05 May 2015

#WhyInstagramSerious: Reasons Why There Are So-Called Instagramers

The emergence of social networking sites has forever changed our society. They revolutionized human behavior towards connectivity and expression; from their roots, and probably the pioneer of it all, Friendster, to the offspring; MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to name a few. There are probably a million things that changed because of all those sites, but for now, let us focus on one social networking application, the one that is very influential nowadays, Instagram.

According to the small feature book of Instagram "A book about the Instagram community", which they give to thousands of Instagram users worldwide, the brand's mission is "To capture and share the world's moments". It is phenomenal how big their impact is with such a simple mission, and even more fascinating to note that they have already reached 300 million monthly active users as of December 2014. So, with these facts alone, it is easy to say that Instagram is the most powerful image-focused social media brand and application available. But we are as curious as you are, we also want to know how a mere photography mobile application created a 300-million strong community. Although what we have researched, and will discuss will not entirely answer that question, we hope it will be enlightening.

In our opinion, one compelling reason for the success of Instagram is the birth of so-called "Instagramers." More than just a label for actual users of the app, it has unofficially become a title for those users who share the same ideologies in using Instagram. To simply put it, you call them "Instagramers" when they put an effort in making sure that they take and post appealing images. They also adhere to Instagram's mission in the same manner as everyone else on the app, but the only difference is, they probably have a better looking photo of that same coffee cup you just posted.

But why are there "Instagramers?" Why do these set of people engage in a more complicated way of using the app? Why do they go out of their way just to take photos? What's in it for them? We aim to answer all these questions and to provide a simple guide that specifies the importance of Instagram and the community it created.

Through the campaign we did on Instagram called #WhyInstagramSerious, we asked various users who fall under the "Instagramers" classification, their reasons why they use the app differently. We received close to 100 positive responses after more than a month, with some responses being really inspiring. Eventually, with all the information we gathered, we came up with three main reasons why people have been taking Instagram more seriously, in a manner that makes them more meticulous and effortful than the supposed normal user.

Avenue for Inspiration

Among other things, this is probably the most compelling reason for the sudden growth in the number of "Instagramers." The extensive reach of Instagram worldwide has provided a channel for talented visual makers' works to be seen. While the simplicity of Instagram paved the way for aspiring creatives to realize that being creative is actually quite easy than it was commonly perceived to be. As mentioned by Sara Martinez (@saraaamartinez) on her post, "I never really thought of myself as a creative person as I had no creative expression, no creative outlet. But when people started appreciating what I put out on Instagram, I felt that I am, in my own way, creative." She is only one of the thousands to millions of people who were inspired by the powerful app, either through Instagram itself or through other users. And in return, these inspired users are giving back by doing their best to inspire others as well, which is best explained by Wenefredo Tenolete (@wenefreds), "I want to inspire other instagramers as what others did to inspire me." This cycle has become contagious and is now continuously making the community grow even faster.

In our honest opinion, this is also happening due to the fact that people nowadays are more keen to try new things and are attracted to inspiration more than ever. Everyone who is immersed in the modern movement that the emergence of inspirational websites such as Thought Catalog, Elite Daily, and the like have created, are now; more eager to be inspired, become an inspiration, follow their passion and express themselves. There are definitely some pros and cons in that trend, but what it did to the Instagram community specifically is quite extraordinary. Because of that change in human behavior, people are now continuously thirsty for something to inspire them. And most have found Instagram to be the easiest way to satisfy that thirst. Here is what Anne Cuevo (@myphotoexhibit) said that perfectly summarizes it, "it is both a source and an outlet of inspiration, passion and expression." Instagram has become one of the most influential tools that meet the current psychological and emotional needs of modern society. Not only in providing inspiration but also by giving the power to be influential to its users, which Jaypee Zuniga (@japzzuniga) describes as "a network to make an influence one snap at a time."

Medium for Self-Expression

One of the values that Instagram strictly follows is, "Inspire Creativity, to be able to unlock creativity and enable people to share how they see the world." This has been a big contributor to their success, as self-expression has become a big part of our culture today. Instagram has created a hub where people are empowered, as proved by Matt Lapoot's (@m_ttjsnl) statement, "growing up as a very shy, timid person, I kept my thoughts and feelings to my own. But ever since I started to be a part of this Instagram movement, I developed a genuine taste of expressing myself." They have built a medium where anyone can fully express themselves through an honest and powerful way, with images. And in addition to self-expression, Instagram has also encouraged self-discovery as expressed by John Austria (@mvltiple), "Instagram becomes an avenue of self-discovery." Instagram has created a new way of discovery and exploration. Directly connected to self-expression, "Instagramers" have learned to notice the beauty in their everyday lives, which briefly displays their preferences, character, tastes and their lifestyle. In which, best summarized by Karl Presentacion (@larkvain) in his claim, "I need a place where I can be heard and fully express my creative side."

In these statements, "Instagram changes the way we see things. It's actually quite and incredible transformation to experience. Suddenly you notice light, shapes, colours, textures, people, buildings, trees, flowers…everything around you looks different when you start to see the world as an Instagramer." and "being on Instagram, I learned how to look at things in my own perspective. How to appreciate the small details, capturing unscripted moments and the spontaneity it gives me whenever I see something interesting.," it is clear that Instagram has not only provided Macky Inandan (@imackario) and Justin Alforque (@justinalforque), respectively, a medium for self-expression but it has also taught them something remarkable. Today, when knowing and having good taste is almost ubiquitous, the universal visual preferences for daily life have highly developed. A trend where Instagram has become very instrumental and significant. As to how Kelsey Cheng (@klccheng) describes it "it elevates mundane activities and daily rituals to things worth celebrating." This proves that the way we see life has completely transformed since Instagram has established itself, and with the rise of the "Instagramer" community. This is a strong reason why people have been taking Instagram seriously, and why it has become very notable at the moment.

