Melissa’s Breakup 3.0: Instagram

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Introduction

The Breakup 2.0 by Ilana Gershon was once very relevant to college students as it discussed how they used Facebook to connect or disconnect with others. Some parts of the book still hold true to this day, but most of the information is very outdated because college students have moved to other platforms like Instagram. In Breakup 3.0 I will discuss how people have moved from Facebook to Instagram to engage in relationship behavior through media ideologies, idioms of practice, the structure of the medium, remediation, second-order information and what is public.

Instagram was created in 2010 and two months later had 1 million users (Geoff, 2014). I didn’t join Instagram until 2014 and by then Instagram had 150 million monthly active users and 55 million photos per day (2014).

According to Kit Smitch, Instagram now has 400 million active users and over 60% of users log in daily, making it the second most engaged network after Facebook (2016). Although there are more users on Facebook, 90% of Instagram users are younger than 35 because Instagram has a different audience than Facebook (2016). Due to the age difference between Facebook and Instagram users, it is clear the way Instagram is used is extremely different from Facebook.

Media Ideologies

It is often said that Facebook is used by college students to communicate with their grandparents and Instagram is more for friends. This is a common belief, but everyone has a different media ideology for each social media platform. Media ideologies are people’s beliefs about how a medium communicates and structures communication (Gershon, 2010).

I think that Instagram is often used to highlight moments in our lives and it usually frames people’s lives to look better than they really are. We post pictures that are edited and then add a filter to make it look even better. We then hope that we get enough likes or else we might have to delete the picture because we either posted it at the wrong time or it just wasn’t a good picture.

I asked my friend what she used Instagram for to see if she felt differently than I did.

Me: What do you use Instagram for?

KB: Sharing my fab life

Me: Is it actually fab or do you make it appear that way?

KB: I make it appear that way, my life is actually pretty boring. I let people see what I want them to see. It makes me feel better the more likes I get.

Me: Do you think other people use it this way?

KB: Oh absolutely.

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KB believes that everyone uses Instagram to make their life appear fabulous, but in reality it isn’t has great as it seems.This is a very common belief, but not everyone might agree because some users just get on to see what other people are posting. Overall, the general goal of Instagram is to get a lot of likes and when that doesn’t happen we often tend to feel bad about ourselves or the picture we posted as KB stated. According to Dr. Max Blumberg, “People have always needed approval because human beings are social creatures, so it’s no coincidence that it’s called social media” (as cited in Squier, 2016).

Idioms of Practice

Media ideologies are not original thoughts, people develop their own ideologies through idioms of practice. According to Gershon, idioms of practice point to how people have implicit and explicit intuitions about using different technologies that they have developed with their friends, family members and coworkers (2010).

Several examples would be only posting one photo a day, posting a picture at a certain time of the day and not liking a picture that is a couple of days old. When it comes to relationships on Instagram the easiest way to start is by flirting. Flirting on Instagram is usually done by liking each picture that certain person posts. Often times guys will comment emojis with heart eyes which is definitely viewed as flirting. “If liking a photo is tossing a casual nod to the sultry vixen across the bar then commenting on a photo is walking up and offering to buy her a drink” (Seals, 2015).

I asked a friend of mine how he would go about starting a relationship on Instagram:

Me: How do you get a girls attention on Instagram?

EM: I usually just like their pictures, but if I’m really interested I might just message them to be more direct. A lot of people like their photos, so it could mean anything. DMing gets a bad wrap, but sometimes it works.

Me: What do say when you message them?

EM: I just say hey and think of a conversation starter, usually guys who DM girls say something inappropriate and that is why some people view it as creepy.

To EM, liking a girls photo isn’t really an effective way to flirt because many other people like the photo too and it gives little meaning. EM believes that the best thing to do is go directly to the person and start a conversation even though many people view DMing as creepy.

Structure of the Medium

The structure of Instagram is similar to other platforms, but it is strictly images. Every user has their own profile in which their photos appear. It is interesting because there is little space to provide personal information to your followers, so they get to know you through your photos and your short bio. The news feed is different from other platforms because it is not customized to you, but simply shows posts of people you follow in the order they were posted. This way you don’t miss other users posts because they are all there chronologically.

There are several different ways to communicate through Instagram, but the most common would be liking and commenting on photos. Alicia Eler explains how communication is different on Instagram stating, “On this visual social network, communication is subtle, playful, innocent and devoid of any social expectations” (2012).

Not many people use Instagram to tell people about themselves or how they’re feeling through words because many use visuals to tell their story. When it comes to relationships, it is easy to see who has a boyfriend or girlfriend by the way they use Instagram. Many people will put the initials of their significant other in their bio with the date they started dating which instantly lets followers know they are taken. It is also common for couples to post pictures together with cute captions.

My friend always posts pictures of her and her boyfriend with various captions, but no matter what he will comment and say “I love you so much” under every photo. This shows everyone that they are clearly together without having a relationship status like Facebook would. To me, this platform is not made to comment feelings back and forth to one another because it is a very informal place to tell someone you love them, but others use this public space to communicate their feelings.

Remediation

How people’s media ideologies and uses of one medium are always connected to people’s media ideologies and uses of other older or newer media is called remediation (Gershon, 2010). Instagram has many features that are similar to other social media platforms. It is similar to Facebook in the way that photos can be shared, but also very different because Facebook has much more personal information. Twitter and Instagram both have DM options for a more private conversation and Facebook also has a messenger app. Recently, Instagram came out with Instagram stories which is pretty much the same thing as Snapchat stories. All of these mediums are connected in the way that they are similar and often in the way that people use them. Instagram can also be connected to Facebook and Twitter so that the photo is posted on all platforms.

