In this age of digital connectedness, it is rare to find someone who does not use any form of social media. Instagram, the popular photo-sharing platform is used by over 400 million active accounts every month. Highly popular among the youth of today, Instagram allows us to portray an almost surreal, perfect version of ourselves to the online world.
On the app, the three metrics you see upon clicking on a profile – number of posts, number of followers and how many profiles you are following – can indicate a lot about an individual. Too little posts and you are deemed to be inactive on Instagram and not worth following. Too many posts and you are considered a spammer who floods Instagram feeds. The right number of posts is thus a delicate game of balance between excessive and not enough.
Other than the quantity of posts, the quality of photos posted matter a great deal too. Filters, Photoshop, and VSCOCAM are common tools used to enhance our photos and make our seemingly ordinary lives seem more extraordinary. Gone are the days of spontaneity, where pictures are just uploaded en masse without any careful selection or editing. These days, photos are carefully chosen before being uploaded, and only after a hundred similar shots have been taken, all in search for the perfect shot. In this aspect, we attempt to emulate celebrities who obtained their fame through reality television – scripted portrayals of everyday life that is edited to seem far more happening than it actually is. Those with a prominent presence on Instagram, defined by having high numbers in the metrics mentioned above, achieve the status of “Insta-lebrity.”
Many Insta-lebrities, much like the media celebrities, smartly use their online influence to make money. These days, it is highly lucrative to be a Social Media “influencer”, being paid by sponsors in goods or money to post advertisements on various Social Media platforms. Having followers in the thousands, these “influencers” are able to get massive outreach for the sponsor when promoting a product or service. New cafes would often send these “influencers” invites to their opening, often with a catch obliging them to post a good review about the café. The monetary and material benefits of being an influencer have thus prompted many to purchase followers in order to increase their perceived fame. Sponsorships, free food and products that are not easily taxable due to the difficulty of such tracking can be highly enticing. It doesn’t matter if their popularity isn’t authentic. What matters is that the influencer can get more advertisements and sponsorships since many of these sponsors tend to look at the number of followers as a gauge of an influencer’s “influence.”
This spills over as some regular users have even taken to buying Instagram followers in order to boost their number of likes and give the appearance of leading a very exciting and happening life. It is absurd that these individuals are willing to use real money to purchase such fame when their additional 100 likes is not going to get them any sponsorships.
The absurdity of such expenditure doesn’t just end there, a recent trend among Instagram users is to visit the most hipster cafes in town to one-up their friends, taking shots of beautifully presented but overpriced food. It makes one wonder what makes it worth spending so much money visiting these cafes? When all they get is a nice shot of the café décor or food.
For those who prefer a more ‘organic’ means of growing their Instagram ‘metrics’, factors such as the timing of the post, usage of trending hashtags can all help a profile achieve greater exposure and thus, a higher number of likes and comments. A compiled list of 10 studies determined that the best time to post a photo on Instagram is Monday and Thursday; specifically at any time of the day except 3-4PM. While the extravagance of monetary expenditure does not manifest in this area, it is not entirely uncommon to see people fuss and obsess over getting such details right in hope of maximizing their own numbers.
Most of us Instagram users don’t have sponsors lining up to get our endorsement, but there are other reasons why we continuously pursue the metrics and advantages we can gain through the use of Social Media. On the dating application Tinder, a link to your Instagram profile allows potential suitors to take a sneak peek into your everyday life. If your Instagram feed has been carefully moulded, you increase your perceived value, increasing the chances of a swipe to the right. Perceptions are incredibly important when it comes to the dating game, and flattering photos (even if they look completely different from your real self) can secure meet-ups much more easily. This potential game changer in your date-ability has prompted many to brush up their Instagram skills.
In the end, what does Instagram offer us? Is it worth it spending time and money to create the perfect Instagram profile? The spectrum of users mean that a line can be perhaps be drawn between just right and excessive. Given the many benefits of using Instagram, it would seem that spending some effort to edit our photos and look presentable would not be of harm to us. On the other hand, chasing likes and creating false popularity through the use of money is excessive, might seem like a false cause. An Instagram purge in 2014 removed many bot accounts that were used by those who buy followers. For many local bloggers who bought followers, their sudden and huge drop in followers was a clear indication of their deceit, heavily damaging their credibility.
Social Media has become a part of the daily lives of today’s youth. Constant use of Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter among others has allowed us the chance to become Social Media celebrities ourselves. Thus, do follow my Instagram @Alexcism_ and help me achieve my dreams of achieving instagram superstardom.
Inset images by Alex Chan;
About the Author
Alex is a Year 1 FASS student, intending to major in History. He loves reading and is keen to learn more about the past, especially that of Singapore. A good drinker, often drunk