Community First

And lastly, we believe that the focus of Instagram on its community has heavily contributed in its success, and has also influenced their users to be more passionate about the app. It is undeniable on how much Instagram has expressed the importance of the community they have formed. In our opinion, they are the most passionate in terms of keeping the relationship with their users, positive and constantly growing. Besides their constant recognition of exceptional users on their suggestion page, they send Instagram books, calendars and other freebies to those they regard significant in the community to show their gratitude. These people are influencers and creatives that express the Instagram ethos perfectly, who then inspire thousands through their photos and stories. In addition, Instagram also hosts Worldwide InstaMeets where [Instagram] communities all around the globe celebrate photography and the app side by side, through hosting meets and events that bring together "Instagramers."

General knowledge tells us that any entity that genuinely shows care and compassion for its customers/users, will clearly have success and loyalty from them. Instagram took this to heart with their obsession of creating the perfect community, which forever changed the way users perceive them. Their utmost concern for the community is multiplied a million times through the users who have understood and personified the essence of the app. Instagram has managed to influence the community to care for each other, through engagement, inspiration and fellowship. In the words of Maria Xilca Antonietta (@mariaxilca), "cliches have long been telling us that "you are not alone" and stuff, but sans being cheesy, nothing can explain the true meaning of "belonging" than being around people who get you and accept you for who you are." The camaraderie that Instagram has formed and cherished within their community has become the solution of aspiring creatives and the general public, in their search for a sense of belonging. And in addition to that, Instagram has become a tool for these like-minded people to create deeper relationships with each other through discovering their similarities. One example is the story of Melissa Gatchalian (@sartorialpanda), "through it, I've met many inspiring and interesting people who I share the same interests with and can now call friends."

Most people may not fully understand the value of Instagram for these so-called "Instagramers," because for the most part they refuse to see life in any other way. Instagram, as simple as it may seem, has provided another way of experiencing life. And for the people who understand it, they have become more open-minded and exposed to a whole new level of culture, which is best expressed by Liz Dumdum (@lizdumdum) in her statement, "despite what this generation of narcissists most of us are guilty of being, getting a glimpse into the everyday lives of people who I'll probably never meet, who live in completely different cultures than I do, I've discovered that it is not so much how different we are, but how alike we all are." 

However, some people may argue that even with all these advancements to the quality of life and perspective of living, it is an unfavorable movement that manipulates life to seem more alluring than what it is in reality. As a matter of fact, we think it is a highly valid issue to address in terms of the culture of Instagram and "Instagramers." Though what they actually miss are the positive effects of exaggeration of life through Instagram. It has provided an elevated basis of quality, among other things. A few years back, food only looked so good in gourmet restaurants, but now, because everyone notices it, putting out beautifully plated food in all restaurants is a must, or at least in the opinion of most people nowadays. Moreover, it has contributed in the growth of passionate travelers worldwide. "it gives me a reason to get out there, whether it'd be weaving through city streets, strolling on beaches, or hiking up mountains." in the words of Maia Trinidad (@maiatee). There are a lot of factors why this travel-hungry trend has come about, but what we are sure of is that Instagram has done its fair share in growing it. "If thousands of people can climb a mountain, be higher than the clouds, and to trek to see a breathtaking view of a falls, why can't I?" An idea that we firmly believe was inspired by the "Instagramer" movement.

In anything in life, there are always pros and cons, and we are entirely aware of that in terms of the growing Instagram culture. A part of the mission of this article is to explain its advantages and provide reasons why being an "Instagramer" is actually rewarding, however, more than anything else we just want to impart deeper knowledge and understanding about this ongoing movement and culture.

Furthermore, besides the three we mentioned, we believe that there are a lot more reasons why "Instagramers" are using the app in a more serious manner. It's just another basis why Instagram is so intriguing. So if you're as intrigued as we are, we challenge you to find them out yourself and share to us what you think. Post a photo on your account and include #WhyInstagramSerious and tag us @purveyr, we're interested to hear your side.

Anyway, we would like to express our gratitude to all who participated and shared their thoughts with us. It means a lot to us, we appreciate the help. @ohcoolbryan, @cielobriones, @alvizvictoriaa, @jephunneh_, @beamarinx, @super.marlo, @ovydizon, @nicherautomatic, @lizdumdum, @mj_deleon, @paultheprguy, @klccheng, @a_roy_photo, @rahrarussel, @reneeedg, @aizharalih, @erikayamaguchi, @mariaxilca, @biancalimyoco, @sartorialpanda, @leandroootd, @sinosijuan, @dnsqnjn, @lemuelbagayas, @pierreguevarraa, @castroaims, @justinalforque, @cyoncloudnine, @beyondpat, @m_ttjsnl, @imackario, @ojnvb, @louiegraphy, @parangpagibig, @japzzuniga, @jaaantzen, @martinedeluna, @geraldtipones, @saraaamartinez, @cyrusy42, @myphotoexhibit, @maryjullienn, @larkvain, @chiiloyzagagibbs, @camilleconanan, @mvltiple, @_supersyllable, @rowelpasion, @pierrepaoloe, @wenefreds, @jiaachacruz, @chriscbya, @migiremolador, @pxnch, @igramer, @louisoclaritgambong, @marcomakokebino and more.

Words and photography by Marvin Conanan, and photos borrowed from the users who participated in the #WhyInstagramSerious campaign.


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