The Effect of Instagram on Teenage Girls

18112 words (72 pages) Dissertation

13th Dec 2019 Dissertation Reference this

Tags: MediaSociologyYoung People

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Investigating the significance of Instagram in the lives of teenage girls

Welcome to the social media revolution…

ABSTRACT

Technology has revolutionized how people see the world, along with how we interact with each other. Amongst the many technological innovations introduced, social media is arguably one of the most significant ones. Social media sites, like Instagram, are among the most common and active of today’s millennials, offering a portal for entertainment and communication which is growing exponentially. Whilst previous studies have been concerned with the negative nature of these sites and the detrimental effects it could potentially have on teenagers, this study intends to consider the perspectives of teenage girls; an angle that is obvious to consider, but that seems to remain rather neglected. Due to the general tendency to pathologise adolescents’ routine engagement with social media, this thesis is concerned with deconstructing the negative stereotypes that surround their involvement in social media sites.

This study collaborates findings about social media among teenage girls through a focus group conducted specifically to discern the role of Instagram in their daily lives and its significance for them. With a direct emphasis on Instagram’s meaning to them and its contribution to their identities that they present to the world, this study’s aim is to uncover Instagram’s significance through the prism of a different lens, not yet fully considered. This paper considered a wealth of academic scholars and theorists to reinforce and draw conclusions to contribute to sociological knowledge on this topic.

CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION

1.1      CONTEXTUAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

With more than 600 million active users and over forty billion images shared (Forer, 2017), Instagram is more than just an application on your phone; Instagram is social media’s current ‘queen bee’. It seems inadequate to describe Instagram as being simply relevant in society, it seems more apt to assert that it has become a routine part of everyday life for many. Despite only being founded in 2010, for teenage girls, Instagram has become a way of validation – Instagram is their identity, and in their minds, Instagram is mandatory. Whilst there are millions upon millions of girls absorbed by social media, the inspiration behind this research is based on a ‘close to home’ reasoning.

Whilst on a recent family holiday, my younger sister spent the majority of her time snapping photos. One might be easily forgiven for suggesting that the reason for her incessant photo taking was because she was an avid photographer. Instead, these photos were taken purely to post on her Instagram profile. Rather than being in the here and now, she was so focused on capturing the ‘perfect’ moment to present to her peers on Instagram. Weren’t the wonders of the world wonderful enough before they were posted on Instagram?

The sociological nature of this study is to investigate how coming of age concurrently with the rise of social media, namely Instagram, has influenced teenage girls’ lives. There has been extensive research and literature regarding how the prevalence and accessibility of social media has affected the lives of teenage girls, yet relatively little from the mouths of those who are actually using social media. The extraordinary success of Instagram corroborates Rainie et al.’s (2012) assertion that photos and videos have become the key social currencies online, prompting studies to move beyond the assumptions made by those who did not grow up with social media, and listen to young people’s own experiences with new media technologies. Attaining a deeper understanding of Instagram is important because it will help us gain an insight into its significance for teenage girls’.

This study seeks to understand further the sociology of identity, and how sociologically, Instagram is integrated into their daily lives and shapes their social interactions. By telling their own stories, teenage girls offer an important window into the role of Instagram for shaping self-identify and social identities. Using sociological concepts, this study will attempt to understand how Instagram can shape actions and interactions on one level, and how identity is constructed, expressed and shaped through their use of Instagram. Furthermore, these young people are “tomorrow’s shapers of society” (Miller, 2001), after all.

1.2      RESEARCH QUESTIONS:

This study aims to address three key research questions in order to contribute original, contemporary work to sociological scholarship on teenage girls’ use of Instagram:

  • What does Instagram mean in the life-worlds of teenage girls?
  • How do teenage girls construct and express their identities through Instagram?
  • How do they feel Instagram constrains or enables the identities they construct?

CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW

This literature review forms part of a body of research that is concerned broadly with teenage girls’ social media use, particularly Instagram. Studies about the internet and young people often focus primarily from the perspectives of the older generation, thus the scholarly literature included has been selected to identify the gaps in the existing literature and assist this study in giving a voice to teenage girls. Correspondingly, the relevant literature undertaken by other researchers and sociological concepts will be analysed to further inform the theoretical and empirical questions underpinning my own research. The theoretical framework used in this research will draw upon concepts developed by sociologists to assist in developing our contemporary, sociological understanding of how and why Instagram is used and its significance to teenage girls.

2.1      Self-Presentation on Instagram

Primarily, Davis (2012) “explores how young people, for whom issues of identity are particularly salient, conceive of the new opportunities for self-expression provided by digital media technologies” (2012:634) in Tensions of Identity in a Networked Era. Davis argues that social networking allows users to make changes to their online identity that they would not necessarily make offline due to confidence issues (2012:639). Davis avowed that social networking creates a testing ground that’s “practice for real life; test being one person online, see how people react, then try it in real life” (Davis, 2012:644). By using social networking sites to selectively post photos, Davis argues that users have control over their own identity formation and can choose how to present themselves offline based on the feedback of their online-tested identity. Using social networking sites as a tool for identity practice supports the aims of this research.

Furthermore, through Goffman’s (1959) theoretical framework in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, contemporary sociologists can develop an understanding of social interactions on social networking sites, such as Instagram. Crucially, Goffman exemplified how individuals use certain strategies to control the impression presented to others. This theory of impression management asserts that individuals regulate and “take their choice of what to display personally” (Hogan, 2010:377) to produce a specific ‘self’ to others. Goffman identifies this as creating an idealised image of oneself, something that Instagram is arguably centred around. Just as Shakespeare once said, “all the world’s a stage”, Goffman’s dramaturgical model identifies humans as acting in a front stage manner in front of others, and having a different persona when in private. Using this theoretical grounding, this thesis seeks to explore this dramaturgical model further and demonstrate that it is now more relevant with Instagram, than perhaps it has ever been.

When considering self-presentation on social media, it’s crucial to understand the role of others and selective audiences. Rui and Stefanone (2012) in Strategic Self-Presentation Online: A Cross-Cultural Study, found that the audience of image sharing sites plays a key role in an individual’s performance. Photographic self-presentation on social media, per Rui and Stefanone, is “the process of controlling how one is perceived by other people and is key to relationship inception and development” (2012:110). The aim of self-presentation is to guide others into accepting the images individuals claim for themselves. Rui and Stefanone assert that individuals must present themselves in accordance with their social roles and adjust their public images to audience expectations. Rui and Stefanone’s assertions also echo the work of Goffman and can thus aid this study in exploring the role of Instagram in teenage girls’ construction and expression of their identities.

2.2 The Millennials vs. The World    

Macmillan and Morrison (2006) in Coming of Age with the Internet investigated how coming of age concurrently with the internet and related technologies has influenced young people’s lives. An understanding of how the technology is influencing the various domains of young people’s lives, provides a window into what internet use may be like for future generations, with their dependency on the internet growing rapidly. Their recognition that young people’s “online lives are no less real than those they live offline” echoed further the questions facing this study. However, the generalization of ‘young people’ implies that both males and females can be grouped together in their activity and use of social media, whilst this study will focus on teenage girls.

Sonia Livingstone (2002) offers an understanding into why young people spend so much time on social media in Young People and New Media: Childhood, Youth and the Changing Media Environment. Livingstone recognizes that failing to listen to adolescents’ voices, means we miss understanding their experience of the media and this fundamentally captures what this research is attempting to harness. Livingstone later penned Taking Risky Opportunities in Youthful Content Creation: Teenagers’ Use of Social Networking Sites for Intimacy, Privacy and Self-Expression (2008) which hones in further on the explosion in social networking sites and the importance of social media to manage one’s identity, lifestyle and social relationships. Livingstone affirmed that older generations’ general consensus of social media is negative, emphasizing the need for a different angle to be taken to sufficiently understand and situate teenage girls’ social media usage within society today. Likewise, van Zoonen (2013) in From Identity to Identification adopts a fairly critical stance on the direction in which online identity management is headed, reasserting this thesis’ claim that there’s a need for a more child-centred approach to studies carried out on social media. For example, the construction of online personas not reflecting offline identities, is proposed as a risk of social media use by van Zoonen, prompting this study further to deconstruct the stereotypes surrounding social media.

To further assist in exploring the role of Instagram for millennials, O’Keefe and Pearson’s The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents and Families (2011) proved valuable. “Using social media websites is the most common activity of today’s children and adolescents” and the authors liken social media to a “portal for entertainment and communication”, emphasising how the attitude and mind-set of the millennial teenager has shifted. Whereas once a mobile phone was used purely for communication via texts and phone calls, O’Keefe and Pearson postulate that at least 25% of teenagers use their mobile phones purely for social media. Whilst this was written 6 years ago and this figure has almost certainly risen drastically, the point remains that social media websites are relentlessly growing in popularity, totally altering the priorities and everyday routines of teenage girls. This piece of literature provides a coherent understanding on the impact of social media on children, adolescents and families and is a useful platform to build and develop ideas upon.

2.3 Interaction Online

Sauter’s (2008) What’s On Your Mind? Writing on Facebook as a Tool for Self-Formation, exposed individuals as being concerned by being judged or neglected by their social group on social media, hence subjecting themselves to a “panoptic form of constant scrutiny” (Sauter, 2008:12). Whilst specific to Facebook, this work is still relevant when exploring the significance of Instagram. For example, status updates on Facebook are similar to the captions that Instagram users attach to their photos. This research aspires to assess Sauter’s claims further, and establish to what degree the audience influences the construction of identity or whether it is the disciplined, conscious individual that scrutinizes themselves.

