Gaining popularity on the heels of largely text-based social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, Instagram found early success based on the intriguingly blurred line between private and public accounts – celebrities and friends alike could share pictures that offered a close, and at times intimate view of their lives, with the lack of provided context offering a sense of detachment that allowed it to be deemed public viewing.
That philosophy is still key in the success of Instagram, but as it gains users, it’s not hard to fathom that it will one day eclipse Twitter – or at least be linked somewhat permanently for most users. This seems more or less like a logical evolution of the entire concept of sharing: a picture, after all, is worth a thousand words. It’s not hard to discern the gap in artistry between tweeting “Just landed at JFK” and taking a photo of the skyline from the window of the airplane and posting it without context (the true cynics of the world would argue both are equally worthless, but best to ignore them and keep the cycle going). And surely no one can argue that the countless “selfies” on Instagram, no matter how painfully vain and oblivious of good taste they may be.
And beyond that, Instagram is a format that can be used to the advantage of actual artists to share something that can be evocative and inspiring. While there are a few comedians who ably manipulate 140 characters to be consistently amusing, Facebook is largely designed to be the opposite of artistically stimulating. If Instagram is a walk through an unspeakably bizarre modern art gallery where half the pictures have been replaced by drunken idiots that were wandering through the night before, then Facebook is a quiet evening at your grandmother’s house with her recounting the story of everyone you’ve ever met.
In the end, it’s probably good for society to push towards these visual mediums of sharing one’s life. Instagram is a step towards the mystery of previous generations, who exist in often context-free photo albums or in lengthy, structured journal or diary entries. The ability to make one’s thoughts public somehow lowered the bar for what was considered an interesting thought rather than raising it – you’d never find someone writing “Waiting in line at the liquor store” without following it up with something actually worth reading if they were writing in a private diary.
So perhaps it’s best that we are spared each other’s thoughts, which bend and mold and evolve every minute of every day. Give us a moment in time, frozen on a server somewhere to be checked in on some day down the line.