My ex-boyfriend only had Facebook and so he would never see what I would post on Instagram or Twitter. He would often complain that I never posted about him on Facebook and that it seemed as if we weren’t even dating. I would always explain that it was because I didn’t post many pictures on Facebook and that I was posting our pictures on Instagram, which he could not see. We had differences because of the different mediums we chose to use in our relationship.

One of my other ex-boyfriends also had different ideologies than me when it came to using these platforms. This was when we were both only on Facebook and I thought it was crucial that we should be Facebook official. He thought this was dumb and refused to accept my relationship request because he thought “why do we have to tell everyone that we’re together when we know.” Our different views on the right way to use this medium caused major problems for our relationship because he would never interact with me on Facebook, but he would comment on other girls’ photos. I would often confront him about this issue and eventually he ended up deleting me. Because of our different views on how to use this platform we ended up having many problems in our actual relationship because the way in which he used social media ultimately sent me and others second-order information.

Second-Order Information

Second-order information is what Instagram is all about because there is very little information and a lot of photos to make inferences from. Second-order information, according to Gershon, is not what is actually said but rather the background knowledge (2010).

Me: If you’re interested in someone, what do you look for in their Instagram?

KL: I look to see what kind of pictures they post and who is in them, usually to see if they have a girlfriend or what their ex-girlfriend looked like. If they tag the girl I will go look at her profile because you can usually tell more from a girls profile.

Me: How do you know if the girl is just a friend or more than that?

KL: It just depends on what they’re doing in the picture and what the caption is. I always look at dates too to see how recent the picture is because maybe they broke up or something.

KL proves that often times we don’t actually know certain things about people, but we can make assumptions based on what they posted.

Once couples are in a relationship it is common to always post pictures together, but what happens when they breakup? Sometimes you can tell when a couple broke up because they would no longer post pictures together or all of their pictures with their boyfriend or girlfriend would be gone. Others would go back and change the captions on the photo to express their new dislike towards their once lover.

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Usually, breakups aren’t this obvious on Instagram and second-order information is needed to make this conclusion. It is more common for them to take their now ex-boyfriend out of their bio and delete the pictures of them all together. Some girls will post quotes that hold second-order information about the breakup leading their followers to believe they are now single.

What is Public?

On Instagram, users have the choice between a public or private profile. By default, the profile is set to public and anyone who searches you can view your photos. If your account is private users will have to ask for permission to follow you. Once you accept the follow request then your followers are able to see everything you post and so they are considered your public audience.

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This is how many relationships start, with a simple follow request. Once the request is accepted you can then start liking and commenting on your crushes photo to see if anything progresses. Once in a relationship, some people are very cautious of who they let their significant other follow and who is following their significant other. Many girls will get mad if other girls try to follow their boyfriend because they see this as a threat to the relationship.

If a relationship ends, it is common for someone to unfollow their ex so they can no longer see what they post. Others might go as far as to block them so their ex can’t see anything on their profile as well. This is a big step because once it is done the ex will notice and the only way to see their profile again is to request to follow them or look on a friend’s phone. The ex is someone who was once so important as a public audience and now that they are an ex they want their profile to be private so they are no longer included in their Instagram life.

KB from earlier also told me about how her ex has recently tried to follow her on Instagram again as well as Snapchat. She accepted his request even though she is no longer interested and he likes the pictures of her and her new boyfriend which also sends second-order information.

A 2012 study of 464 young Facebook users, primarily women (84%) with an average age of 21, found that staying friends with an ex on Facebook was associated with a more difficult emotional recovery from a breakup and was associated with less personal growth” (Marshall, 2012). Staying friends with an ex on social media can be hard because of the temptation to stalk their lives at every moment. We often check up to see if they seem happy or if they found someone new and if they have it makes it even more difficult which is why we often find it easier to block them out of our lives.

Conclusion

Media ideologies seem to be endless as we all have different beliefs on how each platform should be used. Instagram is only one platform, but there are various ways to use it to communicate and to start or end relationships. As if relationships aren’t hard enough, adding social media in the mix can really make things complex, especially when a couple does not share the same views on the medium. Not to mention, social media and the way we use it is always changing, so a Breakup 4.0 could be in our near future.

References

Eler, A. (2012, June 22). How People Communicate on Instagram – ReadWrite. Retrieved December 12, 2016, from http://readwrite.com/2012/06/22/how-people-communicate-on-instagram/

Geoff. (2015, January 12). The Complete History of Instagram. Retrieved December 12, 2016, from http://wersm.com/the-complete-history-of-instagram/

Gershon, I. (2010). The breakup 2.0: Disconnecting over new media. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Marshall, T. C. (2012). Facebook Surveillance of Former Romantic Partners: Associations with PostBreakup Recovery and Personal Growth. Retrieved December 12, 2016, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3472530/

Seals, G. (2015, February 14). 10 simple rules for Instagram flirting. Retrieved December 12, 2016, from http://www.dailydot.com/irl/instagram-flirting-guide/

Smith, K. (2016, May 16). 37 Interesting Instagram Stats for 2016 – Brandwatch. Retrieved December 12, 2016, from https://www.brandwatch.com/blog/37-instagram-stats-2016/

Squier, C. (2016, May 13). Why Do We Get So Obsessed With ‘Likes’ On Social Media? Retrieved December 12, 2016, from http://www.thedebrief.co.uk/news/opinion/why-do-we-care-about-likes-on-social-media-20160563404

 

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