Instagram is a popular social networking tool alike many others that has over 400 million users posting, liking and following one another from around the globe. It allows members of society to bombard each other with images on a daily basis. Whether those images be cute photos their cats — visit Taylor Swift’s feed here, — cringeworthy couple snaps, thoughtfully put together foodstagrams or the ever present selfie — AKA Kim K’s entire feed, — you search the tag on Instagram and it’s there.
Instagram engages its audience in a number of ways and offers users the opportunity to connect with other individuals whilst also allowing them to put forward a unique representation of self. Social networks such as Instagram are believed to allow for an exploration of identity, agency and sociability. The Instagram powerhouses — celebrity accounts followed by droves in millions — and those who use it for fun “provide snapshots of their lives that give the impression of candid, unfettered access.” (A.E. Marwick, 2015, p. 139)
The Insta-Game is quite simple. The more followers a user accrues over a period of time, the more status they are attributed with. Instagram and other forms of social media “make it possible to command enormous audiences, reinforcing the self-importance of people with large numbers of followers” (A.E. Marwick, 2013, p.96). Those with a higher follow count are more likely to be recognised by other individuals as prestigious, and those without are often the ones which go unnoticed by the masses. “Larger audiences translate into more influence and more recognition” (A.E. Marwick, 2013, p.104), and the more connections Instagram users create in this online forum, the more visible they appear. So, what better way to embed your status in the online Insta community than through an Insta-feed of selfies?
The Selfie, “a self-portrait made in a reflective object or from arm’s length” (Tiidenberg & Cruz, 2015, p.78), has become omnipresent in a society tethered to the internet. “The average girl spends 1 hour and 24 minutes preparing for selfies each week, according to research commissioned by the Dove Self-Esteem Project.” Selfies are a way for individuals to capture themselves within the world, highlight their social affordances and moreover have the capacity to empower. It is a culture which has become embedded in online digital communities such as Instagram and has proven effective as a means of relentless self promotion. Thus the selfie and Instagram go hand in hand.
The most followed Instagram account has been accredited to former Disney star Selena Gomez, who is closely followed by none other than Grammy-winning bestie Taylor Swift. Between the two of them that’s over 120 million followers and just over 2000 posts. Just imagine how many selfies there would be.
To further reiterate the significance of the selfie in the online social networking scene, let it be known that the most liked photo of all time shared on Instagram is in fact a selfie. It is Kendall Jenner’s to be exact. The reality-television/socialite-turn-model raked in 3.5 million likes when she shared this selfie back in May of 2015.
When building one’s social standing in an online forum, sharing elements of oneself is highly regarded as an effective means of engagement. “Photos function as a main starting-point for stimulating interaction” (O. Schwarz, 2010, p.169). Sharing selfies on Instagram reiterates this, and thus, the selfie tag has proven to be one of the most utilised hashtags on the social networking site.
Have you ever found yourself scrolling through the Instagram feed of ‘Selfie Queen’ Kim Kardashian wondering how she managed to find the perfect combination of lighting and the right angle to make her ‘bathroom selfie’ look so ‘bomb’? And how did she get so many likes? One quick search on Google will bring up a multitude of articles from websites providing tips on How To Master the Art of Taking the Perfect Selfie. And that there is the power of the selfie — it’s now an art form.
Celebrities and micro-celebrities share selfies on social media accounts like Instagram to not only communicate to an audience through images, but moreover to “cement social ties” (A.E. Marwick, 2013, p.89) they have worked hard to obtain. By posting photos of themselves in their luxurious homes, surrounded by glamour and wealth, they attract the attention and popularity their status craves. And by having users like you and I ‘like’ their photos, comment on them and moreover emulate their poses in selfies of our own, we contribute to the hierarchical online platforms that we see today.
- Duboff, J., 2016, ‘How Did Selena Gomez Become the Most Followed Person on Instagram?’, Vanity Fair, Web Article, March 16, viewed 20th March 2016, <http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2016/03/selena-gomez-instagram-most-followed>
- Instagram, 2015, ‘Celebrating a Community of 400 Million’, Instagram, Blog Post, September 22, viewed 16th March 2016, <http://blog.instagram.com/post/129662501137/150922-400million>
- Marwick, A.E., 2015, ‘Instafame: Luxury Selfies in the Attention Economy’, Public Culture, 27:1, Duke University Press, p.137- 160.
- Marwick, A.E., 2013, ‘Leaders and followers: Status in the Tech Scene’, in Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age, Yale University Press, p.73-111.
- Perry, T., 2016, ‘Why You Should Totally Participate in ‘No Selfies Day’, Teen Vogue, Web Article, March 16, viewed 18th March 2016, <http://www.teenvogue.com/story/no-selfie-day-self-esteem>
- Phillips, R., 2014, ‘How to Master the Art of Taking the Perfect Selfie’, The Blog – HuffPost Tech, Web Article, April 23, viewed 16th March 2016, <http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/rachael-phillips/selfie-tips_b_5197004.html>
- Schwarz, O., 2010, ‘On Friendship, Boobs and the Logic of the Catalogue: Online Self-Portraits as a Means for the Exchange of Capital’, Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 16:2, p.163-183.
- SocialBlade, 2016, ‘Top 100 Instagram Users by Followers’, SocialBlade, viewed 16th March 2016, <https://socialblade.com/instagram/top/100/followers>
- Tiindenberg, K., & Cruz, E., 2015, ‘Selfies, Image and the Re-making of the Body’, Body and Society, 21:4, p.77-102.
- Worland, J., 2015, ‘This Is the Most-Liked Instagram Photo Ever’, Time, Web Article, June 28, viewed 16th March 2016, <http://time.com/3939231/kendall-jenner-instagram-photo/>