How the Nature of Popularity Was Changed by Social Media

There aren’t many aspects of the human experience that haven’t been affected by the mass proliferation of social media over the past decade. From our way we interact with our friends to the way we find our booty calls, age-old rituals are squeezed through a digital prism and come out on the other side looking markedly different than before.

Our lives are so changed by its all-consuming omnipresence that writing about all the ways that social media has reconfigured the world has become a steady stream of income for internet commentators such as myself.

In a recent installment of New York Magazine’s “popular” column – a regular series investigating “the pain and joys of fitting in” – the author assessed the ways that social media has changed the nature of popularity and came to the conclusion that it has made it predictable, boring and more of a job than an enviable social privilege.

This makes sense: with so much money to be made from social media, and many of the methods to grow your following mapped out in widely-available books and online guides, nurturing your social media presence has a professional incentive that often fosters a professional approach. But what doesn’t get mentioned as much is how social media has changed the fundamental nature of popularity by presenting it through a nerd’s-eye-view.

Popularity Is Now Quantifiable

Popularity, as NY Mag points out, used to have an intangible, unquantifiable quality to it. On social media, however, it’s the opposite: easily measured in followers, likes, retweets and all those other metrics that marketers use to calculate engagement. They can be tallied up, assessed and ranked.

It’s cold and logical, like mathematics, because it’s pretty much a digital simulation of human interaction by tech geeks. Social media is how socially-awkward Silicon Valley programmers imagine that socializing looks like in the real world. The accumulation of popularity on social media works much like a video game: with the correct input – a pithy tweet, a sexy Instagram photo, a cat video – you’re rewarded with the positive reinforcement of engagement, and the more engagement you get the more “popular” you are.

It’s all as binary as a computer’s code and doesn’t take into account the many intangible X-factors that define IRL, flesh-and-blood popularity: charisma, social intelligence, learned behaviors, peer approval, genetics and countless other variables. Not that this is much of a surprise: after all, I doubt that Mark Zuckerberg got many nominations for prom king, and if The Social Network is anything to go by, he seems to have less friends than I have Snapchat followers (I don’t have Snapchat).

Popularity on social media is as mechanical as seduction in “Pick Up Artistry” circles, because it’s the result of bookish minds analyzing human behaviors and attempting to break them down into hyper-rational formulae.

This is part of the reason why popularity on social media doesn’t usually translate to popularity into the real world. Sure, some people may be popular on social media precisely because they’re popular IRL or have a huge media presence elsewhere, like, say, Selena Gomez or Kylie Jenner, but digital popularity is so unlike its physical counterpart that it rarely carries over.

Not only that, but our social media profiles are usually false personas; projections of the people that we would like to be rather than reflections of who we really are. You might be able create a really sassy avatar of yourself on Twitter, but that’s because you have the mental space and time to invest a half hour into a single snappy tweet. In the real work you have to be quick-witted and confident; you need a mastery of timing and tone to pull of the same feat.

To stick with the current example, Twitter is medium dominated by journalists. In my professional life I’ve had the opportunity to meet numerous writers that have tens of thousands of followers and have locked down that wry tone that works so well in tweets, and I’ve always been astounded how many of them mumble through sentences and struggle to maintain eye contact when they’re forced to interact with an actual human being.

At its worst, social media is a tool for people to compensate for all the personal or physical qualities that they lack, and Instagram is another good example of this. The internet is full of guides on how to make yourself look more attractive than you actually are, because hot people quite obviously get more follows on a platform that focuses purely on aesthetics. As most of us are aware, though, this doesn’t always carry over to real life. What’s that old saying? “Nobody looks like Victoria’s Secret models, not even Victoria’s Secret models”?

Social Media Popularity Is Really About Sales

In this sense, popularity on social media is, in fact, the polar opposite of popularity in reality: while real-world adoration is something to be craved because it opens doors to parties, sex, career advancement, social capital and all sorts of pleasures, on social media it becomes a cage, trapping us online because the things that make us likable in the digital realm sometimes don’t exist beyond it.

But that’s the thing: popularity on social media and popularity in the real world shouldn’t be discussed on the same terms, because social media ultimately wasn’t made to foster popularity or even sociability, but salability.

Every social media platform is, in essence, a marketing tool. Initially it offers fun incentives to reel in users, and slowly it begins to monetize that audience by acting as an advertising space that links brands to masses of potential consumers.

Just look at Twitter’s short, succinct format: tweets are the perfect vessel for ad copy. Instagram allows us to visually distort our image and adopt the qualities of a billboard. This is intentional: it blurs the divide between advertising and content so that the former is more readily accepted by consumers. We might download ad-blockers or go to the toilet during TV commercial breaks, but on social media we willingly and enthusiastically open ourselves to advertising by following Instagram influencers and, ultimately, by marketing ourselves.

To paraphrase former British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher: “marketing is the method; the object is to change the heart and soul.”  By making the personal and the commercial indistinguishable from one another, social media has succeeded in doing exactly that.