Amanda Lenhart’s (2015) Teens, Social Media and Technology Overview investigates American adolescents specifically, and their use of social media and mobile phones to create and maintain friendships. Lenhart found that for American teenagers between the ages of 13-17, “Facebook remains a dominant force in teens’ social media ecosystems, but Instagram has risen into a prominent role in teens’ online lives” (2015:3), making space for academic literature centred on Instagram. The statistics produced here claim that “92% of teens report going online daily”, with “24% of them using the internet almost constantly and 56% going online several times a day” (2015:16), reinforcing this study’s presupposition that teenagers’ use of Instagram is at an all-time high. Lenhart also observed that “there is a significant gender gap among teens in online behaviours, with girls outpacing boys in their use of text messaging and in their visual, social media platforms like Instagram” (2015:6). With “girls more likely than boys to say they use Instagram (23% of girls vs. 17% of boys)” (2015:3), this further justifies this thesis’ decision to focus on teenage girls.

Finally, the work of Alfred Schutz (1967) in The Phenomenology of the Social World introduces the concept of the ‘lifeworld’. Social phenomenology is an approach within the field of sociology that aims to reveal what role human awareness plays in the production of social action, social situations and social worlds. Schutz provided an original analysis of human action and its intended meaning, arguing that people are engaged in an ongoing process of making sense of the world, and that we are seeking to make sense of their sense-making. Schutz’s work is thus clearly significant to this study which is striving to situate teenage girls’ use of Instagram sociologically, and establish whether Instagram can be considered a modern type of lifeworld for teenage girls. As Inglis and Thorpe (2013:) postulated, “the lifeworld is formed by the culture of a particular group of people” and this thesis is seeking to explore the culture of Instagram in the lives of teenage girls.         

2.4 Summary

Fundamentally, this chapter advocates that academic concepts in existing literature are useful to situate this study sociologically, as well as highlighting gaps that it can fill. An overarching caveat found in the existing literature on social media that this study hopes to satiate, is that it generally talks from the perspective of a generation which didn’t grow up with social media. Within this study I hope to be able to offer an account based on the testimony and experiences of teenage girls actively using Instagram. This thesis will advocate that there should be a more child-centred approach in the research done on social media’s impact on society. Additionally, Instagram is one of the newest installations of social media applications and thus, the existing research and studies can be deemed outdated, as they do not focus specifically on the significance of Instagram, per se.

CHAPTER 3: METHODOLOGY

A suitable methodology is vital to successful research. This chapter will therefore outline the ways in which I chose to approach this topic of study.

3.1 Focus Groups

The elected method of data collection used in this investigation was the focus group. When choosing which research method to use, the most effective technique to obtain suitable and beneficial data needs to be identified; “to attain credibility, the research process must be both valid and reliable” (Barriball, 1993). Instagram is a particularly complex phenomenon due to many teenagers not being able to verbally express why they feel the need to be using it. Thus a group discussing it together may establish a collective consensus between them and consequently create a more relaxed environment. The general consensus regarding Instagram is that elder generations view it in a negative light, and I did not want the participants to feel intimidated or reluctant to disclose their feelings towards it. Thus, by them outnumbering me, it might invoke more confidence in them to talk freely and openly.

3.2 The Sample

The research participants included were five teenage girls, between the ages of 18-19. It was not ethically appropriate for me to interview any teenagers below the age of 18, however this limitation was by no means restricting, because talking to the older half of the teenager spectrum probably provided a more mature and experienced perspective. I deemed it inappropriate to involve participants that I knew well in order to eliminate any bias in their given responses. This resulted in contacting girls who attended, or had just left, a nearby school, where it was definite that I would not have any form of relationship with them and they would not know me and my personal opinions on this subject. I would also note that I was not aware of any of the participants’ opinions or views on the significance of Instagram in teenage girls’ life worlds prior to the focus group. I verbally explained to each of them briefly about my investigation and then enquired whether they would be willing to meet with me and participate in my focus group.

The research needed to be conducted in an environment where the participants felt comfortable and at ease, and for that reason I suggested a location that they were all familiar with to hopefully avoid them feeling on edge and uncomfortable. As the participants within the group already knew each other, the conversation flowed relatively easily and the participants were relaxed enough to share information. I conducted the interview based around the topic of teenage girls using social media and the impact they felt it had on their behaviour, attitudes and general way of life.

3.3 The Data

Once the focus group was complete, the data collected needed to be collated, analysed and managed. The focus group was recorded using a password protected, cellular phone and the recording was only kept until it had been fully transcribed; “transcripts are needed to make fleeting conversational behaviour permanently available on paper for scientific analysis” (Kowal & O’Connell, 2004). After transcribing, I applied the ‘grounded theory’ to help conceptualise any patterns and areas of interest within the data. To do this successfully, I coded the data and looked for general themes that occurred throughout the interview and turned to existing literature on the topic to compare as well as any background knowledge. “Coding may be described as the deciphering or interpretation of data and includes the naming of concepts and also explaining and discussing them in more detail” (Bohm, 2004).

3.4 The Pros and Cons of Focus Groups

Through conducting a focus group, I was able to gather an abundance of data and discuss issues of relevance to gain perspectives and opinions on the significance of Instagram in the lives of teenage girls. Focus groups are advantageous because they intend to be non-directive and so participants may engage with the topic from as many angles as they please. Indeed, smaller issues were exposed within the larger topic that had not previously been considered. However, some structure was implemented as a list of questions with subsections were prepared before the session commenced.

Having said this, there are obvious limitations to this study, in that I have only spoken to five girls from similar backgrounds and the same school, and thus I am restricted to their view. If this study were broadened, one might speak with girls of a similar age, but from a different demographic background and culture. Additionally, whilst I hold the focus group to be the most appropriate methodology for this arena of research, it must be acknowledged that it’s essentially a managed verbal exchange, and as such, its effectiveness heavily depends on the communication skills of the interviewer; in this case, myself. A successful focus group relies on personal language as data, so if the participants didn’t respond well to the structure and questions prepared, or listen inattentively, it may have affected the results and not achieve the desired outcome of this research. Denscombe (2007) discussed how people respond differently depending on how they perceive the interviewer, “in particular, the sex, the age, and the ethnic origins of the interviewer have a bearing on the amount of information people are willing to divulge and their honesty about what they reveal”. It was a very real possibility that the teenage participants may not have responded in the way I hoped. If this did prove to be a problem, I had considered using a questionnaire/survey that would grant me anonymity and potentially greater honesty from the participants.

3.5 Ethical Considerations

It was crucial to contemplate any ethical considerations. Using an informed consent form, I was able to gain permission from the participants prior to the focus group to ask questions surrounding the subject of their social media use and its significance within their lives. This was necessary to reassure them that this was in no way potentially a personal attack , neither judging nor condemning them for how they choose to use their time on Instagram. Additionally, the informed consent form gave me the opportunity to advise the participants that their responses to the questions asked were entirely confidential between myself and them, with it being deleted once the interview was transcribed and the data collated. The informed consent form also illustrated to them that the focus group is solely for research purposes and established my reasoning for conducting the focus group as well as what I hoped to get out of it. This was necessary to obtain whether or not they were happy for the interview to go ahead. Essentially, the informed consent form allowed the participant to comprehend what the interview would entail, to gain a deeper understanding of what I was researching and what I hoped to gain out of the focus group with them.

CHAPTER 4: FINDINGS

A major contribution of this study is that it allowed young people to speak their minds regarding the influences that Instagram has had on their lives. The participants described their feelings, thoughts and behaviours when using Instagram and through these descriptions, they have shared their experiences with us; thereby contributing to our understanding of Instagram’s meaning in their lives. The findings reported here represent key themes that emerged from an analysis of participants’ responses. Having used grounded theory to code the collected data, the following sections will discuss the key, thematic areas that arose from the focus group whilst also relating the findings to the literature discussed in Chapter 2.

4.1      Approval

Approval was a key theme that arose throughout the focus group. When the topic of followers surfaced, participant C revealed she had over 1000 followers and participant B’s immediate, instinctive response was “wow, lucky girl!”. The fact that this large number provoked such an instantaneous and impressed reaction led me to associate a large following, with a large approval. It soon became clear that the more followers someone had, the more rewarding it could be. Participant D confidently declared that “having more followers means more likes on a photo, and at the end of the day, that’s all we want”. Whilst this at first struck me as incredibly naïve that this was ‘all they wanted’, it appeared they were also aware of the fact that this could be perceived to be shallow; “it’s lame when I say it out loud, but I can’t deny that it’s more satisfying when you get approval on a photo”. Thus, the data expresses that even though they are aware that it is superficial, they still crave it. Furthering this, when discussing followers, participant C responded without hesitation that she had “1179”. She continued explaining that Instagram was “more rewarding when you get lots of followers and likes” because it “boosted her confidence”. The participants seem to have this mutual understanding that a picture is only as good as its likes. Is Instagram just one big popularity contest?

Consistent with this contemplation that Instagram is the modern day equivalent to a high-school popularity contest, the data also revealed that approval and validation on Instagram relates to the users’ self-esteem. Participant D asserted that “if you don’t get the number of likes you want, it really affects self-esteem, because a like basically equals approval, and approval means I like you and I like this photo”. Participant A revealed that “if you got no likes on a photo, it would be humiliating”, with participant B reasserting this and adding “if I don’t get a certain number of likes in a certain amount of time, no question, the photo gets deleted”. This attitude that a photo is only worthy to be on your profile if it receives an appropriate numerical figure below, correlates with Davis’ (2012) ideas presented in Chapter 2, that social networking sites are used as tools for identity practice. Davis (2012) presents the idea that the feedback given from the audience of the user is crucial in how they then choose to present themselves online. With the data from this research reinforcing this idea, this study will explore the concept of identities online further in Chapter 5.

