Communication and Interaction on Instagram. A Psychological Science Perspective

Essay, 2012

13 Pages, Grade: 1.33


Table of Contents


Scanning Instagram

Placing Instagram into a Framework

Comparative Analysis of Instagram on Theoretical Basis





"We're communicators by nature, and things like Instagram offer us a new language to speak with" say Daryl Peveto and Matt Slaby from Luceo Image Agency in a recent interview about the shifts in the paradigms of photographic and online communication (Laurent, 2012). Considering the increasing volume of communication via online channels, their words may be interpreted as not surprising at all. However, the universe of social media platforms shows a great diversity in terms of the distinct offerings for different motivational needs of the users. Inspiring from this variance, this paper will first highlight the distinct features of Instagram. Secondly, the paper will attempt to assert Instagram into an alternative and empirically supported framework of social media goals by Hoffman and Novak (2012) in order to differentiate its utility from other platforms. Thirdly the paper will critically compare and contrast Instagram and other well-known social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Xing, Google+) on the basis of variety of theories like social interaction, self-understanding and self-expression. A subsequent conclusion will then be formulated with respect to the whole analysis.

Scanning Instagram

Instagram is defined as a fun and quirky way to share your life with friends through a series of pictures in its official website. In its essence, the application allows its users to filter ( for further beautification) the photos taken with a mobile phone and provides a quick sharing experience by smoothly connecting the user with other social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Currently provided only for iPhone and Android systems, Instagram had reached a dazzling number of a hundred millions of users since 2010 (Bulas, 2012). Confirming the potential of a picture to be worth of thousand words, Instagram is the social form of the image par excellence (Chan, 2012). It is a unique medium where the image becomes a communicative act as a part of the whole social networking experience. Interestingly, this hybrid act occurs with the simplicity in communication (chiefly non-verbal) and action (its smooth sharing features).

Differring from other online social media platforms, Instagram allows its user to be anonymous by providing them a choice between publishing their photos publicly or privately. This functional anonymity is an important feature of Instagram and it customizes the scopes for interaction. In a sense, users are mostly being identified with what they create rather than who they are. "The Instagram community re-enforced our existing notion that content is king. The photos we posted with a deeper meaning got more of a reaction" says Nick DeNardis (2012) from Wayne State University following his case study on his first 2 days in Instagram.

Instagram, as a socially interactive platform combines the three modes of social screen with the idea of social image. Social screen consists of three components; a mirrow where the user reaches to image, a surface where the user consumes the ongoing content and a window where the users observe the interpersonal communication patterns (Chan, 2012). Combining the communicative value of an image with these modes of social screen, an Instagram image serves as a proxy for presence. It is an act of expression in which users can project and reflect themselves openly (Chan, 2012). Taking its power from individual's motivation to relate, it also supplements the whole social sharing function with the conventional methods like tagging, liking, following and commenting. Following this brief description of Instagram phenomenon, we will try to place it in an alternative framework of objectives.

Placing Instagram into a Framework

With the motivation of creating a unifying theory about social media goals, Hoffman and Novak (2012) followed a double-rooted strategy in order to come up with a reasonable framework. Their primary research question was why people use social media in the context of their needs, motivations, and perceptions of well-being. The authors conducted two studies in order to establish the dimensions of their framework.

In their first study, the authors came up with 27 set of social media goals as a result of a web-based survey (random sampling, N=340 english speakers) and asked participants to relate their goals with the elicited 4C's of social media goals; consume, create, connect and control. The result of their canonical discriminant analysis can be found in Figure 1. After the first study which they specifically delved with the motivations behind the social media usage, authors then investigated the perceived well-being with respect to the 4C's of social media goals. With the aid of a web survey (N=208 university students), participants rated each of the 27 social media goals (transformed into statements like "find information about my interests") according to the extent that they contribute to their well-being. The results can be found in Figure 2.

Both of these studies gave enough justification for the authors to improve the 4C framework of social media goals. Defining their dimensions according to the objectives of users, authors emphasize the focus and direction of interaction as the parameters of their framework as it can be seen from Figure 3. The direction of interaction focuses on the interplay between the creation and consumption whereas the focus of interaction covers the continuum between connection and control goals.

Since we have elaborated on the fundamentals of this given framework, now it is possible to apply and interpret these analogies to the case of Instagram. Without any doubt, Instagram covers the broad range of needs in terms of the direction of interaction, that is, it encourages its users to consume and create content in a socially connected spectrum. This is also observable when specific goals in Figure 1 like "gather info: others"(Consume), "social: share with people (Create) and "social: people" (Connect) are taken into consideration.

Instagram is really concentrated on the connect focus of interaction; however, it is also possible to observe that there is a slight shift towards the control focus of interaction as well. It is impossible to not to encounter a picture reflecting on a recently-discovered cuisine and/or an amusing cite-seeing experience in these days. This shift is already implemented and the Manhattan Latin-American restaurant Comodo's menu (with the hashtag of #ComodoMenu) is a great example for it (Coffee, 2012). Simply, the managers of the restaurant found a unique way to promote their menus while also providing an opportunity for their clients to interact as a community.

Another entity that takes the advantage of Instagram is the National Geographics (Laurent, 2012). With its multi-dimensional and global content, National Geographics allows an individual to make sense of his surrounding world; thus, also justifies the Instagram's tendency to respond to the demand of control- consume goal of social media users. Although it offers certain privacy settings and tagging options as stated above, it is not really possible to consider Instagram as a fit to control-create pair of goals. This box of the framework seems to be a better-fit for more professional networks such as XING and LinkedIn where the profile means more than the engagement and uploads.

All in all, Instagram suits with the majority of identified social media goals and its growing popularity proves the success behind of it. The employment of Hoffman and Novak's (2012) framework helped us to place Instagram into the broad context of interactive parameters and social media goals. The logo of Instagram is added to the given framework in order to provide a visual and an easier (just like Instagram) understanding of Instagram's position in the plethora of social media aims. Following section will specifically compare and contrast Instagram and other social media platforms in reference to various psychological theories. .

Comparative Analysis of Instagram on Theoretical Basis

As a result of his content analysis (total of 30 articles and 100 objectives), Novak (2008, as cited in Hoffman & Novak, 2012) managed to differentiate 22 motivational categories that drives an individual to use social media platforms. These categories are represented in the Figure 4. For the purpose of this essay, we will specifically focus on three most common motivational categories; social interaction, self-expression and self-understanding.


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Communication and Interaction on Instagram. A Psychological Science Perspective
Jacobs University Bremen gGmbH
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communication, interaction, instagram, psychological, science, perspective
Quote paper
Kaan Akkanat (Author), 2012, Communication and Interaction on Instagram. A Psychological Science Perspective, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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