Instagram at 10: how sharing photos has entertained us, upset us – and changed our sense of self

The most downloaded app of 2010 made the photos taken with the phone much more beautiful. Vintage-effect filters, elegant vignettes, and a square-frame design gave her regular snapshots a pleasantly nostalgic Polaroid charm. But ten years later, hardly anyone remembers Hipstamatic. It was a different photo sharing app, launched in the wake of Hipstamatic on October 6, 2010, that changed the world. Last month, more than 1 billion people posted photos on Instagram.

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You probably wouldn’t have predicted, from the first post by Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger, that you were witnessing the birth of a cultural and economic phenomenon. It was a shot of San Francisco’s South Beach port seen through the polished steel-framed windows of Pier 38. Only the composition, tilted so that the masts of the ships were angled 45 degrees, hinted at a pedestrian ambition. But a decade later, Instagram reconfigured the company. It has changed how we look, what we eat, our relationships, the way we vote, where we go on vacation and what we spend our money on. From Kardashians to avocados to mental health, many stories from the past decade are part of the Instagram story.

The short version of that story goes something like this. Purchased by Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012, Instagram is turning to the dark side. By joining forces with the cowardly forces of great technology, it deprives us of self-esteem and attention span, leaving us with nothing to show for the trade but a need to rely on the affirmation of virtual strangers and the collection of pool inflatables. , which Instagram has decreed. . essential for the summers around 2014-16, which are now gathering dust in the loft. Instagram saw us, like Narcissus looking at himself in the pond, shot down by our vanity.

The truth is a little more complicated. It’s strange to remember now that when Instagram started, it wasn’t a beauty pageant. Its appeal was aimed at a visually sophisticated audience, the kind of people who loved the way the right filter made a yellow raincoat stand out on a city street. On the first day, 25,000 people registered and after six weeks, there were 1 million users. He was quirky, artistic and a bit serious. The prejudice towards the west coast of the United States has led to many excursions and cafes. I remember browsing my Instagram account from the top floor of a London bus, the gray sky outside the windows, and I thought I had never seen so many waterfalls.

We fall in love with Instagram not because we like looking at ourselves, but because we love looking at our phones. Designed for mobile from the ground up, Instagram was the first platform to recognize that in the 21st century, our most important relationship is with our phone. Neither Twitter nor Facebook were focused on the phone already from Instagram. Partly it’s a matter of time – Instagram’s top demographic is the first generation for which being online is the default, rather than something you actively do. As Gretchen McCulloch says in her book Why the Internet, Millennials don’t remember the first time they went online any more than my Gen X colleagues remember the first time we talked on the phone or watched television. There’s a Valentine’s Day card that goes around every February that says, “You’re my favorite person to sit and look at my phone,” which is funny because it’s true.

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