4.2 Time

Whilst the popularity of social networking sites has continued to grow, so too has the user’s time spent on social media. The data provided demonstrated the sheer amount of time dedicated to Instagram in a typical day, with participant B declaring that “it’s the first thing I do and the last thing I do in a day”. As well as being the marker for the beginning and end of a day, participant B admitted that she checks her Instagram newsfeed “once every half an hour”, and participant A similarly confessed that she goes on Instagram “definitely always once an hour”. Having said this, this revelation was not entirely surprising as there have been numerous studies beforehand regarding the frequency that teens visit social media sites. For example, ongoing research by the BBC (Winston, 2017) has annually monitored a group of teenagers born in 2000. In this year’s documentary that focused on whether mobile phones were helpful or harmful for teenagers, it revealed that, on average, teenage girls spent four hours a day on their phones, twice as much as the boys. In that time, the girls were three times more likely to be using social media. This is congruent with the findings of Lenhart (2015), mentioned in Chapter 2, who observed that “there is a significant gender gap among teens in online behaviours, with girls outpacing boys in their use of text messaging and in their visual, social media platforms like Instagram” (2015:6). With the findings corresponding with this observation that girls are incessantly increasing their social media presences, this reinforces the sociological need to deeper investigate the significance of Instagram in the lives of teenage girls.

The findings also revealed that several of the participants had started using Instagram from a relatively young age, with participant B estimating that she had been active since she “was about 15 or 16”. Having been active for at least two years, we might suggest that it has evolved from being a hobby or activity, to somewhat of a more serious routine. With the participants revealing they both check Instagram frequently throughout the day and have been doing so for the past few years, illustrates Instagram is a habitual part of their lives. We might refer to the work of Schutz (1967) here and his concept of the lifeworld, mentioned in Chapter 2. Schutz maintained that the lifeworld is essentially the mundane, everyday world in which people operate in (Harrington, 2000) and from these findings, we might contend that Instagram has become a sort of lifeworld for teenage girls. This notion will be explored further in Chapter 5.

4.3 Reality

The participants showed awareness that Instagram showcases the best parts of people’s lives and not, necessarily, all of their lives. Participants B and D both admitted that “it’s so rare that someone will post an honest photo”, acknowledging that Instagram is a “false presentation”. The natural tendency is to pathologise teenage girls infatuation with Instagram, emphasising further the need for research to be redirected and considered from the perspective of teenage girls. Just as Weber (1904) astutely noted, we have to at least try to be objective in a situation where we know we never can be; we have to be aware of our biases.

Participant A echoes this with her sincere declaration, “we pick out the best bits from our lives to post on Instagram… Who would want to see a real photo of me with greasy hair in my pajamas?!”. When the participants began digressing on how Instagram might be inspirational in a sense through its “sneak peek” into the lives of celebrities, participant E quickly asserted that “it’s still not exactly real though, it’s just the best bits” and participant D agreeing, “it’s superficial”. So, despite being given the stereotype that teenage girls are ignorant about the extent of Instagram being realistic, it appears that these participants are more than aware of the effort, thought and process behind posting a photo on Instagram. However, just because they are aware of social media’s potential negative presence in their lives, it doesn’t mean their use is by any means tempered; it does not seem to constrain their constant need to be active on Instagram. The findings here strongly correlate with the work of Goffman, mentioned in Chapter 2, who advocated a dramaturgical model for everyday, social interactions. The fact that the participants are aware that they present a perfected, more glamorous façade of themselves on Instagram than they do offline, reaffirms this thesis’ belief that teenage girls’ use of Instagram can be understood through an updated version of Goffman’s theories.

4.4 Editing

The participants’ discussion on editing photos was informative when exploring the concept of identities online. All participants admitted to using editing apps to alter their photos, with participant A revealing that she not only used free editing apps, but also pays for an app called “Facetune”, which she contested was “worth every penny!”. Participant A described it as an app that could “whiten your teeth, smooth your face, remove blemishes, make yourself look slimmer”. Participant C disclosed that “editing apps can sort out photos and make sure they’re postable”. The participants then began discussing the positive aspects of editing apps, with participant E pointing out that “people want to show the best side of themselves and the photo is a representation of yourself, so why not use these editing apps, everyone knows it’s important to translate well on social media!” Participant D verified this, saying “if someone’s talking about someone, and you don’t know who they are, the immediate thing that’s done is to look them up on social media, especially Instagram. And that is where they will cast their first opinion on them”. The participants’ comments surrounding editing reveal the importance in presenting their ‘best selves’ on Instagram, even if that means paying for editing apps to be able to alter their appearance.

When the participants discussed what they like to see on their Instagram newsfeeds, there was a strong consensus towards “things that are nice to look at”. Participant D asserted that “beautiful people and beautiful food” were what she was interested in, with participant C adding that she “likes looking up celebrities whose lives I want to live”. Once the topic of celebrities was encountered, the participants began discussing who they considered a ‘good’ celebrity to follow. The Kardashians, Victoria’s Secret models, the Made in Chelsea cast were all mentioned as “cool, famous people who do much more exciting things with their lives than me”, participant E claimed. Having established the kinds of celebrities they followed and what types of photos they post, the participants began conferring over what types of photos they post that attract the most likes. Participant A asserted that “bikini photos” were a sure way to get likes, but participant E quickly added “well, only if you’re attractive and not fat!”. There was a clear unanimity that there is a certain type of look, a certain type of photo, that will attract likes on Instagram. Sauter (2008), as mentioned in Chapter 2, described individuals as concerned with being judged or neglected by their social group on social media, hence they subject themselves to a “panoptic form of constant scrutiny” (2008:12). Made evident in these findings, the teenage girls subject their photos to total scrutiny, ‘fixing’ the tiniest of flaws with editing apps, in order to conform to this pressure of uploading the ‘right’ type of photo onto Instagram. From these findings, uploading a successful, ‘likeable’ photo onto Instagram is clearly of great importance to teenage girls. Teenagers have had a hunger for validation from their peers long before Instagram became popular, but social media offers this quantitative measure of peer approval through the number of likes per post. Nowadays, the term ‘like’ has taken on a completely superficial connotation, one that defines users thirst for social media acceptance.

4.5 An Infatuation

The data established that there is a deep and personal need that participants feel for Instagram. When questioned whether they could go a week without social media, Participant B revealed that she would feel “really anxious, like I’m missing out on stuff”. Participant D agreed, adding that “when I’m abroad and there’s no easily accessible internet, I get really stressed that I don’t know what everyone else is doing and posting”. Participant C said she would feel “very excluded”, not having access to social media. Previous studies have shown social media to be a common source of stress to its users. Being constantly alert for new social media messages, to your instinctive fight or flight limbic system, is the same as being on continuous alert for predators, which causes a release of the stress hormone cortisol (Jacobs, 2014). Additionally, Macmillan and Morrison (2006), aforementioned in Chapter 2, concurred that “young people’s online lives are no less real than those they live offline”, accentuating the idea that there is this profound need that teenagers feel towards social media. The data found reflects the claims made by Macmillan and Morrison (2006), and offers a more niche understanding into teenage girls on Instagram, specifically. Furthering this, participant A revealed that she would post photos of meals at restaurants, to say “hey, I’m at a restaurant with friends!”. Participant D said that she also “tags the restaurant in the photo, as a way of proving that you went there”. Participant C said that this “gives people the impression I have a fun social life!”, highlighting Rui and Stefanone’s (2012) notion that young individuals online today, must adjust their public image to audience expectations. If eating out with friends is in accordance with their social roles, it becomes their mission to show through Instagram that that’s what they are doing.

The analysis of the data found in this research, revealed a plethora of ideas concurrent with the literature selected to pinpoint the basis of this study. The findings will allow me to develop and progress the concepts in existing literature, and bridge new ideas towards the significance of Instagram in the lives of teenage girls.

CHAPTER 5: DISCUSSION

5.1 Instagram’s Meaning in Lifeworlds

The intention of this study is to consider the significance of Instagram from the perspective of teenage girls, and thus the primary section of this discussion intends to uncover the meanings that teenage girls attach to Instagram, as opposed to the pathologised meanings that broader society have attached to it.

It is not unusual to hear teenagers being described as ‘glued to their phones’, but it’s not the phone they are glued to, it is the social media platforms these phones contain. The emergence of social media has tremendously altered the world we know, transforming the dynamics of social interaction and the ways in which we come to know others. With social media, we can access more information about each other than ever before, changing how people communicate; with 80 million photos being shared a day and 3.5 billion likes made on those photos every day (Smith, 2016). Whilst it may have benefits, including the ability to easily connect with friends and family around the globe, breaking down international borders and cultural barriers, it has come at a price, in the eyes of some. In a ‘TED talk’ (technology, entertainment and design conference), psychologist Sherry Turkle describes the way computers have taken over, and how although “we are connected, we are alone together”. Turkle’s (2012) concern is echoed by many who are alarmed that humanity has been profoundly impacted by the social media revolution. Parents often fear that social media, particularly Instagram, has robbed their children of the physical and emotional support we once drew from each other, with virtual connections. Teenagers prefer texting to phone conversations, online chats to face-to-face meetings, and have replaced human interaction with convenient platforms like Instagram. Foer (2013) argued that with each step forward in social media, it has made it easier to avoid the emotional work of being present physically. Is Instagram promoting a narcissistic generation? Or, could we conversely argue that the parents of these millennials are actually pathologising Instagram?

