|▲ A student taking a photo of her friend at a café around Chonnam National University T|
A considerable number of people in their twenties are using Instagram to upload their pictures or ideas these days. They usually get advice through the photos and information posted on the platform before making a decision about where to go. For them, Instagram has become more than just an instant mobile application. It is a social media platform that offers spaces for communication and sharing experiences and also functions like a huge database. Eventually, it influences their daily lives and changes the way they think about value. This trend has been called “Instagrammable” that combines ‘Instagram’ with ‘able’, which means things that are suitable to be uploaded on the social platform. Various forms of ‘Instagram worthy photos’ have now become the standards of consuming and sharing experiences while causing many changes in everyday life. The Chonnam Tribune examined how we have been influenced by the Instagrammable trend, focusing on the ways we share personal experiences and make purchase decisions through the platform.
Image-based Communication and Sharing Personal Lives
Instagram allows its users to post their photos and videos from their everyday lives and to see others’ lives such as their acquaintances, friends, or even strangers they have never met before. Therefore, they usually display their daily lives and express their own feelings through posting their pictures on this mobile application. When they wonder how their friends are doing, they can take a look at their friends’ posts and chat with them by using a direct message function.
Many users have a tendency to show off the best parts of their lives and feel recognized by getting enough ‘likes’ from others. Seo Hui-yeong (Sophomore, Dept. of English Language and Literature) who often uploads her selfies or special events on her Instagram said, “When I post my pictures on my page, I want to boast about what I did that day by showing my pretty pictures. I also feel like I’m receiving compensation when the number of people who follow me increases.” This behavior of showing their lives and wanting to get more likes can lead them to focus on trying to take the most Instagrammable picture, a so-called “insaeng-shot”, which is a combination of the Korean word ‘insaeng’ that means life and the word ‘shot’. It means ‘the best shot ever in my whole life.’ At first, it was just an action Instagram users were doing to record and display some aspects of their daily lives but it became a habitual behavior “to do something visually arresting” by taking these kinds of pictures in their everyday life.
Instagram worthy pictures and hashtags also give people an opportunity to share similar interests and life experiences while they are watching others’ posts. They share their personal experiences and get familiar with each other gradually. When it comes to following famous people’s accounts, there are quite different reasons for sharing experiences. Through looking around the accounts of celebrities or influencers, the followers get information about the detail of their lives and it helps the followers fulfill their desire to know more about the celebrities. With a direct message function or chat-room, the followers can get a chance to communicate with the celebrities personally. By engaging with others through communication based on Instagram worthy photos and comments via hashtags and direct tags like these, people have developed a special bond with each other beyond simply sharing similar interests and experiences.
|▲ A student taking a photo of food for Instagram|
Exploring Experiences in the ‘Instagram Mall’
Some users have made purchases after searching for necessary information via posts and comments on Instagram. They usually share the platform as a database that functions like a shopping mall. They look for photos and reviews of products or places to do some pre-investigation especially by using hashtags, which is the most useful method to find information among the huge amounts of data on this application. Visually attractive posts and comments based on a user’s direct experiences have decisive influence on the way we consume products or services. Whether they are Instagrammable or not seems to be a crucial factor when young people consume rather than any other factors.
Young consumers prefer something Instagrammable such as going on a trip or going to a restaurant, which allows them to have Instagrammable moments to post on the social media. They choose which restaurant or café to visit after seeing posts of the places that have a unique café interior, beautiful plating, and pretty decorations. Consequently, most cafés and restaurants that appear to focus on their decoration advertise and promote themselves using hashtags. As people usually search Instagram worthy restaurants using hashtags, hashtag promotional events make this trend more effective. Na Ji-min (Sophomore, Faculty of Interdisciplinary Studies) who has participated in this kind of promotion said, “When I visit a restaurant with my friends, I sometimes see a restaurant’s hashtag event. Since I wanted to get a free drink and a discounted price, I engaged in this promotion by uploading the restaurants’ pictures with a hashtag.” Whenever customers post the restaurant pictures with the promotional hashtag phrase, the restaurant becomes more and more famous.
Some people yearning for a particular celebrity appear to purchase products that the famous person uses or sells. Therefore, influencers often open an Instagram market based on her or his reliability. Seo shared her experience of purchasing products from the market, “I bought three bottles of skin toner which were made by my favorite influencer named ‘kimdayeong_life’ on this social media platform. The main reason for choosing the product was because I have been a follower of her for a long time and I believed her since she showed the manufacturing process.”
|▲ An Instagram post that received likes from other users|
Unenjoyable Moments of Insta-worthy Life
Enjoying Instagram is delightful but there are some side effects from using this application. Some Instagrammable restaurants and cafés tend to focus more on their interior decoration than the taste of food and drinks. It might decrease the food quality and even lead to a drop in the satisfaction of customers who visit these places through Instagram content. Eventually, it may result in the decline of Instagram’s reliability. Na said, “I am usually satisfied with restaurants or cafés that I find through searching this platform, but I think Instagram’s data is not that reliable since there are so many promotional posts.” Comparing their own lives to others’ is another side effect. People usually upload visually very attractive and beautiful pictures. Those photos that show off one of the best moments of their life make people envy others’ lives or have dissatisfaction with their own life.
Concentrating on making their lives more Insta-worthy may cause psychological problems as well. Obsession with the number of ‘likes’ is one of them. If people get fewer likes than usual, it might result in a drop in self-confidence and make them endeavor to get more likes. This type of behavior leads to an obsession with the number of likes. Therefore, Instagram started to hide the exact number of likes since the end of 2019 and now it is marked with a rough unit. Another one is experiencing the fear of missing out. It describes a kind of social anxiety that occurs in people who have a desire to continuously connect with their friends or others online. They are likely to feel less connected to their community on social media platforms when they do not follow trends. It is clear that Instagram is a crucial factor that contributes to this syndrome because it is the space where lots of trends are shared.
Appropriate Ways to Use Instagram
Now Instagram has become a part of everyday life for the young. It is establishing the standard for consuming, aesthetic criteria and behavioral patterns in our society. It has been more influential in social parts beyond simple communication and sharing between individuals. It is clear that the Instagrammable trend has had a great influence on younger generations whether it is good or not.
Kim Kyun-soo (Professor, Dept. of Communication) said, “Social networking services such as Instagram can give emotional comfort through communication or help to get self-confidence by expressing themselves in a positive way. However, if people feel a sense of deprivation or anxiety, they need proper comprehension about the social media to avoid that. They should understand that social media mostly shows the positive aspects of life even though human beings experience negative emotion as well in real life. I recommend they take the introspective posture to strengthen their inward side instead of having the passive attitude of following trends unconditionally.” He also added that the users have to consider biased information leaning to one side and excessive commerciality or sexuality as the field of Instagram stretches to news or educational areas.
Instagram makes its users enjoy fashionable trends faster than any other mobile platform. However, it also causes mental health problems mentioned above when we feel left behind because we cannot follow the trends. We should not indulge in visually arresting photo images and we need to understand those side effects and restrain ourselves to use it wisely. Enjoying this social media in the right way depends on its users entirely.
By Jo Ye-rin, Student Editor
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