Instagram Is Terrible for Your Mental Health, Studies Find

It’s hardly news that social media exacerbates mental health problems and generally makes everyone feel a little worse about themselves, but apparently some are worse than others.

A new study conducted by the Young Health Movement and the Royal Society for Public Health surveyed 1,500 14 to 24-year-olds about the effects five social media platforms have on their mental wellbeing.

Instagram was found to be the worst platform, with Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter also having an negative effect. Participants in the research said that social media was worsening bullying, body image anxiety, and feelings of depression and loneliness.

For its part, Instagram has recently addressed mental health problems in its community with its “HereForYou” campaign to highlight and support people sharing mental health stories on the app.

YouTube was the only social network that was actually a positive presence in teen’s lives. Though the video site negatively affect young people’s sleep, something that I think we can all understand, participants said that it lessened feelings of loneliness and depression, offered emotional support and gave them an understanding of other people’s experiences.

Instagram Could Make Teens Less (Or Is It More?) Depressed

A new study brings some welcome news for parents who are worried about their kids incessantly thumbing through glossy, filtered photos of their friends’ lives on Instagram. It turns out that adolescents’ use of Instagram is associated with a sense of greater closeness to their friends, which in turn lowers their likelihood of depression. But the same study gives parents something to worry about: It found that Instagram use is also linked to depressed mood.

“This study offers practitioners greater insight into the outcomes of adolescents’ Instagram use,” said author Eline Frison from the University of Leuven in Belgium. “More specifically, using Instagram can be both beneficial and harmful for adolescents’ well-being. If using Instagram stimulates adolescents’ closeness to friends, it is beneficial in the long run, but if Instagram is not capable of that stimulation, it is harmful in the long run.”

The study, which is as-yet unpublished and will be presented next month at the Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, surveyed 1,840 adolescents twice with six months in between about their use of Instagram. Researchers found that adolescents who used Instagram during the first survey were more likely to be depressed during the second survey. But here’s where things get more complicated: Adolescents who used Instagram during the first survey were also more likely to report closeness to their friends during the second survey and that, in turn, was negatively associated with depressed mood.

These findings add to a bevy of seemingly contradictory research about social media — some studies suggest it can make people feel more isolated, while others say it can help people feel more connected.

So, how can Instagram be associated with both lower and higher likelihood of depression? Well, researchers did not distinguish between types of Instagram use — for example, whether it was merely passive (meaning, an adolescent just browses their friends’ feeds) or active (meaning, they post comments on their friends’ photos). Past research has shown that different kinds of social media use can have different mental health outcomes — in general, active social media use is shown to have more positive impacts than passive use. As Frison told Vocativ in an email, “It is therefore possible that active Instagram use caused the positive outcomes … whereas passive Instagram caused the negative outcomes.” More research is needed, though, to determine exactly what is going on here.

In the meantime, young people and their parents can take heart that Instagram can, as with anything, be good or bad for you — it’s likely all in how you use it.

This Alarming Infographic Shows How Much Time We Spend on Social Media

If you’re worried that you might be spending too much time procrastinating on Instagram and Facebook rather than actually doing anything productive, then fear not, for it appears you’re not alone. New statistics on the average person’s social media consumption habits have emerged courtesy of Mediakix, and the results make for some grim reading.

According to the article, global social media marketing spending is set to hit $36 billion this year, with $12.5 billion of that being spent in the U.S and Canada. Two years ago, it’s estimated that people spent more time on mobile apps than they did watching television, and, terrifyingly, the advent of functions such as Facebook Video and Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, and Snapchat Spectacles is only set to increase that growth further.

The infographic below estimates the average person spends five years and four months on socials in a lifetime. Yes, five years. That’s longer than the wait between Frank Ocean albums. Unsurprisingly, Facebook remains the most popular platform, followed by YouTube. Snapchat is in third, but for how much longer given the rise of Instagram stories?

So, what could you be doing instead of perusing the feed of some stranger who you’ve never — and probably will never — meet? You could fly to the moon and back for starters. Scroll below to find out more.

As we said, grim. How much time do you reckon you spend on the above channels? Let us know in the comments.

Instagram Users Can Now Upload Up to 10 Photos, Videos at Once

Instagram users will now be able to upload up to 10 photos and videos per post. Followers can view the stories by swiping through a carousel of images. In a press release, the company explained that the new features will allow for more complex stories and an easier user experience: “You no longer have to choose the single best photo or video from an experience you want to remember,” the company said. “Now, you can combine up to 10 photos and videos in one post and swipe through to see them all.” This also solves the common Instagram problem of users uploading many separate posts, and clogging up your Instagram feed. We all know that one person who just can’t stop posting photo after photo of their dog/baby/favorite new coffee shop.

The ability to upload multiple images and videos into one single post is actually not that new to Instagram. In fact, Instagram has had the feature for years, but it was only available to their advertisers. The company hinted at bringing the carousel feature to regular users, and today they’ve finally made the feature available to everyone. The Verge explains how to use it:

To create a carousel, you tap a new icon that mimics a photo stack. From there, you select the photos and videos you want to include. To change the order of the posts, you tap, hold, and drag. You can edit your photos and videos individually or as a group, but you only get one caption and location tag for your post. (Likes and comments are all grouped under the complete post, too.)