The time when a child transitions to adolescence is traditionally a time where parents feel challenged, but the challenges have been increased more than ever through the phenomenon of social media. The fear that parents feel for their children becoming individuals in their own right is by no means unique to this generation; we need only to look at their own childhoods, whereby television defined their generation, with their parents having the same concerns for this new, technological phenomenon at that time. The introduction of the television brought with it animosity and tension where, “as in the case of television, much of the research on the internet and social media has been preoccupied with the search for evidence of negative effects; and much of it has been based on implicitly behaviourist assumptions” (Buckingham, 2002:79). It is evident that a clearer understanding into the meaning of Instagram to teenage girls is necessary. Thus, in order to offer parents’ and general society with a deeper understanding behind why teenagers behave and interact the way they do online, this study will incorporate the ideas of Schutz and his phenomenological concept of the lifeworld.

The relevance of phenomenology to the understanding of the social impact of social media, has aroused the interest of many scholars (Zhao, 2007:140). To situate the ideas of Schutz and the lifeworld, we might consider the varying, historical ideas towards how we come to know the mind of another person without being that person. Primarily, Descartes, (1641), maintained that we can know only the body of another person because it is perceptually accessible to us, but not the mind of another person because it is not subject to our direct observation. Husserl (1969) alternatively, contended that, although we haven’t direct access to the inner consciousness of another person, we can ‘grasp’ it based on the knowledge of our own mind. Schutz, “a central figure in importing phenomenological thinking and methods into sociology” (Inglis & Thorpe, 2013:89) in the early 20th century, reformed this phenomenology, offering a sociological solution to the previously rather “solipsist views” (Zhao, 2007:141). Schutz’s fundamental principle maintained that the mind of the other can be known in a shared lifeworld where individuals become intimately familiar with each other through sustained face‐to‐face contacts. “Schutz’s phenomenological theory of mutual knowledge begins with the premise that the meaning of any object in the lifeworld is inter-subjectively constituted through human interaction” (Zhao, 2007:141). Through the lifeworld, people can make sense of and experience the world around them. Although still unable to directly observe the mind of others, “individuals come to synchronize the streams of their inner consciousness and get to know each other through shared life experiences” (Zhao, 2007:142).

However, the dissemination of social media has undeniably altered the structure of the lifeworld that Schutz previously depicted, producing ways of getting to know others that were previously impossible. As aforementioned, according to Schutz, if others aren’t in our immediate physical presence, they are inaccessible to our direct observation. But today, Instagram, along with other social media outlets, allows us to engage in instantaneous contact with distant others, whereby synchronizing our streams of inner consciousness with theirs in the absence of physical presence. Therefore, considering those changes, this thesis will endeavour to renew Schutz’s theory, demonstrating that knowledge of the other obtained online can be a valuable addition to the mutual knowledge we come to accumulate in physical social interactions.

Having determined that phenomenology, in a broad, philosophical sense, is concerned with how we can know each other’s minds, this thesis asserts that in this sociological study, the true phenomenology of interest here, in regards to teenage girls’ use of Instagram, is how the culture of the group, shapes the minds of the people in it. “Phenomenological approaches to social life exist at the heart of contemporary social theory” (Inglis & Thorpe, 2013:86). Phenomenology attempts to see how things in the world look from the point of view of the people one is studying, and thus in this study, the point of view being considered is that of teenage girls. “Phenomenology is concerned with how particular persons or groups of people see, perceive, understand, experience, make sense of, respond to, emotionally feel about and engage with particular objects or circumstances”, (Inglis & Thorpe, 2013:86) and here, Instagram is the subject at hand.

When Schutz discussed lifeworlds, he was suggesting the lifeworld to be increasingly central to the culture of the group. This dissertation is investigating the cultural shaped meanings attached to Instagram in the culture of the young girls and how these meanings inform and shape, enable and constrain the range of actions, interactions and identities available to the girls. “The culture creates the commonsense ways in which people experience the world” (Inglis & Thorpe, 2013:90). So, this study is interested in teenage girls socializing in the lifeworld of Instagram, and the meaning it gives to them. From a phenomenological perspective, how people see the world is shaped by the ideas and values of the culture of that lifeworld, thus, in this scenario, we are focused on the cultural meaning that Instagram provides to teenage girls. Having spoken to a group of teenage girls in the focus group performed in this research, the findings informed me that, for them, Instagram is a way of keeping up with friends and also celebrities, a way of showcasing interesting aspects of their lives through photos and, ultimately, a way of life. When parents and broader society think about Instagram, and draw on the meaning of Instagram in their minds, they see it totally differently. So, evidently, the meanings attached to Instagram in the lifeworld of the girls differs from those of the adults looking into the lifeworld of the girls. This dissertation is fundamentally interested in how the meanings attached to Instagram differ.

In exploring the significance of Instagram in the lives of teenage girls, this thesis has begun by looking at the way the particular categories contained in the cultural group, structures how they see things and what they do. In order to fully understand the meaning of Instagram in the lives of teenage girls, we need to grasp how the world is perceived by them and how they make sense of it. Thus, by reconstructing “the contours of their lifeworld” (Inglis & Thorpe, 2013:91), this study has embarked on unpacking this unknown phenomenon. Essentially, young people are socialized into groups, and that group gives rise to a level of culture. The culture of Instagram, then, implants in the minds of each of its users, certain ways of thinking. This angle of understanding teenage girls’ Instagram use, although challenging to empirically measure, opens doors into a better comprehension of the significance and meaning of Instagram for them.

5.2 Constructing or Enabling?

Having examined the meaning of Instagram in the lifeworld of teenage girls, the secondary section of the discussion intends to consider how my sister, and teenage girls in general, assume an understanding and make sense of Instagram and the extent to which Instagram is constructing or enabling in their lifeworlds.

The category that is Instagram, is a social category because how we understand it, is informed by others as to how it’s used in a group. This social structure can be seen to both support and constrain the endeavours of individuals. In terms of structure agency, Schutz asserts that the concepts people have of a certain thing, constrains how we see and interact in everyday life. So, when we say that society shapes people, we mean that the culture of the group determines how we see the world and how we see the world, determines how we’ll do some things, but not others. Broadly speaking, culture, enables people and makes them behave in some ways at the same time as constraining in others. Instagram is enabling because it leads its users to interact in certain ways and express their identities in a particular way through their Instagram profile, but at the same time, it constrains them because by doing it in those ways, they’re not doing it in other ways, i.e. meeting each other in person, away from a screen.

Bourdieu’s (1979) concept of the habitus can be specifically used to further describe how teenage girls navigate and utilise Instagram in a way that’s both constructing and enabling. While the premise of Instagram may appear to be to express one’s unique and subjective personality, thus enabling, all users may only present themselves in the standard structure of the Instagram template, thus also constraining. Within these confines, individual agency and taste allow users to articulate and renegotiate the possibilities of the site and its meaning in the larger field, creating new meanings from familiar structures. We can understand Instagram as this cultural space, whereby its users establish normative behaviours that are policed via the premise of the habitus. We can depict the habitus as operating in digital and physical worlds similarly, leading users to adopt and adapt normative behaviours by performing online in ways that are similar to the ways they perform in face-to-face interaction; policing the persona and actions of others within the social norms associated with those personas in particular cultural contexts. In navigating these online spaces, such as Instagram, “individuals permit a hybrid set of established and newly formed predispositions to guide their behavior” (Papacharissi, 2009). On Instagram, individuals are invited and encouraged to tell stories about themselves through their photos on their profile, and thus this social architecture compels individuals, more than ever, to make these stories public. This is frequently mistaken for excessive narcissism or excessively self-referential behavior, but may also be understood as an expression of agency that conforms to and seeks to relate to the structure that Instagram has instigated. Fundamentally, Instagram represents this ever-changing structure, which offers space to present oneself in a stylized way, yet also within the boundaries that this new, online realm has set.

It would be unjust to condemn Schutz for failing to incorporate online presences and relationship that social media provides into his conceptualization of the lifeworld, for it did not exist at the time he was formulating his phenomenological theory of the social world. Thus, the internet can be best understood as an unparalleled technology, allowing people to communicate with one another regardless of time and place; “we now live in a world of hyper-mediation, where the boundaries between real and representation have become displaced” (Van Loon, 2000:168). Facets of the internet, such as social media, have created an online public gathering place that allows complete strangers to socialize with each other. In the offline world, people will not normally socialize with each other except in specially designated public social places, like bars and nightclubs, where people are expected to be ‘mutually open’ (Goffman, 1963) for personal engagement. But social media has opened up an online social domain for people to connect and interact with each other without prior acquaintanceships. For example, the findings of this paper’s research have shown that teenage girls tend to follow Instagram accounts that belong to people they have never met and like their photos, even though they do not know them offline, personally.

Teenage girls using Instagram are in each other’s ‘electronic proximity’ (Dertouzos, 1998) when scrolling through their Instagram newsfeeds and viewing others uploaded photos. Relationships can be established between complete strangers who interact with each other solely on Instagram, because unlike human associations that are inherently constrained by physical proximity, online communities can be based entirely on common interests and mutual liking (Rheingold, 2000). Essentially, Instagram provides a new way of communication and socializing that fundamentally transforms the lifeworlds we live in. On Instagram, mutual knowledge is derived from the biographic and photographic narratives that people supply about themselves that describe who they are. For example, the screen names that people use give a sort of ‘first impression’, whilst their personal profiles containing their photos uploaded provide more information about the user.

Categorically, advancements in technology and social media have altered the ways in which mutual knowledge is traditionally constituted, as face-to-face contact is no longer the only means of establishing relationships. Public disclosure of private thoughts and personal moments through photo uploading on Instagram renders it possible for people to have intimate knowledge of each other without being physically together. However, it must be acknowledged, that whilst Instagram has enabled us to do many things, so too is it constraining for users, restricted to the boundaries of Instagram.

