Well, I don’t know about a billion dollars—I’m no venture capitalist. But over the past couple of weeks I’ve realized that Instagram has become my #1 go-to social app: if I’m waiting in line at the bank or hung over in bed, I’ll open Instagram before checking Twitter or Facebook or even Tumblr. Why is Instagram so great right now? Here are five things it’s got going for it.
1. It’s a visual Twitter. “Limits equal freedom” sounds very Big Brother, but it’s a lesson Facebook learned from the sparkly train wreck of MySpace, and that Twitter learned from Facebook, and that Instagram has now learned from Twitter. Instagram doesn’t have any links or events or apps or even GIFs—it’s just a steady stream of photos. There’s something soothing about that; you can watch it like a movie.
2. Filters. There’s been much discussion about whether Instagram filters are for twee dilettantes (versus Serious Photographers), but take away the names and the frames, and Instagram filters are really just an accessible version of the tools Serious Photographers have always had access to: changing brightness, contrast, and saturation. A filter can’t make a bad photo good—no more than Photoshop can fix a screwed-up DSLR shot—but it can enhance and clarify, making the photo more attractive and effective. Having that tool onboard is a no-brainer for a good photo sharing app.
3. Integration. I use Instagram for almost all my photo posting now, because it’s so elegantly integrated with other social media: when you post a photo to Instagram, you can easily select which other networks you want to share it with. Best of all, it’s much more reliable for uploading than most Twitter photo-sharing services, and way more reliable than the Tumblr app. It’s just the fastest and least frustrating way to share your photos online.
4. It’s at the sexy sweet spot of network adoption. You know that point in a social network’s life when it seems like it’s used by all the people you want to see your shit, and none of the people you don’t? Facebook toppled off this peak years ago, Twitter’s on its way downhill, and right now Tumblr and Instagram are sharing space at the summit. Chelsea Fagan recently wrote on her Tumblr, “I just took the time to write a bottom-of-the-barrel-scrapingly witty status on Facebook and I just kind of sighed and thought, ‘What the hell am I doing here? I don’t want approval from that pregnant chick I went to high school with and my bullshit new-agey aunt.’” That pregnant chick and the new-agey aunt have their Facebook (and Pinterest), and the rest of us have Tumblr and Instagram. For now.
5. It’s mobile-only. Well, not purely. If your Instagram account is open, your photos exist on individual Web pages that are linked to when you share your photos. But those pages aren’t linked to each other, so you can’t navigate Instagram on a browser: you have to use the mobile app. (Try the Instagallery app for your iPad; it feels like seeing your favorite classic movie on the big screen.) That gives Instagram a feeling of intimacy and privacy that makes it feel weirder to follow a stranger on Instagram than it is to follow him/her on Twitter or even to friend him/her on Facebook. Instagram still feels like a little mobile clubhouse. Will Facebook be able to preserve that feeling? Probably not, so enjoy it while it lasts.
Food Narcissism: The Cuban breakfast plate, the muy grande Tex-Mex burrito, the sharp knives slicing the artichoke heart—the photos are always painfully close-up, like wall-art from some boring magazine your mom reads on Saturday afternoons.
Twentysomething Professional Narcissism: This supercilious asshole comes in two forms: the “look how busy I am at work” variety, featuring papers, staplers, computer work, or half-drank coffee cups with wry taglines, like “all for the benjamins” or “might kill my coworkers today.” Or this person features photos of the exposed wiring in the ceiling of the warehouse where their Internet start-up is located. The second kind is the kind I’d like to see stopped. (Photo courtesy katemonkey.)
Nail Polish Narcissism—From a guy’s perspective, this is cute. Most of us don’t pretend to care about this kinda thing. But we are soothed and kind of baffled by the kaleidoscope of colors. Still…I have a hunch in the world of girls, this might just be like a guy shooting photos of his biceps everyday. (Photo courtesy Chellseeyy.)
Funny Misspelling Narcissism: We get it already, English grammar is a wily bird of prey elusive to most cremation businesses and proprietors of roadside gas stations in rural Wisconsin. Keep putting the grammar in Instagrammer! (Photo courtesy Conan the Librarian.)
Boob Narcissism: I don’t know how this slipped in. It’s like when scientists tell us that that Canadian goose is actually like a long-lost progeny of dinosaurs, but the boob shot which steadied MySpace’s bankrolls for a good five years has resurfaced on Instagram (mostly with my emo cousin though). She’s gotten more subtle, but watch out for pool-side shots, plunging evening dresses, and the sorta-crude check-out-my-new-Rise-Against-T-shirt/stare-down-my-V-neck. (Photo courtesy The Chanel.)