You can view Instagram’s Instagram post on the subject below, and experience the new feature for yourself. It’s pretty neat—anything that makes the social media experience slightly less annoying is okay with us.

Royal Caribbean Will Pay You to Quit Your Job, Travel The World and Take Instagrams

Have you ever spent the day scouring your city for that perfect shot, when the sky is a dreamy pink and the setting sun bounces off the glowing skyscrapers in just the right way? Then, after a days worth of work and only a few dozen likes to show for it, you think to yourself “Damn. If only had gotten paid for that.” If so, then put down your smartphone, and listen up.​

Royal Caribbean is looking to hire a master Instagrammer for a paid summer “intern-ship,” for which you’ll be required to snap and post eye-popping shots from a three-month trip around the world. Okay, now that you’ve regained consciousness, here’s how it works:

If you’re over 21 and have “extensive knowledge of all 23 filters,” you can earn £3,000 (almost $3,700) as an amateur photographer on three cruise ships that’ll take you all over the globe—for free. All you have to do is position yourself as a “hybrid between a photographer, documentary maker and a storyteller” to land the summer job of your dreams.

If the panel of travel experts happens to choose you, you’ll be tasked with posting three photos on Instagram each day; one of a breathtaking view, one of an awesome person found on board, and one of a mind-blowing experience. If that sounds like something you’d be into, just post your most incredible travel photos from now until January 31 and include @RoyalCaribbeanUK and #ExtraordinaryExplorer in the caption. 

Just make sure you send us a postcard. 

Instagram Releases New Live Video Feature for U.S. Users

2016 has marked a comprehensive year of innovation for social media giant Instagram, and now in its final push for the year, Instagram has finally announced that its new live-streaming service has begun rolling out today in the U.S.

In manner similar to Snapchat, the new feature offers a chance for a gleam into your favorite Instagrammar’s day-to-day life. Live broadcasts are similar in nature to those you’re already familiar with seeing on Facebook; you will be able to add express your fandom with “hearts” as you watch. If you’re living in the U.S., the feature should be available to you today, while other countries will gain access over the coming weeks.

Earlier this year, Instagram introduced disappearing photos and videos in a shameless attempt to integrate some of Snapchat’s best features into their system.

How do you think this will change the way people share on the social media platform? Let us know in the comments below.

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These Are the Most Instagrammed Places and Cities of 2016

Instagram currently has 500 million active users, making it one of the most popular social media platforms out there today. With profiles full of pictures of food and travel, it’s no wonder users love to share their travel journeys. Thanks to a study by CNN, turns out the most geo-tagged city of 2016 is New York City, which is home to three of the world’s top 10 most Instagrammed locations. Take a look below at the most Instagrammed places followed along with the most geotagged cities:

Top 10 Instagrammed Locations of 2016

10. Vystavka Dostizheniy Narodnogo Khozyaystva (Moscow, Russia)
9. Brooklyn Bridge (New York City, New York)
8. Santa Monice Pier (Santa Monica, California)
7. Las Vegas Strip (Las Vegas, Nevada)
6. Louvre Museum (Paris, France)
5. Eiffel Tower (Paris, France)
4. Times Square (New York City, New York)
3. Central Park (New York City, New York)
2. Universal Studios Theme Parks (Global)
1. Disney Theme Parks (Global)

The Top 10 Geotagged Cities of 2016

10. Jakarta, Indonesia
9. Istanbul, Turkey
8. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
7. Saint Petersburg, Russia
6. Los Angeles, California
5. Paris, France
4. São Paulo, Brazil
3. Moscow, Russia
2. London, United Kingdom
1. New York, New York

Instagram Is Introducing Shoppable Tags

In an attempt to make its ads a little bit more useful, Instagram is adding new shoppable tags to its arsenal. Soon, you’ll notice that the ads in your feed — say, from Jack Threads, for instance — actually have tags for the products the depict. Click those tags and you’ll immediately get more info on whatever you’re looking at — not to mention a direct link to make a purchase on the web. And, as Engadget points out, the change isn’t intended to give Instagram a cut of purchases made through the tags. Instead, Instagram is hoping it will convince more advertisers to buy in to the social media network.

Take a look at how it works above and look for the change to hit your feed soon: Instagram is currently rolling the feature out to iOS users in the U.S. and eventually planning to bring it to Android as well. Expansion will also include video ads and additional countries in the near future while the ability to save items you’re interested in is also in the works.

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Instagram Introduces Much-Needed New ZOOM Feature

Instagram is back to follow up its previous surprising stories update. This time around you’ll be able to get closer to your followers via its new ZOOM feature. Currently added to its iOS host, users are now able to pinch to zoom on feed’s images and videos on profiles and Instagram’s explore page. If you have the latest software update you can currently use IG’s latest update now.

Check it out for yourself and let us know your thoughts.