5.3 Identities

Having established that Instagram provides us with mutual knowledge of each other in both an enabling and constructing manner, this final section of the discussion intends to engage with debates around identity and explore whether the identity shown on Instagram is a true representation of self. Illustrated through the work of Erving Goffman, who made huge theoretical contributions to the debate on identity management and pivotal work within a traditional, offline context, this thesis will demonstrate that Goffman’s work is a useful foundation upon which to explore notions of online identity on Instagram.

It’s imperative to establish that debates around identity existed long before the emergence of social media outlets. But, social media platforms like Instagram, have meant that discourses around identity are a major currency of contemporary culture. A useful starting point for examining the notion of identity is the work of Goffman, a notorious interaction theorist in the late 1950s, prior to the social media revolution. He introduced a novel conceptualization of identity construction in his study on human interaction, upholding that everyone is concerned, to some extent, with how others perceive them, constantly striving to maintain the identity we create for others to see. The internet and social media have introduced non-physical, online environments for social interaction, leaving queries around whether Goffman’s interaction order is still applicable. Arundale (2010) argues that Goffman’s work, being several decades old, is outdated, but this thesis contests that interaction on social media is a natural extension to what Goffman theorized and can be used to further understand how teenage girls construct and express their identities through Instagram.

This assertion can be reinforced through exploring the role of Goffman’s dramaturgical model. Goffman points to the importance of a separation between spheres of action that allows us to tailor our actions to our setting and environment. Just like actors in the theatre, we consciously structure social life into back and front stage areas. The front stage is the area in our lives where we perform to those watching by observing certain rules and social conventions to project a suitable persona for that audience. But, for there to be a front stage area, there needs to be a backstage area that’s hidden from the audience to prepare ourselves for this performance. Goffman gives the explicit example of a nightclub, whereby people, typically, in the presence of others, will dramatize what they’re doing, presenting a face that suits the nightclub scene. For example, people might like to show they have money to spend and sit on VIP tables and buy expensive drinks. This can be understood as the front stage performance, whereas, the toilets can be considered as the backstage area. The clubbers can retouch their appearance and take a moment away from the spotlight, making it a backstage area that crucially facilitates for the performance in the nightclub.

We might similarly contend that teenage girls are highly adept at posting photos on Instagram appropriate to their audience. This research has exhibited that teenage girls showcase the highlights and ‘best bits’ of their lives, resonating strongly with Goffman’s dramaturgical model. Social media promotes putting up a façade that highlights all the fun, excitement and success we seem to enjoy, but tells very little about where we are struggling in our day to day life on a deeper level. So, to fit in, teenage girls’ profiles portray perfectly happy and trendy facades, because that’s what they see others doing. Hence, Instagram profiles tend to reflect how they want to be perceived, rather than showing an honest picture of who they truly are. Put simply, not every photo that a teenage girl has in her camera roll on her phone will make the cut for her Instagram profile. Rather, she will select one photo and edit it relentlessly to make it ‘perfect’ before uploading. We might see Instagram as being a type of portfolio or CV for these teenage girls, with their followers being their audience. If the photo uploaded appeals to their followers, it will equate to more likes, hence approval and popularity. Teenage girls use Instagram as a platform to showcase the most aesthetically pleasing aspects of their lives. Thus, the camera roll on the phone is their backstage area and the photos showcased on the Instagram profile, the front stage area.

“The idea that people guide others and create certain images and desired impressions of self for others to attain knowledge about them, is similar to selective posting online” (Madison, 2014:10). A user can post photos to guide their audience into creating understandings of themselves in a way they find most desirable and acceptable to others. Equally, the user is also part of an audience and reacting to the posts of others and being guided into creating understandings of other users (Madison, 2014). Goffman’s concept of impression management can be applied to how, on Instagram, this represents enhancement. Mechanisms of uploading photos to Instagram allow individuals to manufacture and physically alter the image using editing apps available at the touch of a finger.

Goffman concurred that our conscious presentations of self are intended to be ‘scaffolding’, which can be taken down once it has performed its purpose. As previously mentioned, a certain persona is adopted in job interview or on dates, knowing that we can gradually relax the front stage performance if the initial contact is successful and leads to commitment. But, on social media, this front stage self is being presented to the world of Instagram all the time, and thus can never be relaxed. Instagram users have to be concerned, more than real-life/offline performers, over the essential question of whether the performance can be sustained. This leads to the ultimate dilemma in identity on social media; the artificiality suggests the online participation that Instagram facilitates, will never let us show our true selves.

Goffman’s concept of ‘face’ was written about in conjunction with how people interact in daily life, and for him, ‘face’ is a mask that changes depending on the audience and the variety of social interaction. By ‘face’, he’s implying an individual’s reputation in the eyes of their partner in interaction, “there will be time to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet” (Eliot, 1915). This notion of ‘face’ remains relevant when teenage girls post photos to their Instagram profiles, because it’s imperative to them that the persona they present online, is one they maintain. It can thus be understood that the persona presented online by teenage girls is merely a mask they choose to wear in that given situation. These masks demonstrate supposed perfect lives, directing others’ impressions of them as hoped. This should not be misconstrued as manipulating, because whilst teenage girls do to some extent control what their followers see, it’s still themselves, but the best part of themselves; a snapshot of the identity that they want the world to see.

In conclusion, Goffman’s original framework is still relevant as an explanatory framework for understanding identity through interaction and the presentation of self on Instagram, thus this thesis endorses the timelessness and versatility of Goffman’s theories.  As Thompson (1995:215) astutely observed, individuals are increasingly dependent “on a range of social institutions and systems to provide them with both the material and symbolic means for the construction of life projects”, and whilst some may argue that there is inherent artificiality in our online identities, this thesis argues that we are not deceiving ourselves or others, but rather, being ourselves in a stylized manner.The concepts put forth in Goffman’s work, whilst meant for in-person interactions, are clearly valuable when interpreting interactions online and teenage girls’ online personas perhaps conform even more closely to Goffman’s idea of everyday life than our everyday life does today.  

CONCLUSION

Originally, social media was considered another passing trend, a subculture similar to the trends of music and fashion. But as time has progressed, it is evident that the world is adopting social media and digital technology as a new way of life (Qualman, 2012). Consequently, sociologists have proposed that social media is the biggest socio-cultural and economic shift since the industrial revolution (Bussert, 2010:210). As a result of the accelerated pace of cultural change, today’s millennials and adolescents find themselves in a culture that is very different to what their parents grew up in. Adolescents of today are growing up in the internet age, never having known a world without cell phones, personal computers and social media. Thus, this study has recognized the importance of capturing the standpoints of those whose lives have been changed by social media and expanding scholarly literature to incorporate this perspective.

Fundamentally, this study sought a greater understanding of the significance of Instagram in the lives of teenage girls,from a perspective that has not yet been fully investigated. This thesis is a phenomenological exercise, interested in looking at how other people perceive a particular thing (Instagram), and how it features in the lifeworld of teenage girls and structures what they do. The reason being, is that whilst the negative aspects of social media have been studied, there’s been relatively little scholarship focusing on the teenage girls’ reasoning behind why they use it and their own opinions. There’s an undeniable tendency from time immemorial for adults to pathologise what young people do and social media activity is no exception. “Scholars have been debating the social impact of the Internet for more than a decade” (DiMaggio et al., 2001), but this study recognised the need for moving beyond the conceptualisations of an online/offline dichotomy (Graham, 2013).

The research was informed and guided predominantly by Goffman’s dramaturgical model and Schutz’s concept of the lifeworld. Thus, the study undertaken here contributes to a growing body of scholarship on the amassing use of social media, but from the unique angle of the most prolific users; teenage girls. As today’s millennials grow into tomorrow’s adults, we should recognise and predict that their practices will increasingly enter the mainstream and therefore, a greater understanding surrounding the significance of Instagram is necessary. When considering the first research question asking what meaning Instagram holds in the lifeworlds of teenage girls, this study found that Instagram has produced ways of getting to know others that were previously impossible. This study established that Instagram provides new ways of communication and socializing that has fundamentally transformed the lifeworld as we know it. When exploring the second research question surrounding the extent to which Instagram constrains and enables teenage girls, this study found that Instagram represents this ever-changing structure which offers space to present oneself in a particular way, yet also within the boundaries set by Instagram. Thus, Instagram can be considered as both enabling and constraining. Finally, this study explored how Instagram influenced the way that teenage girls constructed and expressed their identities. This study affirmed that Instagram provides teenage girls with a reference point in the process of developing their social identity, whereby they interact with their peers and gain a sense of what type of presentations are socially appropriate. Updating Goffman’s dramaturgical model highlighted how teenage girls have become highly adept at posting photos on Instagram appropriate to their audience, showcasing the best bits of their lives. Essentially, this thesis found that teenage girls aren’t deceiving themselves or others, but rather, presenting themselves in a stylized manner.

This study has contributed to the existing literature on social media and how it impacts human behavior, from the unique angle of teenage girls’ perspectives. It guides and informs future research to further explore teenage girls’ use of Instagram in a broader realm.

(9837 words TOTAL)

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APPENDICES

APPENDIX 1: CONSENT FORM:

The title of the research being undertaken is “Investigating the Significance of Instagram in the Lives of Teenage Girls”. The research will take place in the form of a focus group which will be led by *****.

The purpose of this research is to explore the ever increasing and overwhelming influence social media is having on the younger generation and enquiring into whether Instagram is promoting a world where people are judged on the image they present to the world, rather than who they are and what they have achieved. The results of this study should further our understanding on just how powerful this form of technology is and whether it is indeed blurring the distinction between reality and social media.

This focus group is completely voluntary; the participants can refuse to answer any questions at any time for any reason. They have the freedom and right to withdraw from the interview at any point. The interviewees’ participation will involve answering questions for an estimated 45-60 minutes.

