What Does Instagram Say About Us?

Category: Social Media Social Good Series

Cartoon about Instagram

Instagram is one of those new platforms that have been an instant success. Like most new things, I tend to wait and get aboard only when I have to – I’m forced to – or really, when I finally get over my anxiety about learning it. Now, I love using it and I share really important things via the photos I take with my phone. Things such as what I’m eating for breakfast, hundreds of photos of Simon (my dog), and my feet, when I’m napping.

Favorites on Instagram

What fascinates me is the Explore key (see image above) in which the most popular photos/people/participants are featured in a 15-photo grid. You can quickly scroll through them, view any, and refresh the whole grid with a simple click in the upper right corner. These photos are a window into popular tastes, popular culture, and what seems to interest men and women – – just as my Men vs. Women series explores the same differences.

My un-scientific study and observations reveal these images to be the most popular and most revealing of our “likes:”

Shoes photos on Instagram

~~ Shoes: Okay, I don’t think I need to designate which images are more female-centric, since I hope it’s obvious. Yes, there are the occasional sneakers images, but the majority of shoe images are high-heels designer shoes. AND, more often than not, the images are shot from the pov of the person, looking down at their shoes (see above image).

Instagram photo of nail polish

~~ Nails, Make-Up, and Hair: I can’t believe how many images I see of a woman’s hands adorned with “creative” nail polish. Also, plenty of eyes and eyebrows, along with a multitude of hairstyles including some very inventive braids!

Sports cars

~~ Cars: The more exotic and expensive the better!

Cute cat and dog photo

~~ Pets and Exotic Animals: Cats and Dogs predominate but there are lots of other animal photos as well, especially those of The Big Five (in Africa).

Cute baby photo

~~ Babies: Who can resist a cute baby photo, especially a cute baby bottom!?

Famous model in bikini

~~ Pretty Women – especially in scant clothing: Every model worth her name and every wanna-be model is on Instagram. The images range from tatted all over babes to stylish classy society styles, along with the expected and majority-rules bikini photos (thank you G*d).

Crazy GoPro ski photo

~~ Sports: GoPro and RedBull offer great images and there a bunch of them. Also, any current ongoing big sports event is covered as well as great images from literally all big sports. I see plenty of surfing shots and expect I’ll see more skiing ones in the winter.

Fashion photos

~~ Women’s Fashion: Omg, OMG. This blows me away. How many handbags, dresses, and accessories do women need? Don’t answer that. I’m married. I know. The amount of fashion on Instagram I would guess outnumbers EVEN the number of “babes.” Fashion rules, clearly.

Gold bling on Instagram

~~ Bling: Truly this is a sub-category of Women’s Fashion, but bling is popular without a doubt. A smaller sub of this is tattoos and piercings. Not as popular, but also present.

Famous Celebrities

~~ Celebrities: Yes, Justin Beiber is all over the place. One word: UGH.

Beautiful exotic beach photo

~~ Beaches (and exotic locales): Usually, these are among the coolest and best images posted. They always seem to have enhanced brilliant colors and always seem to make me want to drive to the airport immediately.

Beautiful sunset

~~ Sunsets: I suppose this category is really Weather, with sunsets being the top choice and the images are usually wonderful.

Self-portrait Selfie photos

~~ Selfies: A total product of the SoMe generation and cell-phone cameras, there are self-portraits in just about all the categories listed here, especially the celebrities and models.

Food photos

~~ Food: We all love to eat and while most of us do post what we are eating at the moment – as if anyone cares – the popular food images are more professional images of food and usually stimulate salivation insantly.

Food instragram cartoon

There are also some apps that allow Instagram users to post multiple images in the same photo. Given that these images are already small – being mostly seen on a cell-phone – I do NOT get the popularity of putting the same image next to itself two or three times.

What do you observe when you peruse random photos on Instagram? Do you agree that Instagram is a reflection of popular taste and interests?

Collage of Instagram photos

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Book Cover from The Empty Nest

  • David Weber

    This article very effectively educated me about Instagram. I have heard of it and know what it is but I am unfamiliar with its dimensions, scope, purpose and uses. Now I “get” more of that.

    Bruce, you have written an article that, while referencing differences between men and women, does not reference such matters in a way that is snide, unduly judgmental, anachronistic or (surely to some) offensive. Well done! You see, it IS possible to write about sex difference and gender construction without sniping at feminists, women’s studies professors and other sorts of arbitrary targets along those lines. You must have got hit on the head or something! But seriously, it is a RELIEF to see this absent from your reflections here. Again, well done!

    Apart from that, the idea of categorizing Instagram photos along sex or gender lines (i.e., what kinds of pics do men tend to post and which kinds do women tend to post) would be an OUTSTANDING research project for students in certain university courses I teach. You also created what we academic types refer to as a typology…i.e., a list of types that together constitute some category…in this case, the types of photos that together constitute the category “Instagram photo uploads,” or something like that. Again, this is good stuff!

    Thank you for producing an article that really does embody the concept of social media = social good.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Yeah, I got “hit on the head” alright – I’ve been married now – AGAIN – nearly FIVE YEARS @disqus_IeGo6Zakqo:disqus. Thanks much – but this is NOT one of the Men vs. Women blogs, fyi!