Instagram: Background information when reading Followers

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by Megan Angelo

Followers by Megan Angelo X
Followers by Megan Angelo
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2020, 384 pages

    Nov 2020, 416 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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This article relates to Followers

Print Review

Instagram App on Smartphone In Megan Angelo's Followers, the protagonist uses Instagram, a photo and video social networking application, to elevate her roommate to the status of "influencer"—someone who has enough of an audience (aka "followers") that sponsors will pay them to mention their products or services. Instagram has two million advertisers, and with 90 percent of accounts following at least one business, influencing on the platform can be a lucrative profession.

Instagram started as the brainchild of Kevin Systrom (b. 1983), a Stanford University graduate who, in 2009, was working as a marketing associate for Nextstop, a travel recommendation startup (acquired by Facebook in 2010). He spent his hours after work and on weekends teaching himself how to write HTML5 code, and eventually developed a program he dubbed Burbn (inspired by his enjoyment of bourbon) that included photo sharing as one of its features. In March 2010, Systrom met two venture capitalists at a party who agreed to hear his pitch and ultimately convinced him to quit his job to concentrate on developing Burbn. Within two weeks, he raised $500,000 in seed money. Using the newfound funds, he decided to form a team to continue growing the program, and hired fellow Stanford grad Mike Krieger (b. 1986). After some initial trial and error, they agreed to focus on the burgeoning mobile platform market, and saw a niche for a social media application based on photographs. It took the two just eight weeks to fine-tune it enough to give to friends to beta test. They renamed the program Instagram (a combination of "instant" and "telegram").

Instagram was launched for iOS (the operating system for devices made by Apple) on October 6, 2010 and became the top free photo-sharing app the day it was released, with 25,000 users; it had racked up 100,000 downloads by the end of the week, and boasted over one million users by mid-December. Needless to say, this amazing growth pattern attracted investors, which allowed the developers to hire more staff and further refine the application, later releasing it for the Android platform as well. Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion in cash and stock, but part of the agreement allowed Instagram to continue to be managed independently. The arrangement didn't last; Systrom and Krieger quit the company in September 2018, frustrated by increasing conflict with Facebook management.

Instagram has over one billion monthly active users worldwide. Around two out of three 18-to-29-year-olds use the platform, and over 100 million photos are uploaded each day. Interestingly, the most-liked photo in 2019 was that of a bird egg posted on January 4, 2019 in an attempt to best Kylie Jenner's record of 18 million likes (for a photo of her daughter posted February 6, 2018). It took just 10 days to beat it (no pun intended), and by April the egg photo had over 53 million likes. It was still the most-liked picture at the end of the year, with Jenner's post retaining a distant second place.

In spite of its immense popularity, Instagram can have a negative impact on those who use it, particularly teens and young adults. In 2017, the UK's Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) conducted a survey "examining the positive and negative effects of social media on young people's health." They determined that YouTube was the most positive social networking service, and Instagram the most detrimental. High use of social media, including Instagram, was linked to increased anxiety, depression, poor sleep quality, negative body image, bullying and FoMO (Fear of Missing Out).

Filed under Medicine, Science and Tech

Article by Kim Kovacs

This "beyond the book article" relates to Followers. It originally ran in January 2020 and has been updated for the November 2020 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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