The participants’ names will not be mentioned during this interview and they need not say anyone else’s name in answering any of the questions. The data will be recorded in a password protected cellular phone. The recordings will only be kept until the recording is transcribed and will then be deleted. This interview information will only be used for this particular study. There will be a chance during the interview, but not after, to make changes to your answers.

I have read and understood the above and agree to partake in this study.

_____________________ (Participant Signature)

___________________ (Interviewer Signature)

_____________________ (Date Signed)

APPENDIX 2: FOCUS GROUP TRANSCRIPTION

INTERVIEWER: Hi girls! Okay, I’m going to start the ball rolling by asking the simple question, do you have Instagram installed on your phone?

  • PARTICPANT A: Yes, I do and I started using it when I was 16
  • PARTICIPANT B: I do too and I think I was about 15 or 16 when I started using it
  • PARTICIPANT C: I didn’t have an iPhone, I had an iPad first and I used it on that
  • PARTICPANT A: I definitely go on Instagram way too much!
  • PARTICIPANT B: I’d say I check Instagram once every half an hour or so… a lot basically!
  • PARTICIPANT D: Yeah, (laughs) but I guess it depends how bored you are
  • PARTICIPANT E: If I’m busy I won’t go on it, but if I’m bored I’ll just scroll through mindlessly
  • PARTICPANT A: No, definitely always once an hour… Even on a busy day!
  • PARTICIPANT D: I always go on it when I wake up in the morning and just before I go to bed
  • PARTICIPANT B: Yeah, it’s the first thing I do and the last thing I do in a day
  • PARTICIPANT D: It’s more important than Facebook for me
  • PARTICIPANT E: It’s less irritating than Facebook because you don’t see adverts and things from people you don’t really care about, it’s just stuff from the people you follow
  • PARTICPANT A: Yes, I’d say that Instagram is 100% without a doubt my favourite app
  • PARTICIPANT D: Definitely, I feel like it’s a platform to get inspired by. So if you’re going away you can type into the Instagram explore section the location you’re going and see who else has gone there and the things they’ve done there
  • PARTICIPANT C: Yeah or what they wore!
  • PARTICIPANT D: It’s quite funny you can completely stalk a random person’s holiday!
  • PARTICIPANT E: On the topic of holidays, on Facebook people upload whole albums of photos from their holiday away and I can never be bothered to flick through the whole thing so with Instagram you can just see the ‘best shot’
  • PARTICIPANT B: Yeah, Instagram shows the best photos – the highlights
  • PARTICPANT A: Out of all the social media I use, I definitely take the most care over what I post on Instagram
  • PARTICIPANT C: Mm, I think it’s a lot more rewarding because you get more followers and more likes. It boosts my confidence more than anything else

INTERVIEWER: That’s interesting, thank you! So, every time you go on the app, do you post a photo or just observe other people’s posts?

  • PARTICPANT A: I post quite regularly, like if I’ve just been to an event or something
  • PARTICIPANT E: Oh, I just like scrolling through and stalking!
  • PARTICIPANT D: Well yeah, me too, if I have nothing exciting to show the world! If I’ve just been on holiday, I’ll have loads I want to share on Instagram but otherwise I don’t do anything interesting
  • IZZY: Haha yeah everyone posts amazing photos with the caption ‘throwback to summer’ when we all know you’re sitting in your bedroom at home!
  • PARTICIPANT D: But still, that’s because that’s what we want to see. Who would want to see a real photo of me with greasy hair in my pyjamas?!
  • PARTICIPANT D: Yeah, I’m looking for beautiful girls and beautiful food! Things that are nice to look at!
  • PARTICPANT A: Yeah, Victoria’s Secret models!
  • PARTICIPANT B: Yeah, I can spend hours looking at stunning girls who live these incredible lives
  • PARTICIPANT D: I like the food accounts because they give me inspiration for what to cook and I guess I like following these models to give me inspiration to work hard and go to the gym
  • PARTICIPANT C: I also like looking up celebrities whose lives I want to live. It’s really cool, it’s the closest we have to a sneak peek into their lives!
  • PARTICIPANT E: Well, it’s still not exactly real though it’s just the best bits
  • PARTICIPANT C: Yeah but I think we like looking at those things because they’re the most aesthetically pleasing to the eye so that’s why it’s the most popular thing to follow
  • PARTICIPANT B: It’s interesting though, because I’d say that about 10% of the people I follow, I don’t actually know personally
  • PARTICPANT A: Only 10%?! No way, definitely more than 10% of the people I follow I don’t know them personally
  • PARTICIPANT C: Yeah, I’m definitely not friends with the majority of the accounts I follow. I follow so many celebrities
  • PARTICIPANT D: Me too!
  • PARTICIPANT E: I like following cool, famous people who do much more exciting things with their lives than me
  • PARTICIPANT B: I go through phases of who I like to follow, like who’s in fashion at the moment
  • PARTICIPANT C: Yeah, right now I think I’m following every Kardashian!

(everyone in agreement)

  • PARTICPANT A: Victoria’s Secret Models!
  • PARTICIPANT D: The Made in Chelsea cast!
  • PARTICIPANT B: Mm, I’m not too keen on following the Made In Chelsea people because all they do is promote products that they’re sponsored by
  • PARTICIPANT E: Yeah, that’s annoying actually ‘cos it’s not what I want to see on my newsfeed
  • PARTICPANT A: Mm, they do a lot of that
  • PARTICIPANT C: The explore button that Instagram has is a really cool addition because it somehow monitors the things or people that you like following and posts suggestions there for people you might want to also follow
  • PARTICIPANT E: Oh my god I didn’t know that! That’s quite creepy!
  • PARTICPANT A: Yeah, so on my explore button a lot of selfies pop up! (laughter)
  • PARTICIPANT D: On mine, I see a lot of red carpet photos, people showing off their new cars and all those kind of ‘showy-offy’ things to get attention
  • PARTICIPANT B: And of course the products they’re promoting… Does anyone actually ever buy the stuff they promote?
  • PARTICIPANT C: Guilty… I once bought a waist trainer because a celeb I like had one! (laughter)
  • PARTICPANT A: Mm, I actually would not be adverse to getting a waist trainer!
  • PARTICIPANT E: Yeah, I want one!
  • PARTICIPANT C: You can use the one I got – I had fun with it for about two days and then never used it again… It was such an impulse buy literally purely because that celeb had one I wanted one
  • PARTICPANT A: (laughter) Thanks! But yeah, we all do seem to just follow what celebrities do. I aspire to look like them and live the lives they lead, definitely!
  • PARTICIPANT E: Mm, I’d say I’m jealous but I wouldn’t say they’re inspirational in terms of what they’ve achieved – they’re not role models
  • PARTICIPANT D: I mean, I wouldn’t say posting nice photos is role model status worthy. If it’s an award winning actress posting photos, fine, but if its literally just someone famous for being famous on Instagram then I don’t think its legitimate to call them role models
  • PARTICPANT A: If I’m honest, I’d probably say I look at Victoria’s Secret models as role models
  • PARTICIPANT E: No, I disagree with that – what have they actually achieved apart from looking good? Have they achieved great things in life?
  • PARTICIPANT C: Maybe sub-consciously, we are a bit in awe. I don’t think we like to admit it out loud, but when you actually think about it, there’s a reason why we look at them in the obsessive manner we do. Maybe we are giving them that role model status by saying we want to live the lives they lead
  • PARTICIPANT B: Yeah, you’re probably right actually

INTERVIEWER: So, do you think you could go a week without social media, then?

  • PARTICPANT A: Not Instagram, no!
  • PARTICIPANT E: Mm, I feel like I have done that before… And I’m still alive!
  • PARTICIPANT B: Hmm… I probably could, if I really had to, but it wouldn’t be enjoyable. I’d feel really anxious, like I’m missing out on stuff
  • PARTICIPANT D: Yeah, sometimes when I’m abroad and there’s no easily accessible internet, I get really stressed that I don’t know what everyone else is doing and posting. Obviously I want to know what my friends are doing on social media, but I’d also feel stressed if I couldn’t see what celebs or my favourite accounts were posting, even though I don’t actually know them personally
  • PARTICIPANT E: I would say I’d be more anxious about not being able to message my friends but I do know what you mean about not seeing what’s going on in the Instagram world
  • PARTICIPANT C: Mm, you say that but I think that there’s nothing on Instagram the majority of the time that’s particularly surprising. It’s always the same kind of photos and scrolling through your newsfeed just becomes a bit of a habit and you find yourself going through the motion of just scrolling through and browsing photos
  • PARTICIPANT D: Yeah but there’s no denying its addictive. Even if it’s the same old stuff I’d still feel stressed that I’m not able to check it
  • PARTICIPANT B: There’d have to be a big prize at the end for me to not go on Instagram for a week – it definitely wouldn’t be done voluntarily! (laughs)
  • PARTICIPANT C: If other people around me were doing it and I was the only person not allowed on it I’d definitely feel left out. If everyone else was talking about something going on on Instagram, and you weren’t a part of it you’d feel very excluded

INTERVIEWER: That would be an interesting challenge! So when you do post photos on Instagram, do you use any apps to edit your photos?

