That said, though, it wasn’t just the size of the company, its speedy growth or massive influence that intrigued B to cover Instagram. We actually thought it was important to understand the ways in which the service survived through the years of tremendous change, and how those contrivances surfaced as phenomena. The signature square frame and the filter options—which were really all Instagram had in its early stage—may very well be the key to understanding its evolution. The square frame, which is now an iconic emblem of Instagram, could be seen merely as a choice of retro aesthetics, or it could be regarded as a “re-editing tool” that amends weaknesses in the original image, in that users can preserve just the most appealing and effective portion of an image by simply cropping. The 20 some filter choices and the recently added Boomerang and Stories are, in a way, tools that make run-of-the-mill moments and scenery seem special. The company motto is to strengthen relationships by sharing experiences. In hindsight, the only thing that could be more powerful than this mantra is the company value that gamified the work of image editing and enhancing into a form of play.
It’s no exaggeration to say that the rise of the new digital class, the “influencers,” also owes much to the aforementioned power of editing. If time before the Instagram epidemic had been the age of professionalism, it has now become an age of “amateurism.” One do not need specialized skills in photography, design, or any other creative field to get enough competitive edge within the frame of Instagram. The fact that there’s an endless stream of small independent magazines using Instagram like this, and that an atelier-size fashion brand can get as much exposure as mainstream powerhouses proves that Instagram has done its job right as a platform for amateurs with latent talent. We see bona fide celebrities like Beyoncé and Pharrell Williams following amateur creator accounts and backing their works, and there are even cases where huge corporate labels seek insights from these amateur creators. What would this be if not a reversal of cultural power?