after Instagram launched in October 2010, created new meaning for users who used the medium to pledge support for those affected.
How does Instagram evolve from this point? Is it a community, a form of journalism, a treasure trove of data? Most importantly, Instagram is instant. McLuhan believes that, “with instant speed the causes of things begin to emerge to awareness again.”
Instagram is a community with over 150 millions users. Instagram is an instant form of social media, with one new user and 58 photos uploaded each second. “Images that can be shared quickly are often far more capable of telling a story to a global audience than a text”- Phil Gonzalez
Instagram reaches to a worldwide audience. Specifically, Instagram reaches a half female to male audience who’s ages average between 18-34 and boasts 7.3 million daily active users. Related products like: Instamap, allows users to find photos based on hashtags or location.
Instagram is a data collections with location services, which is why Instagram is eventually going to have to use it’s medium to become a big data archival company.
Instagram is a form of journalism both visually and through citizen journalists “we have to be conscious that Instagram will be a very important feed of news as all users are potentially journalists or photographers.” -Phil Gonzalez
“The medium is the message because it is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action” – McLuhan
There is something to be said for the message from Hurricane Sandy’s impact. Today, Sandy’s wrath still remains relevant…
Sandy in particular was undoubtedly one of the largest single events in Instagram’s history, changing the medium.
No one knows how many Sandy related photos were shared since the storm struck ground. Although Sandy’s specific hashtag was originally used in another context, not all images were direct effects of the storm. Some images were movie clips, friends named Sandy and even memes, however most images posted provided a first hand account of the storm and it’s aftermath.
“Twitter became ‘relevant’ for [the] media and communication world the day CNN covered the Bombay bombings,” Gonzalez argued.
“Instagram become much more credible after Sandy, because we are not talking about 100 or 200 tagged pics, we are talking about thousands and the media cannot be blind to this amazing movement of citizen journalism.” -Phil Gonzalez Instagram Blog
However, smartphone costs and data plans hinder Instagram and it’s users to truly become worldwide and into the hands of the masses. Secondly, Instagram’s content will remain status-quo until users are able to post their stories and photos from their computers.
That said, “images that can be shared quickly are often far more capable of telling a story to a global audience than text.”
Instagram’s reach and global awareness makes this new social medium effective, creating the move of citizen journalists away from Twitter and towards Instagram.