  • PARTICPANT A: Yes! (laughter and all agreeing)
  • PARTICIPANT B: To colour the photo sure, but not like to physically alter me or make me slimmer.
  • PARTICPANT A: Oh, no, I definitely do use apps to edit photos to make me look better. I have this app called ‘Facetune’ that I use all the time!
  • PARTICIPANT E: Did you pay for that?
  • PARTICPANT A: Yes, I think around £2 something for it. And I personally think it was worth every penny! (laughter) You can use it to whiten your teeth, smooth your face, remove blemishes, make yourself look slimmer… Probably my main reason for buying it is that I don’t like my teeth so in photos I post I like making them look whiter. And also, often in certain photos, my face looks shiny so I like removing the shine before posting a photo
  • PARTICIPANT D: Yeah, I do it too. But it does get quite dangerous because if you take it too far it’s obvious you’ve edited it and you don’t want anyone to know you’ve adjusted the photo at all
  • PARTICIPANT C: Often in photos there will be one thing in a photo that you really won’t like about yourself in it, like a spot on your forehead or something, so if you can just sort out that one thing that bothers you, the photo is fine to post on social media. And because everyone likes to show that they’ve gone to events, if you can make the photo look good, it’s a win-win situation!
  • PARTICIPANT D: Editing apps can sort photos out and make sure they’re ‘postable’ even if they weren’t perfect to start with
  • PARTICIPANT E: People want to show the best side of themselves and the photo is a representation of yourself so why not use these editing apps! It sounds perverse because if you’re editing it then technically its fake and not a true representation, but everyone knows it’s important to translate well on social media and so everyone does it!
  • PARTICIPANT B: We live in a world where everyone wants approval and that truly is gained on social media
  • PARTICIPANT D: Yeah, saying you’re texting a boy, and your friends ask you about him, and you say his name, immediately they’ll look him up on social media and that is where they will cast their first opinion of him. It’s an instant way that they can see
  • PARTICIPANT B: It’s cyber judging! (laughter)
  • PARTICPANT A: If you got no likes on a photo, it would be quite humiliating. I deleted a photo before because it didn’t get enough likes
  • PARTICIPANT B: If I don’t get a certain number of likes in a certain amount of time, no question it gets deleted
  • PARTICIPANT E: How many likes are you looking for?
  • PARTICIPANT B: 70 plus
  • PARTICIPANT E: Really! I never get that many likes
  • PARTICPANT A: I’d be happy with 50 or 60 I guess
  • PARTICIPANT E: I think it depends a lot on your friend group on how many likes you get
  • PARTICPANT A: Younger girls definitely seem to get more because they force all their friends to like their photos! (laughs)
  • PARTICIPANT E: My sister is 15 and none of them are big on Facebook, instead all they do is Instagram so I guess all the focus goes on that. People in years below us at school are more obsessed
  • PARTICIPANT B: So if you don’t get the number of likes you want I think it really affects self-esteem and a lack of approval. A like basically equals approval, a like means I like you and I like this photo
  • PARTICPANT A: There’s also this unwritten code of ‘if you like my photo, I’ll return the favour and like yours’

INTERVIEWER: So, what kind of photo attracts likes?

  • PARTICPANT A: Bikini photos
  • PARTICIPANT E: Well, only if you’re attractive and not fat!
  • PARTICIPANT B: Boobs, long legs, good bodies…
  • PARTICIPANT D: I always like photos of well-presented foods. At the moment breakfast is a huge thing on Instagram! Everyone posts photos of eggs, avocadoes on toast. Or cakes! Everyone likes cakes!
  • PARTICIPANT E: To be honest, sex appeal. Sex sells
  • PARTICIPANT B: Or like a really pretty place! I like scenery shots! A beach or a nice sunset
  • PARTICIPANT D: Basically, just things that make you happy! You wouldn’t post a photo of dirty dishes in the sink or a messy room, what would be the point?
  • PARTICPANT A: I think people post photos on their Instagram for personal and social reasons. It’s a mixture of both taking the photos for the memories but then there are a few situations where you’ll be like, ‘ooh, that would look really great on my Instagram profile!’
  • PARTICIPANT B: Initially, its done with genuine personal intentions, but then if you know it will get a good reception you take a few more to make sure you’ve got the perfect shot for Instagram
  • PARTICIPANT E: Sometimes, before we go out to an event or a night out, we will purposefully take photos purely for the intention of putting them on Instagram. Unintentionally, the photo becomes one for the memory book but I definitely would admit to taking photos just for Instagram!
  • PARTICIPANT C: If you scrolled through my camera roll on my phone, there are clear photos I’ve taken with the purpose of uploading them to Instagram and then just everyday moments I capture to text to my friends or keep for a rainy day but by no means would I ever Instagram it. For example, if my dog did something funny, doesn’t necessarily mean all my followers would find it funny!
  • PARTICPANT A: I think I purposefully take photos for Instagram when I realise I haven’t done an Instagram post in ages and want to remind people I’m still relevant!
  • PARTICIPANT C: We definitely take photos more for Instagram, more than we don’t. I remember, before my friend’s birthday, if we’re all honest, we were taking the photos thinking, ‘this would be a good Instagram!’. I personally wouldn’t go, ‘oh, this would look great in my camera roll’, sorry but you wouldn’t!
  • PARTICIPANT E: Mm, I suppose, but I definitely have more photos on my camera roll than I have uploaded on Instagram!
  • PARTICIPANT C: Yeah, same, but my point is that we take special shots purely for Instagram because we want to upload the highlights and best bits of our lives. We want our Instagram to show that we’re fun, good looking, attend the right events… So, for a certain party, I’ll make sure I get a good shot to post on Instagram, so I can basically say ‘I was there!’ (‘mm’s in agreement)
  • PARTICIPANT D: It’s superficial, but definitely true. It’s the same on snapchat, people only do it to show that they’re out being social and have friends to have fun with. It’s purely to show off to others
  • PARTICIPANT E: Yeah, I always Instagram on holidays because it’s a time in your life where you’re actually doing something interesting and worth instagramming
  • PARTICIPANT B: I think a photo is worth instagramming when it’s pretty, cool or interesting for other people to look at
  • PARTICIPANT D: Yeah, more often than not, the place you’re on holiday is a beautiful destination that’s pleasing to the eye and in turn that translates to beautiful photos on your profile
  • PARTICPANT A: Yeah, beach shots make my profile look really pretty
  • PARTICIPANT D: I think it’s important for my Instagram to look a certain way and be appealing to others
  • PARTICIPANT C: Everyone else does it so it would be weird if you didn’t
  • PARTICIPANT E: So do you think of your profile as a whole and not just that single photo you post?
  • PARTICIPANT D: Yeah definitely, I like my profile to follow a theme. When you go onto mine, it’s a clear ‘oh, she goes to beautiful beaches and eats beautiful meals’
  • PARTICIPANT B: Yeah, I’ll be like, ‘ooh, my profile definitely needs some more scenic shots on there’
  • PARTICIPANT E: Oh, I don’t do that. I didn’t realise you guys thought so much about it!
  • PARTICPANT A: Hmm, you say you guys feel you need scenic shots and things that look pretty but I think faces get more likes!
  • PARTICIPANT C: I have a specific album in my camera roll on my phone which is for Instagram, so I can see what it looks like when it comes up on your Instagram and if it goes well with your feed
  • PARTICPANT A: That’s so vain!
  • PARTICIPANT C: It’s important!
  • PARTICIPANT D: Wait, what do you do? That’s actually quite a good idea!
  • PARTICIPANT C: So, on my photos on my phone, I’ve made an album called Instagram, and I can insert photos into that album and see what it would potentially look like on my Instagram profile before I post it on to Instagram
  • PARTICIPANT B: That’s really clever!
  • PARTICIPANT C: Yep, the things I do for a good Instagram! I’m also a fan of uploading photos of my meals at a restaurant. I know people find it funny when people take photos of their meals, but they look so good on my profile!
  • PARTICPANT A: Yeah, food in a restaurant looks so nice! And it’s also a way of saying ‘hey, I’m at a restaurant with friends!’
  • PARTICIPANT D: Yeah, the presentation is always way better than I can do! And then you can tag the restaurant and it’s kind of like a way of proving you went there
  • PARTICIPANT C: It gives people the impression that I have a fun social life!

INTERVIEWER: Thank you, this is all great! Next question, why do you think people put hashtags on their photo captions?

  • PARTICIPANT B: To get more likes, obviously!
  • PARTICIPANT E: Because it’s funny! You can show a sense of humour through your choice of hashtags
  • PARTICIPANT D: Hashtags mean that people can search a specific hashtag and your picture will come up. So recently there was the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, and they all used the same hashtags on their photos which meant they were all easy to find when you were on the explore section of Instagram – they’re basically links to other similar posts
  • PARTICPANT A: Hmm, I don’t think hashtags are as popular now as they used to be
  • PARTICIPANT C: When we first got Instagram I think they were, but not so much now. It does make some captions funny if you do funny hashtags but I don’t think they’re essential to a post anymore
  • PARTICPANT A: I think we just did hashtags at the beginning because everyone else did it! And then just gradually it’s become uncool to do a caption with purely hashtags
  • PARTICIPANT E: People do it if they’re trying to promote something, like fitness stuff or something, they’ll include loads of hashtags related to it on their post
  • PARTICIPANT D: Oh yeah, fashion bloggers do the ‘outfit of the day’ hashtag
  • PARTICIPANT B: It definitely depends on your age and your reason for using Instagram – I think mums use it just because they think it’s cool but they haven’t caught up with the fact that we don’t anymore.
  • PARTICIPANT D: We’re in a generation where we’re so conscious of what people think and the captions play a large part in that, not just the photo. So I think that’s why elder generations like our mums who use it might use the hashtags and we don’t
  • PARTICIPANT C: When I first started using Instagram I definitely didn’t get many likes on photos, if I got double figures that was amazing! So doing hashtags really helped get likes at the beginning, but now Instagram is just so much more popular and we’re in a generation where everyone likes everyone else’s photos we don’t need those hashtags to get the likes
  • PARTICIPANT E: Instagram is a bigger thing now than when we first got it

INTERVIEWER: Do you think that your online self is a true representation of your ‘real world self’?

