4 Things That Make Instagram Special

Have Instagram signed their suicide note?

There’s a big hoo-ha today because Instagram have decided to change their terms and conditions from the 16th January 2013, giving them free reign to sell users’ content & activity within the app to third party advertisers.

And I’ll admit, I’m pretty upset. Like, I could kill a zombie scarecrow upset (see obligatory Instagram picture).

After all, I just wrote about Instagram in the Pimp Your Online Presence Microguide, and now I’ll have to update it already.

More than that, I really like using Instagram. But judging by some comments I’ve seen on Twitter and Facebook a lot of people have a negative perception of it.

In the same way that Twitter is seen by non-users as a place where people only share trivial details like what they had for breakfast, Instagram has become misconstrued as a place for hipsters to share what they had for lunch.

However I believe that as with any social network, the users are what make it. I get a lot out of the posts by people I follow on Instagram, and here are the three things which I think made it great prior to them deciding to shaft their users.

1. Immediacy

Instagram is incredibly easy to use from a smartphone, meaning you can share a moment while it’s happening or not long after. This makes for a much more compelling experience as a follower than being hit by 100 photos all at once on Facebook or Twitter. It also means you must choose photos more carefully. No one wants to see 15 photos from the same person in their Instagram feed.

2. Beauty

A lot of people turn their noses up at what’s been termed ‘iPhoneography’, as if it’s not possible to take great photos with a cameraphone. I say bullshit to that. Every day I see incredible pictures on Instagram.

Some people are also sick of seeing so many pictures with Instagram’s signature filters. They think that it’s somehow dishonest to change an original photo, or that the filters make all the photos posted look the same.

Personally I think they’re a great way to improve the look of my photos and add a certain amount of timelessness to them. It works for me aesthetically anyway, and it saves messing around with settings when your priority is to share something in the moment.

3. Community

On Instagram you don’t have to read a lot of nonsense to find out what your friends or the people you follow are up to. You can get a stronger sense of how their day is going from a well-chosen picture. There’s very little negativity or rehashing of tired internet memes either – just people taking a moment out of their day to be observant and a little creative.

4. Continuity

I personally use Instagram as a photo diary, sharing moments which I want to have a record of, and that I think might interest other people. I also use it to keep up with other people’s lives as they unfold. It’s a great way of telling a story over time.

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It’s Facebook’s Fault

Ok, I’ll admit, the writing was on the wall the minute Instagram was acquired by Facebook. But these terms and conditions are even worse than those on Facebook as there appears to be no way to opt-out. On Facebook you can adjust your privacy settings to stop them taking too much advantage of your personal data – but this doesn’t seem to be the case with Instagram as it currently stands.

What I’m hoping is enough people will complain that it will force Facebook/Instagram to back down, as has happened in the past with Facebook itself. If that’s the case, maybe I can justify keeping my Instagram account past the 16th January. I will use it until then but will probably look for alternatives (though I don’t think there are any that would provide the same community/continuity aspects).

The worst part of this is it proves just how bad Zuckerberg and Co’s attitude towards our personal data really is – and it’s likely Facebook will keep pushing us in this direction on all of their platforms.

What about you? Will you boycott Instagram and/or Facebook or are you still convinced Instagram was just a place for hipster posturing?


Instagram have responded to the outcry from users and begun to ‘clarify’ what they really meant by the terms and conditions (thanks to Tim for the heads up!). Hopefully they will make it crystal clear so that I and others can continue to enjoy Instagram without worrying about our content being misused.