Instagram began as a platform for sharing photos but has now developed into tool for affirmation and reassuring users that their life is worthwhile, that it is #goals and that they are attractive and people want to be like them. It also gives rise to a greater level of societal narcissism and possesses a hierarchy of fame based on attention and visibility where the amount of followers act as a status symbol. Young people no longer perceive popularity based on how many actual friends they have but instead seek approval and accomplishment from statistics of a high followers list and the amount of ‘likes’ a post may get.
It is driven by not only physical appearance such as their face and body but has also become a means to show of wealth, class and status, relationships – all things people use to leverage themselves above others.
“Not only does follower number literally measure popularity; it also implies a level of influence, visibility and attention” (Marwick, 2013).
The increasing prominence of social media has led to a shift in celebrity culture with the rise of ‘micro-celebrities’ (Ordinary people using celebrity strategies and social media platforms to build a profile) and Instagram is now defined by a select few which have generated a widespread following through offering interesting, exciting and highly glamourised photos of their supposedly ideal lifestyles.
Instagram users have shared over 30 billion photos to date, and now share an average of 70 million photos per day. The current generation of millennials are so eager to embrace online notoriety as a form of stardom and they come in all sorts of categories such as fitness models, models, fashion and beauty bloggers, attractive people with envious life styles, frequent travellers and foodies.
We also now live in a time where ‘social media influencer’ is now a job description and these people are actively sought after by PR agencies and paid to post on social media. Whilst it seems easy to amass such a large following – just take aesthetic photos with popular brands or products, just take a few bikini or shirtless shots, take photos at the beach or of your lunch with an inspiring caption – it is deceptive because with over 300 million active users online it is hard to stand out. Everyday users are chasing this almost unattainable dream of becoming Insta-famous because it is such a normal thing these days.