Instagram announced yesterday the imminent roll-out of user profile pages, akin to those of their corporate owner, Facebook. Banner Ad Confidential fully endorses this move and here’s why.
I’ve been on Instagram for a couple of years now, but I am not an especially active user.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy Instagram’s capability to make brilliant digital images look as if they’ve spent a decade in a shoe box under my bed.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy the chronicled lives of my younger, hipper friends, what with their incessant traveling, concert-going and late-night carousing.
It’s not even that I think “Why on earth do I need another social media feed to attend to when I’ve already got Facebook, Twitter, Path, Pinterest, etc.?”
It’s that I have no freakin’ idea who most of my Instagram friends are. And the problem starts with Facebook.
Most (all) of my Instagram connections came from my 1600+ Facebook friends. But I really only have a slight idea of who the majority of them are. 43 years of high school, college, business school, colleagues, clients, and pretty soon you’re looking at a social graph stretched thin.
But at least on Facebook I can go from an unrecognizable newsfeed item to a user’s profile for a quick “who the hell is this person?” gut-check before I confirm, “Oh yes, she is the younger sister of a guy with whom I played one season of grade-school football. Strong social connection there.”
Things have not been so clear on Instagram, which as a company chose to go with the quirky user-naming conventions that made instant messaging and Hotmail such dominant technologies for five or six years in the late ’90s. Case in point, my Yahoo! username is “pollinger99.” Why? Because 1999 is gonna last forever, man!
To date, the profiles on Instagram’s mobile app have been little help. Many (including me) neglect to list their real names. So users are left to intuit others’ identities from their photo collections, which yield broad clues like, “this is a person who tends to take pictures when they drink.”
Well that narrows it down.
One could argue that Twitter handles aren’t necessarily reflective of a user’s name or outer identity either, but Twitter is a different proposition: pundits pun their dits, and others “listen.” There is no assumed or necessary social connection.
But photo appreciation is predicated on at least some degree of social context, the lack of which reduces the Instagram experience to that of perusing a catalog. I can truly only appreciate Instagram when I recognize my friend’s real identity, e.g. the identity of my “friend(s),” SuicideGirls.
I want to enjoy Instagram more, and hope that the new profiles will be a meaningful step in that direction. Until then, here are some notes to my current friends. Please identify yourselves!
- rje7: Great picture of Cat Power at The Crystal Ballroom. Three thoughts here: 1. you are so hip it kills me. 2. try to get closer to the stage next time because all I can see here is the back of other people’s heads, 3.who the fuck are you?
- birdgirl75: your sepia photos of gulls flying over Santa Monica Pier are great. And your pics of sunset over Malibu – really beautiful use of the Toaster filter to offset the haze. Also, what is your name and how do I know you? (the fact that your photo was liked by hntrsb, does not help me here).
- semones: great Halloween pics from Bourbon Street. Your farmer’s daughter dress+pig tails outfit is meaningfully provocative but not so slutty as to be inappropriate (then again, it is Halloween on Bourbon Street, so let’s be honest – you don’t-not look like street-walker). Or wait, maybe you’re the pirate…or the Gummo-looking rabbit. I have no idea because I don’t know your identity or even your gender. Am I looking at pictures from a dude or a non-dude?
- ilovehockey20: Really, there are 19 other people out there with this completely unimaginative screen name? Come on, ilovehockey20, you can do better than that. Next time, try iamauniquehumanbeing or theresnoonelseouttherelikeme or mymomtoldmeimspecial. In the mean time, please share with me your true identity and what part of Toronto you’re from.
- Hashem: Excellent pictures of Mexican skull bongs. Oh I know they’re supposed to be cute cranial sculptures celebrating El Dia De Los Muertos, but dude, I went to college and I know a skull bong when I see one. Plus, your name includes “hash,” so, you know… Anyway, what’s your real name, hippy?
- jamkant: In the words of my mother, “not with that attitude you kant.” How about we turn that “JamKant” into “JamKan,” huh? Or perhaps I’ve totally misinterpreted your very subtle statement about German philosophy. I’m confused. Either way, wie heißt du?