(From The Campus Lantern – September 20, 2012)
What do people, landscapes, animals and food have in common? Other than all being simple nouns, they are all the pictures that I see as I scroll through my Instagram feed from the past 24 hours. Instagram, if you live under a rock and do not know, is an app for the iPhone and Android phones that lets users upload pictures of literally whatever they please and add fancy filters to make the photos look chic. On my Instagram feed I have seen everything from hairy spiders and smiling pugs to open wounds and burns to breath-taking landscapes.
If you have never used the app, you are probably wondering what makes it so special. Believe me, I wondered the same thing – until I downloaded it, registered, and started posting and lurking pictures. Instagram makes every picture look fancy, to put it simply. It can make a normal sit-down dinner look like a gourmet meal once a filter is added. Among the filters are Amaro, which makes the photo look brighter; X-pro II, which makes the photo look shaded and dark; Earlybird, which gives the photo a sepia tint; and Inkwell, which turns the photo into a vintage black and white one. There is also a blur tool that lets you focus on certain points in the picture, making the background or other unnecessary things less visible.
On the iTunes charts, Instagram is currently higher up on the list than both Facebook and Twitter – it is #9, while the other two are #46 and #22, respectively. Quite literally, an Instagram picture is worth a thousand status updates or tweets. Users currently rate the app a hair under five stars, according to 836,768 ratings on iTunes. Also, it is free and uses under 80 megabytes of memory. It is obviously an app worth downloading.
Now that you are convinced that Instagram is an amazing app, I would like to point out some of its flaws. The first defect that comes to mind is that it is not available for Blackberry smartphones. (Why anyone would still have a Blackberry, and not an iPhone or Android, is beyond me, but I digress.) Another flaw is that, unlike, other apps, you cannot share pictures that are posted. On Twitter, you can retweet tweets that you find humorous. On Facebook, you can share pictures or statuses you agree with. On Instagram, you can only “like” a picture or comment on it. The app’s biggest flaw, in my opinion, is also the best thing about it: Instagram makes everyone feel like a professional photographer. If you post a picture of something with a fancy filter, you feel like you are on top of the world when it gets over 10 likes and comments. Likewise, everyone else is doing the exact same thing as you. It gets annoying seeing endless pictures of cute animals with the background blurred out and breathtaking landscapes with a Lo-fi filter. That is the trade-off, really – you put up with others’ cliché, yet beautiful, pictures, and they put up with yours.
Do I think the Instagram trend will last? Absolutely not. Every app has its fifteen minutes of fame, and Instagram is currently in its prime time. New apps are being introduced every day. Soon enough a different and new app will catch the public’s eye and the days of filtered pictures and blurred backgrounds will be over.