Instagram at 10: how sharing photos has entertained us, upset us – and changed our sense of self

Instagram at 10: how sharing photos has entertained us, upset us – and changed our sense of self

Jess Cartner-Morley 20/09/2020

From its early days as a whimsical, arthouse space through more recent waves of influencers and pool inflatables, the world’s favourite photo-sharing app has rewired society for good and bad

The most-downloaded app of 2010 made the photographs you took on your phone look way cooler. Vintage-effect filters, artful vignettes and a square-frame layout gave your ordinary snaps a pleasingly nostalgic Polaroid appeal. But 10 years later, barely anyone remembers Hipstamatic. It was a different photo-sharing app, which launched snapping at Hipstamatic’s heels on 6 October 2010, that went on to change the world. Last month more than 1 billion people posted photos on Instagram.

You probably wouldn’t have predicted, from the co-founder of Instagram Mike Krieger’s first post, that you were witnessing the birth of a cultural and economic phenomenon. It was a shot of San Francisco’s South Beach harbour viewed through the industrial-chic steel-framed windows of Pier 38. Only the composition, tilted so that the boat masts angled at 45 degrees, hinted at ambition beyond the pedestrian. But a decade later, Instagram has rewired society. It has changed how we look, what we eat, our relationships, how we vote, where we go on holiday and what we spend our money on. From the Kardashians to avocados to mental health, many stories of the past decade are part of the story of Instagram.

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