Instagram is a unique social media site in it’s characteristic of being solely visual based. In order to post something on their site one must upload a picture or video with their thoughts or caption. Their message comes through their medium in the sense that the visuals give the consumer the message. In our lecture on February 4th on “The Medium Is the Message” we learned that hot media are generally visual in nature, Instagram would fall in to this medium. Thus that the visuality of the medium (Instagram) creates the message that the consumer experiences. Instagram creates a social space where people can share visual glimpses into their lives through an app. It is easy to follow a random person, celebrity, or friend. A better understanding of the purely visual, easily searchable, and connective characteristics of Instagram help us better understand that the content produced can range from the glitz and glam to inspiration. This readily available social media effects our culture both positively and negatively. According to Marc Rinosa, writer for HuffingtonPost, Instagram “provides an open forum for opinion through images in a world saturated with text.” These can lead to images circulating Instagram and connecting our community and culture. For example when terror broke out in Paris people took to Instagram to show their support and solidarity, for Paris in their time of need. Time Magazine reported that in the 24 hours following the attack over 70 million people shared their prayers and concerns for Paris through various pictures, such as the ones posted below.
This uniquely visual platform reinforces the power an image has. However that great power can have negative consequences. These consequences include, but are not limited to posts like “thinspiration” on Instagram that can cause great damage to our culture. Thinspiration is a word used to promote anorexia and eating disorders. In an article written for abcnews.com, they interviewed an anorexic girl to try and better understand the trend. She talks about how toxic the content is and that girls see it as their ticket to happiness. She also states that “Thinspo is dominated by photos, many of them of them depicting skeletal young women and girls with prominent ribs, twig-like limbs and sallow visages.” A medium like Instagram is the perfect platform to keep this trend going strong. However Instagram attempted to combat this negativity by banning the use of #thinspo. According to Lauren Duca, and entertainment reporter for HuffingtonPost, Instagram banned the hashtag thinspiration, in August of 2012, in hopes of preventing the harm those pro-anorexia posts can do to our culture. However given the medium is visual they can’t totally ban “thinspiration” from their site. With a quick glance through various popular Instagram’s (such as Kendall Jenner and other models) it is obvious what our culture deems to be ideal, and that is skinny, thin people. Instagram is still full of “thins” just without the use of the hashtag. Like Rinosa pointed out, our world is saturated with text and Instagram is a visual platform, not textual, so banning a word or phrase is not going to keep it off this medium. This open forum can positively bond as a culture, but it can also effect our culture in negative, hurtful ways. This medium is a unique forum that poses new ways to express what our culture deems important.