I’ve spent the last ten days in the Instagram wilderness, and have returned with good tidings: I like it, and I see what all the goddamn fuss is about. Overall, Instagram has a clearly defined purpose, and nearly everything it does serves that purpose very well.
I enjoy following other people’s pics more than I thought I would. There are far less babies and tapas than I feared there would be. It seems that a lot of people that I know are leading fun, interesting lives, and they come across well in this visual medium.
I’m going to try to keep this positive vibe going, so I’ll lead with what I like about Instagram, then follow with what I don’t.
What I Like:
One particular facet of Instagram that I really enjoy is the methodical pace that it subtly forces on its users. There’s no “album effect” like there is on Facebook, where your Newsfeed gets cluttered because it’s so easy for everyone to post a million photos at once.
The fact that Instagram is somehow built around photos without employing photo albums sounds bizarre at first, but often it’s this strategic absence of certain functions that makes for a better user experience. By and large, the lack of an album feature on Instagram forces a more deliberate pace to posting.
Simply put: more thought goes into each pic if you can only post one pic at a time. The (relative) lack of quantity corresponds to higher quality, and the “sublime” experience that makes Instagram users go into a nod when they write about scrolling down their feed is a direct consequence.
Your Instagram feed would be about as sublime as a hoarder’s dungeon if everyone could post twenty pics at a time, and in albums that took you swiping off to the right (as they do on Facebook), versus down, down, down… ahhhhh
Lack of albums translates to less clutter and, by association, more interesting photos. I look forward to checking Instagram, and I don’t close the app feeling like I want that last five minutes of my life back (as I do on Facebook).
What’s that you say, there are Instagram photo albums? Hmm. That might be true, but not that I saw. And, much like the rest of my problems, if I can’t see them, they don’t exist.
The rollout of video on Instagram was a big story a few weeks ago, but this is a non-issue for me. I didn’t see too many videos posted yet, and I wasn’t tempted to post any of my own. My impression of video on Instagram relates more to Vine than to the core experience of using Instagram, so I won’t waste time discussing it now.
Favorite I’ve seen:
Favorite pic I’ve posted:
Favorite account to follow:
Puppypalace. If you’re not following puppypalace you are doing yourself a disservice.
Embedding – The photos above aren’t JPEG, they’re embedded Instagram posts. If clicked they directly to the original photo posted by the user. That’s great, but I’d really like to see the user names and the original text automatically included with the photo here.
I don’t understand how Instagram got this so wrong, because Twitter already wrote a great recipe for useful embeds, and Instagram could have easily just followed suit.
This isn’t just an issue of aesthetics. In a media age where traditional outlets increasingly rely on information culled from social media, it becomes an issue of attribution. How does the presentation of what happens on social media matter in the “real world” of old-fashioned, self-important, fake-tan-wearing, hard-hitting, anchors-look-horrible-in-HD, oh-my-God-what-is-that-thing-please-kill-it, talking head, cable news?
See: the man/woman-on-the-wartorn-street accounts trickling out of totalitarian regimes via social media during 2011′s Arab Spring.
See: every ESPN.com article and SportsCenter segment that mentions Twitter and directly quotes at least three tweets, which is to say, basically all ESPN.com articles and SportsCenter segments. (ESPN has such a total dependancy on Twitter, it’s kind of sad.)
I understand the primacy of the photo as the message, but the user name of the person who posted it should be included. Granted, embedding is a secondary issue and unrelated to core Instagram user experience, but it’s still important.
Besides the attribution aspect, an Instagram photo embedded in a web article or blog post could be the first experience a would-be user has with the service. Wouldn’t it be better if the embed showed off a bit more of what Instagram actually is?
Verification – The content of my tweet embedded above speaks to another weird thing about Instagram: celebrity and corporate accounts aren’t verified. That’s what that cute little blue circle and checkmark next to @AmericanAir means, that it’s the real thing.
Don’t get me wrong, parody accounts can be great fun – just ask the fifty-three tweets @OnceADelgado sent @joebidensneck – but not verifying accounts is wrong, and it’s wrong.
This is not a tangential issue, like embedding. This actually affects users – and not just because Miley Cyrus had to stop doing drugs for, like, five minutes one day to address a fake Instagram account posting pics in her name.
Through its inexplicable lack of concern for verifying identities, Instagram exposes users to a type of catfishing. It won’t embarrass you in front of your family when your dead online girlfriend from California bails last-minute on Christmas (again!), but it will waste your time.
If you want to use social media to follow a celebrity or a brand, you want to know you’re following that celeb or brand, not some shmoe who’s having a laugh at your expense.
Still, this would shouldn’t be a concern. Celebrities and corporations would embrace verification because it would mean that they wouldn’t have to spend their time debunking fake accounts. Those who chose to cry about it might form a vocal minority, but that’s not something that us normies are going to create a backlash against Instagram over.
No one would shed any tears over Miley Cyrus being forced to put down her crack pipe so she can verify her Instagram account if she ever chose to start one.
That is, unless verification was poorly implemented. What would constitute poorly implemented? Hmm… maybe forcing users to send in a photo of their government ID?
All that said, I really do enjoy Instagram and plan to continue using it beyond this brief experiment. The issues I have with it won’t stop me from utilizing it in my gradual Facebook exit strategy.