The Cybernaut - Bas Keetelaar's tech and design blog

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Tuesday, December 17, 2019

I'm not an influencer, will my opinion matter in the next decade?

Instagram launched in October of 2010, which means it’s truly an app of this decade. And a lot happened during that time: it has grown to 500 million daily users, it spearheaded what we now know as influencer marketing and it is breeding ground for bullying, mental health issues and insecurity.

Things were much simpler in 2010. Originally, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger intended the app as a service to check-in at locations, but one feature was specifically popular with its users: the ability to quickly snap and share a photo. This grew into Instagram, but phone cameras weren’t as sophisticated as today, so filters were added to spice things up. In 2012, the app was released on Android and acquired by Facebook for $1 billion, which, in retrospect, seems a bargain.


Most users who signed up in the years after it became part of Facebook probably have never heard of filters like lo-fi and earlybird. Instagram isn’t purely based around smartphone photography anymore. In fact, most posts by top accounts you’ll find today are staged, shot on professional equipment and edited in expensive software. In the early years, most Instagram photos were imperfect, like everyone and life is. But now, everyone has impossibly perfect lives.

No aspect of the app is designed to be bad for its users but it’s not hard to understand that constantly seeing perfect bodies can make people feel more insecure about their own. Follower and like counts can lead to a popularity competition and thus people, especially teens, feeling bad about it or being bullied for receiving less likes than others, because if something can be compared, it will be.


A like means nothing. Not on Instagram, not on Tinder.



Instagram knows about the issues and its new head, Adam Mosseri, who previously oversaw Facebook’s News Feed, is trying to solve some of them by asking people if they really want to post the hateful comment they just typed. A test in which like counts are hidden is currently running.

But to really change in the next decade, the technical and design aspects aren’t enough. It’s users should change as well. A lot of influencers are more open about their connections with brands and are seemingly posting more “unfiltered” content, but some of them are more concerned about what hiding likes means for their wallets.

To me, this simply is stupid. I’m not going to make the case here that social influencers don’t deserve their fame or that they don’t have real job or whatever, but I think that they, and the marketing world as a whole, should really get out of their metric bubble. A like is so low effort that it means nothing. Not on Instagram, not even on Tinder. I wouldn’t be surprised if a large portion of Instagram marketing is still based around “the best time to share a post” even though the feed isn’t chronological since 2016.

This decade really turned social media into a thing where opinions or recommendations from friends matter less than those of people whom you’ve never seen in real life. Ironically, changing this might require such an influencer to step up and promote real meaningful relationships.

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