Since its launch in October 2010. Instagram has grown to be one of the most used social media platforms in the world. With over 1 billion users registered, the platform has become a hub for all people to share or upload videos and pictures. Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger joined hands in the Silicon Valley, the “it” place for all hopeful startups, and launched the app. Within just two months, the app had about 1 million users registered – really showcasing the momentum the company was experiencing. And part of what contributed to the momentum might have been the significant increase of smartphone use as the iPhone’s was first launch was about 2 years prior to Instagram’s launch. By April 2012, Facebook made a grand business move and purchased Instagram for $1 billion.
Now, with over a billion registered users, the popular app has many regulations and policies to protect the users and the company. On Instagram’s Help Center page, the community guidelines page is right at the top of the page. What is interesting is that on top of Community Guidelines page, there is a short update on how the company will regulate users behavior on the app in the midst of COVID-19. It states, “As people around the world confront this unprecedented public health emergency, we want to make sure that our Community Guidelines protect people from harmful content and new types of abuse related to COVID-19” (Instagram Help Center). With this update, the company is, in a way, improving their brand image as they are showing empathy for their users who might going through a difficult time currently. And I think this affects the user community in a way where the app can also be a safe space for the users – not another mentally and emotionally draining burden.
The Community Guidelines have 7 main points (taken directly from Instagram Help Center page)
- Share only photo/videos that you’ve taken or have the right to share
- Post photos and videos that are appropriate for a diverse audience
- Foster meaningful and genuine interactions
- Follow the law
- Respect other members of the Instagram community
- Maintain our supportive environment by not glorifying self-injury
- Be thoughtful when posting newsworthy events
The one guideline points that I thought stood out to me was the point about not glorifying self-injury. Mental health is definitely a controversial topic, especially in relations to social media like Instagram. Time reported that Instagram is “associated with high levels of anxiety, depression, bullying, and the fear of missing out” (Time.com). Furthermore, Instagram’s Help Center has a separate tab solely about Eating Disorders. And on the Eating Disorder page, there is a list of Eating Disorder signs, list of Dos and Don’ts that Instagram suggests when using the app, and a list of resources that people who might struggle with the disorder can contact. With this, it is evident to see that the way Instagram regulates its content is meant to be beneficial to the users. It is clear that Instagram understands that social media can be a toxic gateway for a user’s mental and emotional health. However, Instagram cannot necessarily have full control over one’s mental and emotional health and the app can nonetheless be malevolent to the users. But, the community guidelines are established to some alleviate potential mental, emotional, and physical harm.
The Community Guidelines also has a list of actions users can take to “keep the community strong”: users can have private accounts, users can report other users, users can unfollow/block other users, and users can file a copyright or trademark report. And because Instagram is such big and public platform, the app can be susceptible to having users post nudity or information that would lead people to partake in illegal activity. Instagram makes it very clear that if users do not follow the community guidelines, it may result to deletion of a post or the overall account or, in severe cases, the company can involve law enforcement as well.
And within the recent years, as influencers has joined as strong forces in the business market, the app gave influencers options to put Paywalls that would charge followers for exclusive content. Vogue Business reported that one way users can get exclusive content is by being added to the “Close Friends” story feature. Through another site, Patreon, influencers are gathering followers to pay for the exclusive content. For influencers and for partnered brands, this can be beneficial because it is another stream of revenue. However, the downside to this paywall approach is that it may not be sustainable given that users can easily screenshot the “exclusive” content and share it to more public accounts where other non-paying Patreons can get access to the content.
With so many users on the app, Instagram is definitely in a position to have regulation and maintenance in order for users to be protected.
Blystone, D. (2020, August 29). The Story of Instagram: The Rise of the # 1 Photo-Sharing Application. Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/102615/story-instagram-rise-1-photo0sharing-app.asp.
Chitrakorn, K., & McDowell, M. (2020, February 24). Influencers are putting up paywalls. What does that mean for brands? https://www.voguebusiness.com/companies/influencer-paywall-what-it-means-for-fashion-brands.
Instagram Help Center. About Eating Disorders | Instagram Help Center. https://help.instagram.com/252214974954612/?helpref=hc_fnav.
Instagram Help Center. Community Guidelines | Instagram Help Center. https://help.instagram.com/477434105621119/?helpref=hc_fnav.
MacMillan, A. (2017, May 25). Why Instagram Is the Worst Social Media for Mental Health. Time. https://time.com/4793331/instagram-social-media-mental-health/.
Wikimedia Foundation. (2020, October 28). Instagram. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instagram.