  • PARTICPANT A: It’s a bit nicer – it’s the nicest version of me! (laughs)
  • PARTICIPANT D: Obviously it is me, but it’s the best parts. We pick out the best bits from our lives to post on Instagram so I’d say it is me, but it’s the highlights!
  • PARTICIPANT E: I mean it’s real, but I’m not going to show the world a photo of me crying over an essay so there are bits I’ll omit
  • PARTICIPANT C: I remember reading an article about a fitness blogger who had had enough of the fakeness of social media and got rid of all her captions below her photos and wrote what actually happened when taking those photos. So instead of saying ‘great day on the beach’, she might have replaced it with ‘I’m breathing in so much here, I haven’t eaten all day just to get this good shot’ or ‘I spent two hours putting make up on just for this photo and then I didn’t actually go out anywhere’
  • PARTICPANT A: Oh wow that’s so truthful!
  • PARTICIPANT E: Yeah I remember that went viral
  • PARTICIPANT D: Yeah, stories like that do make it very real that the images we see on Instagram have kind of subconsciously altered our perceptions of the ideal body. It’s so unrealistic! Look at Victoria’s Secret Models legs, they’re not human! You’re either born with it or you’re not and for the majority of us we’re not and so no matter how much exercise you do and how little you eat, that won’t turn you into a Victoria’s Secret Model
  • PARTICPANT A: Yeah but they are all anorexic as well
  • PARTICIPANT E: Look at Marilyn Monroe, the super famous sex symbol in the 50s. She definitely wasn’t anorexic!
  • PARTICIPANT C: I think the Kardashians have changed our perceptions of the ideal body image in the past few years. Whilst we went through this phase of the ‘size 0’ ideal body, they’ve brought back curves! They’re going against the whole ‘skinny is winning’ thing
  • PARTICPANT A: But then that’s not realistic either! None of them have got those bodies naturally – they have Botox, plastic surgery, injections galore!
  • PARTICIPANT D: I’d say right now the most fashionable body to have is ‘strong not skinny’ and I think Instagram has contributed to that hugely!
  • PARTICIPANT E: Yeah, people use the hashtag ‘strong not skinny’ all the time now and its popularity is undeniable
  • PARTICIPANT C: It is scary though because a photo can look so different to what these ‘ideal bodies’ look like in real life. It’s all about the angles and knowing how to work the camera
  • PARTICIPANT D: Yeah true, they’re all breathing in and tensing!
  • PARTICPANT A: Yeah, it’s so rare that someone will post an honest photo. How often do you see tummy rolls!
  • PARTICIPANT B: It’s a false presentation. My sister, for example, is so conscious of what is ‘her angle’. She literally refuses to take a photo on one side because it’s ‘not her best side’
  • PARTICIPANT D: Yeah, I won’t lie, when I’m in photos I definitely have a preference as to where I stand and what parts of me I have on show

INTERVIEWER: How many followers do you all have? And what does it mean to have followers?

  • PARTICIPANT B: Um, 400 and something
  • PARTICIPANT C: 1179!
  • PARTICPANT A: What?!
  • PARTICIPANT D: Wow, lucky girl!
  • PARTICIPANT B: Yeah, your life is way interesting than mine to be fair
  • PARTICIPANT C: I’ve got loads of followers, yeah, but so does everyone in my year at school. I have one friend who’s got 3000 and something followers! It’s just a bigger culture in some schools to be super active on Instagram and follow loads of people and have them follow you back
  • PARTICIPANT D: Yeah true, who you follow plays a part in who follows you back
  • PARTICIPANT B: For me, I only follow people I actually know and I have a private account which makes it difficult for people to follow me I guess
  • PARTICIPANT C: Yeah, that’s where we’re different, I definitely just accept anyone because why not!
  • PARTICIPANT B: would you follow them back then?
  • PARTICIPANT C: I’d follow them back if I’d heard of them vaguely or they were a friend of a friend or something like that
  • PARTICIPANT D: Having more followers means more likes on a photo and at the end of the day, that’s what we all want. More likes on a photo equals a better self-esteem
  • PARTICPANT A: It’s also just more satisfying because you know you’re getting approval. It’s lame when I say it out loud but I can’t deny it
  • PARTICIPANT B: Definitely what you post and choose to include in your feed influences who follows you

INTERVIEWER: So, would you be happy to have your parents on Instagram? If no, why not?

  • PARTICPANT A: My mum follows me but she doesn’t use it that often
  • PARTICIPANT B: My parents don’t have social media accounts
  • PARTICIPANT C: Same, my parents don’t have it and I’m glad they don’t!
  • PARTICIPANT D: Both my parents have it and my siblings and I guess, sometimes it’s embarrassing if they see some of my posts or even worse if my mum comments on one of my posts publicly
  • PARTICIPANT C: I don’t want to have to think about whether my parents would approve of the photo I’m about to post on Instagram
  • PARTICIPANT D: Mm, but if you would feel embarrassed your parents seeing it, then doesn’t that mean you probably shouldn’t?!
  • PARTICIPANT C: It’s just they don’t really understand, we’re a dramatically different generation to our parents
  • PARTICIPANT E: Society’s just progressed and the fact that it is more acceptable now, in a loose term, for girls to wear less clothing out than perhaps our parents did and Instagram is just a factor of this new generation
  • PARTICIPANT C: Sometimes, I think about what I wear and compare it to what some of the famous Instagram girls wear, like Kylie Jenner and the Kardashians, and I’m nowhere near as bad in comparison! I would never get away with the stuff they wear
  • PARTICIPANT B: Also, they live in LA…
  • PARTICPANT A: Oh my god yeah, if people think we’re bad with social media and Instagram, go to America!

INTERVIEWER: Do you think you will still be using Instagram in five years? I.e. is its popularity dependent on as long as everyone else is using it?

  • PARTICIPANT D: Yep
  • PARTICIPANT C: Mm, yeah
  • PARTICIPANT E: Five years maybe, not forever! ‘Cos if you think about it, when we were our younger siblings age, around 14, our thing then was Facebook, but for them it’s Instagram. So wont it constantly be progressing and evolving?
  • PARTICPANT A: Hmm, I don’t know. Social media has quite a small time span and I think that is to do with us having short attention spans and mindlessly flicking past photos! Twitter, for example, is already decreasing in popularity and going downhill! Not saying it’s going to go extinct, but it’s not the form of social media that the younger generations are using and after all, we’re the ones that will be around for longer
  • PARTICIPANT C: There might be a new app!
  • PARTICPANT A: But there will always be something…
  • PARTICIPANT B: Living in this world where we constantly feel that we have something to prove in order to get approval, I truly believe that yeah, maybe it will be Instagram, but if not it will be something else that does a similar thing
  • PARTICIPANT D: Surely once we all grow up and get married and have kids we wont be seeking the same kind of validation?
  • PARTICPANT A: I don’t know, I think we could be the generation that, even when you’re in the office, might still think about Instagram! And social media popularity in general
  • PARTICIPANT B: It will depend on what your career and life is like but also on what social media outlets are around
  • PARTICIPANT E: Yeah, surely there will always be something?
  • PARTICIPANT D: Mm, I think you’re right. At the moment, this is just clearly the ‘thing to do’ and we all feel pressure to keep our profiles updated. Like when I came back this term, and realised I hadn’t Instagrammed in ages I felt a sudden urge to upload something!
  • PARTICIPANT B: Yeah, it’s like a way of saying ‘hey guys, don’t forget about me!’
  • PARTICPANT A: Haha yeah, it’s showing that you’re still alive and kicking!
  • PARTICIPANT E: I wouldn’t say I plan it like clockwork and mark on the calendar when posts need to be done, but yeah you do feel this weird pressure to every now and again reassert your presence on Instagram and make it known you’re there
  • PARTICIPANT B: Yeah, or if you do too many you feel a bit arrogant
  • PARTICPANT A: Yeah, there’s a fine balance!
  • PARTICIPANT C: You don’t want people to think you’re boring, but you also don’t want people to think you’re showing off. You want to keep to the right amount, I feel like if you start posting too many photos it might dilute the amount of likes you get!
  • PARTICIPANT E: I think on Facebook is a bit different because that’s how you stay in contact with people. I don’t feel as much of a need to post photos on there
  • PARTICIPANT D: Yeah, Facebook is good for staying in touch with people whilst Instagram is more of a way to show people
  • PARTICIPANT E: It’s more stressful posting photos on Instagram than it is on Facebook, for example
  • PARTICPANT A: Yeah, I definitely put more effort into my Instagram photos
  • PARTICIPANT D: Yeah, and ‘cos you’re feeling pressure to get likes! Everyone’s looking at and analysing this one photo on Instagram whereas on Facebook people might upload an entire album of photos so there’s not as much focus on each individual photo
  • PARTICIPANT E: Yeah, an album’s way more laid back
  • PARTICPANT A: I don’t care so much about likes on Facebook as I do on Instagram. I mean it’s nice to get likes on Facebook, but on Instagram there’s higher expectations in regards to the number of likes you get
  • PARTICIPANT C: If I post one photo to Facebook, it will get ten times the amount of likes as opposed to if I uploaded an album. It’s because no one can be bothered to scroll through a whole album! It’s this whole first impressions are what counts thing – one photo gives people a snapshot and they don’t have to waste too much time deciding whether they like it or not and whether they then will like it or not because it’s just one thing right there
  • PARTICIPANT D: Yeah, I upload my favourite photo from a trip onto Instagram and then I’ll put the rest into an album on Facebook
  • PARTICIPANT E: Yeah, also I wont ever really upload photos onto Instagram of other people, whereas on Facebook I’ll happily upload group shots without me. Instagram is more ‘me’
  • PARTICIPANT C: Yeah, Instagram is more about you and its more selfish
  • PARTICIPANT E: Because it’s your profile!
  • PARTICIPANT B: God, we’re vain…

 (laughing)

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