2014, the year of... instagram
Charge it, point it, zoom it, press it, snap it, work it, quick - upload it. 2014 has been a coming of age year for Instagram that has seen it usurp Twitter and break news, fuel movements and cultivate calls for change in a haze of hashtags.
Cutting through the ennui of endless lists, click bait, trolling and cat pictures, there are still powerful insight, commentary and conversation to be discovered and developed on our social accounts. It's all just a scroll away. In addition to applying a subtly hued lens over our everyday realities (thanks to aesthetically pleasing new filters and VSCO Cam), Instagram offers real-time journals of the world we inhabit and, at times, the superficially enhanced world we would like to portray. Whilst still feeding our seemingly insatiable appetite for narcissism, news is now broken on it, aesthetics evolve on it, stars are discovered on it, movements are cultivated on it, friendships are made and lost on it, and previously unsurmountable barriers have melted away because of it. As the sun sets on 2014, Instagram is the larynx for youth's voice. In a year that has seen the app usurp Twitter whilst finding Cara's cast and teasing the world to #freethenipple, below are just a few of the many talking points.
The stats don't lie
"Over the past four years, what began as two friends with a dream has grown into a global community that shares more than 70 million photos and videos each day," Instagram's Chief Executive, Kevin Systrom, revealed in a blog post. The reality may just have surpassed the dream. At the time Facebook snapped up Instagram for one billion dollars in April 2012, it had a healthy thirty million users. However, since it's been under Zuckerberg's forever hungry eyes, it has multiplied. Just nine months after hitting two hundred million users, Instagram recently announced that over three hundred million people use its photo app every month. That's huge. That makes Instagram officially bigger than Twitter (which had 284 million active users). It has proved itself as anything but a fad. No doubt buoyed by reaching this pack-leading landmark, more than 18.9 million users (29 per cent of Instagram's total) disappeared last week amid Instagram Rapture as the service cracked down on a problem that has long plagued it. From the shiniest of stars to daydreaming teens, users watched as spam bots vanished and follower numbers tumbled. Justin Bieber lost 15 per cent of his digital disciples whilst poor Ma$e lost so many (dropping from 1.6m to 272,000) that he apparently quit the service in dismay. However, save your tears/laughs for user @chiragchirag78, who saw over 3.36m drop to just 8. The account was soon closed, surely leaving those eight believers in a state of befuddlement. Today, Instagram is already a more human experience. The bots have been silenced. In better news, i-D's following increased by 150%. If you're not following already, join us.
Like, like, like
According to Instagram themselves, the most liked image during 2014 was Kim Kardashian's wedding post in May that received more than 2.4 million likes. Unsurprisingly, this vast levy of likes makes it the most popular image in the app's history. In Kimye's head, it was supposed to be an Annie Leibovitz image but after the photographer pulled out on the eve of the wedding, in the end it was an Annie Leibovitz-esque image. After the esteemed portrait photographer shared her bad news, Kimye took to Instagram itself and scrolled and liked their way to Connor McDonnell's page. The rising band photographer was duly flown to Florence to shoot their wedding. But after the #worldsmosttalkedaboutcouple sealed their nuptials with a kiss and McDonnell snapped the moment, the resulting image was anything but instant. Kanye West revealed that the couple spent four days editing the photo before it was posted to Instagram, "because the flowers were off-colour and stuff like that." An unconventional start to a honeymoon that just goes to show how seriously Instagram is being taken. If the flowers weren't perfect in reality, at least they could be perfect virtually. "The fact the number one most-liked photo (on Instagram) has a kind of aesthetic, was a win for what the mission is, which is raising the palette," West explained. Hopefully global editors will heed West's words and the days of blurry catwalk images are finally numbered because that palette needs to be raised. The second most liked Instagram post of the year was a selfie posted by Justin Bieber with on-off, on-off again girlfriend Selena Gomez. It received 1.9 million in the three months since it was uploaded. Generation Selfie are keen to crown their King and Queen but nobody can keep up with their teenage tomfoolery. The love didn't stop there. As 2014 was the year we fell in love with Instagram, we fell in love with ourselves and weren't afraid of sharing it, as the most used hashtag was #love.
Power to provoke
Today, #Freethenipple is a soon-to-be released film, an equality movement, and a mission to empower women across the world. For a number of years, periodic shouts of protest have echoed throughout the online world but the Free The Nipple movement experienced a new surge in popularity after Scout Willis, conquered New York topless. She documented her journey on Twitter but her anger was induced by Instagram. "They deleted my account over what they called 'instances of abuse,'" Willis confided in a XO Jane blog post. The instance of abuse related to one sheer top selfie and one of a jacket featuring an image of two close friends topless. Instagram had seen too much. "What began as a challenge to Instagram and its prejudiced community guidelines became an opportunity for dialogue," Willis added. It was continuing the conversation ignited by Petra Collins last year who saw her account deleted following a bikini selfie. Now, there are millions of #bikini pics littered throughout your feeds but Petra's was offensive because the visibility of pubic hair. Everyone from Vogue to the Huffington Post wrote stories about how Insta censored had censored her pubes and the torch paper of new feminist strand had been lit. The echoes of discontent were loudest when Rihanna quit Instagram because of similar censorship. Alas, not even RiRi's areola are approved by the Insta-police. They (temporarily) suspended her account after she posted topless images from a photoshoot she did with Lui. Her outrage saw her perfectly manicured fingers press the delete button in May, So, it was a long summer for fans who missed her awe-inspiring selfie game and frequent replies. Leaping beyond the app's naughty corner, she returned in November, born again as BadGalRiRi.
Following in the footsteps of Nicola Formichetti, who cast his #DieselReboot campaign via Tumblr last year, Instagram established itself as fashion's favourite new international scouting ground for 2014. The energy of Marc by Marc Jabobs' autumn/winter 14 makeover - courtesy of Luella Bartley and Katie Hillier - was carried through to the campaign after Marc Jacobs and mega stylist Katie Grand, decided to run an open casting call powered by Instagram. "It seemed like a great idea to me, as casting through Instagram seemed cool, current, and strong," Marc revealed. April's #castmemarc competition attracted 70,000 entries, with a globe spanning nine selected before being shot by David Sims for one of the most memorable campaigns of the past twelve months. We're awaiting to see the results of the recently ran sequel for MBMJ's spring/summer 15 riotous ravers but you can see the fruits of our foray into Insta-casting by pressing play on the A-Z of Slang. As a true poster girl for the social media generation of models, Instagram was also Cara Delevingne's go-to casting couch for her DKNY collaboration. Using #CaraWantsYou, she called for aspiring models to "post a pic of yourself looking fresh to your Instagram," for a chance to star in the campaign for her DKNYcollaboration. Thanks to Instagram, you're just a selfie away from being a star.
"BALMAIN!!!!!!" Uh huh honey, Kim Kardashian, quickly followed by love-struck Olivier Rousteing, shared the news that Kimye, the #worldsmosttalkedaboutcouple, were the latest celebrities to feature in the star-studded array of power spring/summer 15 campaigns. As users spluttered emoji-laden comments and frantically regrammed, the official Balmain account confirmed the news and the rest of the Internet burst into action. But Instagram is today's tech town crier. Even Elton John set up an account and used #sharethelove for a minute-by-minute commentary as he tied the knot with David Furnish. What news will be broken in 2015? Whatever it is, be sure to check your Insta feed.
Text Steve Salter