My Week Without Instagram

After an unfortunate accident, I was left without a smart phone for a week while it got sent off to be fixed. I had a replacement phone however it didn’t even have a camera, let alone the capacity to connect to the Internet and download Instagram from the app store! The closest I could get to Instagram was to log in to the website using my laptop, however you can’t post using a laptop, Instagram only lets you search the site. I realised that this is actually a particularly restrictive notion, as it excludes the population who don’t have the ability own and use a smart phone. Camera phones have increased in price due to features like the quality of camera that they offer or a slim design; the most recent equivalent model of the phone I own would cost 299.99 to buy outright, or you can choose a contract of monthly payments. These payments however probably won’t be any lower than 20 pounds a month and even then, there would be an initial outright payment. Despite the price of phones not being directly in the control of Instagram, they certainly don’t attempt to help the population who can’t afford expensive camera phones by maximising the capabilities of the app by those who can. This is confusing because a number of professionals use Instagram to promote their work, from multinational companies to emerging professional photographers; the ease of using a computer would be very beneficial for them. Their content is likely to be stored on a computer, especially for photographers as they are most likely to use a computer in order to carry out editing on their content. This standard of software is not available on a smartphone and the phone wouldn’t have the features required to carry out editing to a professional standard.

Instagram appears to be prioritising the users who primarily use their camera phones to produce material and who don’t have a desire for specialist editing software in order to be able to share their material online with a potential global audience. The idea that Instagram privileges certain members of society is not news to me, due to the inequality of wealth in this world, it is expected that there will be many areas of the world in which Instagram is not used, and that a number of the global population wouldn’t have any idea that Instagram exists. Without looking at statistics, I would predict that most Instagram users are reasonably affluent and that they would live in the more economically developed countries, with some exceptions. Instagram is heavily restricted in areas such as North Korea, who have already placed restrictions on other social media including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Eastern countries such as Korea and China are well known for restricting the content that gets shared on the Internet, limiting what is shared in relation to their home countries and to events that happen in the wider global community. Despite China being recognised as country that is growing rapidly in terms of economic development, it is not under democratic rule and freedom of speech is mediated by higher authorities. I have then consider that Instagram is not available to everyone, and this will most likely be evident in the type of people that have Instagram profiles. In addition to this, I must also consider how Instagram is only a tool for identity performance to these privileged people and that there are other forms and methods of expressing identity other than Instagram. Meaning that it is highly possible that some users of Instagram do not use it as a form of identity expression because they are many other options available to them, people with lots of options available to them are unlikely to choose only one. Previous papers on social media have suggested that I need to consider other forms of social media and consider the expression of identity from one particular person on every single platform that they engage with. This would give me a greater idea of what kind of identity this person is trying to express, however it does go against the idea of visual identity that I am trying to explore as other social media types prioritise linguistic expression. Whilst I have identified that the textual accompaniment to Instagram posts play a big role in how the user wants the image to be interpreted, the priority of Instagram is the image and what can be expressed visually.

Speaking of visual expression, I found my week without Instagram very strange and somewhat unfulfilling. I could no longer pick up my phone and scroll through a newsfeed full of images from talented photographers and interesting people. I was left creatively uninspired because I couldn’t expose myself to the content that I usually would be able to. Of course I could open up my laptop and use the website, however if I was in a place without free Wifi I wouldn’t be able to access the Internet. In addition to this, my laptop is not portable enough for me to be able to look at Instagram in situations like standing in a fairly long queue at Costa. The size of the camera phone allows easy, convenient Internet browsing in almost any location and despite the screen not being as large as a laptop, the viewing experience is not compromised because the platform itself is designed to look good on a smaller screen. Not being able to scroll through my newsfeed whenever I wanted to was a real inconvenience to me. In addition to this, being a photographer myself I love having a phone with a decent enough camera because it enables me to take photographs any almost any time (with the obvious exceptions such as driving). Although I probably wouldn’t choose to use any of these camera phone images in a professional capacity like in my portfolio, it’s a really rewarding experience to be able to take photographs of what I find visually inspiring even if I don’t have my camera with me. In fact, I only really use my camera for professional photographs and/or for photographs that I know I will need the manual control of the camera settings in order to get the standard of images I want. Apart from those situations, it’s a real novelty to have a small, portable camera with which I can post material onto the Internet in a matter of minutes. To have to survive without this experience even if only for a week has meant that I have had to engage with other activities that will give me a a rewarding experience, for example I have been playing a lot more games on my Xbox and watching a lot more YouTube videos.

When I get my smartphone back, I will make a conscious effort to analyse how much I actually use Instagram and what situations make me want to pick up my phone and scroll through my newsfeed. In addition to this I want to analyse my own behaviour more and see what material I post and write a description of why I am posting it. Instead of second guessing each image I post before I even post it, I will aim to do a fortnightly reflection of the material I post.

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