Jarett Kobek’s novel I Hate the Internet was published in 2016. The lives of characters in the book are determined by innovations coming from Silicon Valley: Google, social media, and Online Shaming. The novel is an accumulation of hate comments, information overflow, and monologues on how the internet promotes racism and misogyny while simultaneously creating the illusion that its users can change the world by tweeting about racism and misogyny.
On April 9th, 2012, Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion, two years after the app was launched. At the early stages of Instagram, users could post square pictures and apply filters to them. By 2020, Instagram allowed its users to send DMs (Direct Messages), post Stories that disappear after 24 hours, and watch IGTV (Instagram TV) to keep users even more glued to their screen.
In June 2018, Instagram reached one billion users. 160 million of these follow Kylie Jenner. With every sponsored Instagram post, Kylie Jenner earns about $1 million. A sponsored Instagram post means that brands like Adidas or Chanel give Jenner money so that she posts a picture of herself wearing their clothes. Due to her wide range and strong presence on social media, Jenner can become the face of a brand and promote it. She is an influencer. And Instagram is a business.
Instagram can influence its users through well-aimed advertising. Instagram is not about users who like to show where they spend their holiday once a year. Instagram is about making money. Influencers can sell their absolute favourite Shampoo and give you 20% off if you use their promo code. Influencers can also sell diet-pills to young women. These are real people talking to their followers. This is not a staged TV-spot. This is real, isn’t it?
Instagram users tend to spend hours on the app every single day. The app is based on algorithms recommending new posts you might like. Every single day, over 100 million pictures and videos are uploaded. There is always new content to be explored.
Users on Instagram tend to follow beautiful men and women with white teeth and nice hair and super fit bodies. They tend to follow people who post about the healthy food they eat, the number of kilometres they run, the hours they spend being productive. Users tend to compare themselves to what they see on Instagram. Some of them know that the pictures of models with their perfect bodies are edited. The majority tend to forget about the illusion of perfection.
Users are still allowed to log off the app and take a break from it. Logging off might help to realize what Instagram is: a business full of advertising, perfection, occasionally funny memes. Other users are addicted to Instagram.
I am sure Kobek would love to comment on Instagram in the year 2020.