Vanity Plates Narcissism: This person seems to stand on street corner and, with the eagle-eye tenacity of a state trooper, watch for bozos driving VW Bugs with “LADZMAN” or big-ass pick ups sporting “URMOM” license plates. This photo poster chair-lifts their own savvy-observer vibes and seems desirous of showcasing their superiority to culture writ large/rednecks driving jeeps. (Photo courtesy tobyotter.)
Narcissist Narcissism: This is perhaps the most confounding of all the narcissists—he seems to be in love with himself…doing anything. He is hard to spot. But, his photos routinely lack artistic merits. Usually it’s just him standing in a mirror—exemplifying whatever he finds momentarily fascinating. Like drinking a 40-ounce Big Gulp. Comparing his new hair to a photo of an old haircut. Or wearing a wrinkled pairs of khakis. If you’re still wondering, this asshole is me.
Modus operandi: Lures you in with promise of $100 couch that may or may not have bed bugs.
Motive: Needs to satisfy sexual and murderous instincts built up from sitting on bed bugs couch alone watching Hoarders for the last three months.
Trademark: Portrayed as handsome go-getting blonde man in Lifetime movie.
Modus operandi: Schedules a meeting at Starbucks, and talks the whole time about how impressed he is with the way you’ve leveraged your synergy to utilize your maximum potential. When you’re checking your BlackBerry, slips cyanide into your skinny half-caf vanilla latte. When you start to have trouble breathing, he leans in close to your ear and whispers, “You’re about to be subtracted from my personal network.” Disappears into the crowd as you seize up and slump to the floor.
Motive: Blames his continuing unemployment on your failure to leave a recommendation on his profile.
Trademark: On his way out, passes by the breakfast-sandwich giveaway bowl and drops a business card that says, “MR. DEATH. Vice-President of Grim Reckoning, Hell LLC.”
Modus operandi: Stabs you repeatedly in the back, yelling with each plunge of the knife, “Reblog! Reblog! Reblog! Like! Like! Like! LIKE! LIKE!”
Motive: You downloaded and uploaded his photo of a cat in a hamster ball to your own blog instead of reblogging, and it got you featured on the Tumblr Radar.
Trademark: Takes photos of the killing and makes a GIF that he posts to fuckyeahbloodymurder.tumblr.com.
Modus operandi: Waits until you are hypnotized into a relaxed brainwave state from your favorite “chill tune,” and then says, “Have you ever wondered…if you deserve to be alive?” Then a girl and boy in windpants and sweatbands crawl out of your computer, Ring-style, and strangle you with jump ropes.
Motive: Hating on the 99% who don’t give enough of a shit about Spotify to pay for premium subscriptions and think they can get away with listening to copyrighted material for free without dealing with ads.
Trademark: After you are killed, Spotify posts to your Facebook saying you just listened to Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.”
Modus operandi: Throws a molotov cocktail through the window of your book nook.
Motive: After being rejected from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, plotted to travel the country killing every single person who gave a five-star review to Gilead.
Trademark: Dresses like Oskar Werner in Fahrenheit 451.
Modus operandi: Lures you into a backroom at Crate & Barrel to give you a sneak peek of the newest spring collection. Then they lock the door, revealing the back room is actually a dungeon. You must now Pin 4 Your Life, posting as many delicious cookie recipes as you can in five minutes. If they are not delicious or wacky enough (no savory surprises?), you get spray-painted pink and mortified into a house accessory.
Motive: Driven mad by unreasonably high bar set in life for how delicious the idea of a cookie recipe could be.
Trademark: Messy bun.
Modus operandi: Leaps out from under your kitchen table with a shotgun while you’re taking a picture of your omelet and cries, “Let me filter that for you!”
Motive: Spent two years as a political prisoner in a remote Tibetan jail where he was starved to the point of death. Was allowed to use his laptop, but the only social network that the government didn’t block was Instagram. Went insane.
Trademark: Takes a photo of your blood-spattered corpse and posts it to your Instagram account with a Kelvin filter and the tag #GPOY.
Modus operandi: Steals your address book info and then shows up at your house when you are doing one of your favorite things, like enjoying a peppermint mocha, and declares, “It’s time to freeze your moments. Prepare to be paused!” (Yeah, Path talks weird.)
Motive: Jealousy over your devotion and activity on other social networks. “Why not me!? Why not meeeee!?”
Trademark: Leaves a press release for Path’s upcoming collaboration with Nike, signed, “So ha.”
Google Plus Minus Man
Modus operandi: Kills himself.
Trademark: Leaves a suicide note on his Google Plus profile. Weeks go by before anyone realizes he’s dead.