Cool-kid photo-sharing app Instagram has gone mainstream, especially with its purchase by Facebook yesterday (April 9). But being owned by Facebook doesn't mean that Instagram is like Facebook.
New users on Instagram don't always understand that it's a social network first and a photo-effects app second. Every Instagram photo posts to the Instagram feed, and unless you make your Instagram profile viewable by request-only, your photos are visible to everyone. Instagram does not offer individual photo privacy settings.
The "social" part of Instagram may not be obvious to new users. Take a photo in Instagram and after adding a cool effect, you have the option to share to sites, including Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. But even if you just hit "done" without sharing, your photo still posts to the Instagram feed — visible to all 30 million members.
So all those self-takes — you know, the pouty face, the sultry half-closed-eyelid look — go to the world.
"I wanted to see what I looked like before going out," Paige Furbush, a student at the University of Utah, said. Friends started asking her if she was on Instagram, and the light bulb went on.
"I realized it was a social, public thing and I deleted everything!" she said.
Following vs. friending
Both Facebook and Instagram have privacy settings, but Instagram's "following" works a lot differently than Facebook's "friending." Instagram lets users follow anyone they'd like as long as the user has a public Instagram profile. If not, they can send a request. However, once an Instagram user allows someone to follow them, they don't have to follow back. That means you don't have to risk hurting someone's feelings if they want to follow you, but you would rather not have their photos in your feed. On Facebook, in contrast, sharing has to be mutual.
Facebook has tried to offset this problem by adding acquaintance lists (a repository for people you must keep as "friends" but whose comments you don't want cluttering your news feed), but that takes work to set up.
And in some instances, all you want to see are people's photos.
"You can see everyone's pictures on Instagram without the annoyances of Facebook," Paige said. "Instagram is everything people like about Facebook without the stupid game requests."
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