About 1 billion people use Instagram each month, that’s 1/8th of the world population. The top four countries other than the United Sates are Brazil, India, Indonesia, and Russia. That’s a huge variety of languages, cultures and perspectives, yet the most followed people on Instagram are celebrities.
The real value of Instagram is seeing the mostly unfiltered lives of people all over the world. I have no idea why someone would want to keep up with some Kardashian, or any other out of touch celebrity. The Instagram algorithm is not much better if you are looking for variety in your life. I’m always unimpressed by the repetition that shows up in that feed, sometimes it’s identical images or images so similar they might as well be the same.
Here’s where photography comes into the story. If you jump to the search function of Instagram and type in a hashtag that you’re interested in then start scrolling. Scroll past the countless selfies and ab shots and let your eye lead the way stopping at any image that looks appealing to your taste. Click and see what else that person photographs. Take a peek at their followers and find a few more gems. Keep digging and see where your eye takes you. Hopefully it takes you far afield to places you never thought to look.
If you’re traveling, the hashtag function for cities and countries is a great way to get a glimpse of what life is like in your destination. Again, scroll through and let your eye filter through the mass of garbage to quickly pick a scene or composition and dig in. Some end up being dead ends but others offer up lots of great people and great images. Maybe even reach out through a comment or two and find out the best place for a coffee or falafel.
I happen to enjoy fly fishing and as it happens fly fishers love to share photos of fishing and tell stories. A few years ago I was planning a trip to the Turks and Caicos, mostly family vacation but some fishing for sure. A quick hashtag scan of #turksandcaicos netted me a handful of local fishing guides happy to provide some basic information and some sweet restaurant recommendations. Reposting a few of the images from their feed spiraled into a few friends sending over some flies and even tipped off a few “secret spots” before I left to try my luck, as well as a few more excellent food recommendations. To this day I still follow those local guides working down in the Caribbean and each time one of their shots crosses my feed I get to relive those few days in the sunshine.
No I don’t think Instagram will replace Google for finding information but it is a fantastic way for a visually oriented person to sift through lots of information and find gold. It’s also a great way to connect with people across oceans that share passions and share the love of photography. Maybe filling our feeds with real people doing real things will connect us all a little better. Certainly it a step up from following the latest drama from Hollywood.