Since being acquired by Meta (formerly Facebook Inc.) in 2012, Instagram, a photo and video-sharing social networking service, originally founded by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, has been a vital tool for sharing information.
In the world of evolving digital media, Instagram does not only serve as an online sanctuary where fun-seekers share lifestyle-based content, it also provides a solid bridge between social media users and emerging hard news in the global community.
Social media users across different age brackets, apparently, find the platform with over 1.3 billion users friendly and easy to navigate due to its visual approach to information distribution.
And with the recent content monetisation policy of its owner, Instagram has evolved into a big business empire where people monetise their videos for a sustainable income in what provides an alternative shift from Google-owned Youtube.
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Instagram’s incredible rise
Since 2019, Instagram has been witnessing a burst of growth, particularly among young people who rely on the platform for updates because its stories are being told “simply and well with visual images.”
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A data recently published by Reuters Institute titled “Navigating the ‘infodemic’: how people in six countries access and rate news and information about coronavirus”, literally explained a surge of interest in Instagram and its popularity among the internet users.
The survey, which was done in 2020 to document how people in some countries responded to information about COVID-19 in the early stages of the pandemic showed that “younger people rely much more on newer, more visual networks like Instagram... for information” about the virus.
In his analysis titled “Instagram will overtake Twitter as a news source”, BBC media editor Amol Rajan submitted that the “growth of Instagram as a news source” is apparently remarkable.
While alluding to the Reuters Institute report, the journalist and broadcaster further predicted that Instagram will soon resemble public opinion and present the media with an irresistible option if it eventually overtakes Twitter which is a “favoured platform” for journalists.
Another significant pointer of Instagram’s growth and acceptability as the face of information sources is how reputable media organisations are now moving to the platform, using its paradigm to feed their audience with emerging information.
It is interesting that almost all the notable media organisations like BBC, Aljazeera, Reuters, Punch and others now have pages for their activities on Instagram. Both lifestyle content and hard news are adapted to intelligible visuals and shared for followers.
In fact, readers are induced into reading news on the website via Instagram because the platform has been remade in a way that a follower of a news platform does not need to visit their website before he can read a media content.
In 2020, four dons from different universities in South Africa: Christina Gumpo, Tinashe Chuchu, Eugine Maziriri and Nkosivile Welcome Madinga examined the acceptability of Instagram among youths for determining tourists' destinations.
In their report titled “Examining the usage of Instagram as a source of information for young consumers when determining tourist destinations,” the academic scholars submitted that “there was the strongest connection between attitude towards Instagram for identifying travel destinations and intention to use Instagram for identifying travel destinations.”
They noted that the photo and video sharing service “challenges the creativity of tourism players in promoting tourism destinations around the globe.” This means the platform is a key player in information dissemination and opinion influence.
The problem with IG
However, the challenge with “Instagram'' is that it’s a highly visual space according to Jennifer Grygiel, a professor of communications.
The Syracuse University don was also of the view that “people share memes that are more about influencing than informing and people need to exercise…”
Another complication is the ability of anyone to act as a reporter, sparking concerns about fact-checking.
Similarly, it is easy to mislead people about a popular opinion. Fake news and misinformation sell faster on the platform. This is because celebrities, musicians and brand influencers who are active users on the platform can easily influence opinion and mislead their followers on popular discourses.
Recently, a Trinidadian-born rapper, Nicki Minaj with 163 million followers on Instagram, claimed that the COVID-19 vaccine caused “swollen testicles,” subsequently drawing social media flak. Imagine what a level of damage peddlers of fake news can do.