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Sandy: An Instagram Event

Second only to the Super Bowl in Facebook ‘buzz’ for the year of 2012, Hurricane Sandy has generated enormous amounts of communication and information sharing via social media like Facebook and Twitter throughout the past few days.  In many cases, it was the only avenue of interaction with family and friends who were praying for their loved ones in the affected mid-Atlantic and Northeast states.  As a testament to this, some of the most popular status updates have consisted of short phrases like, “I’m fine” or “family safe.”  Interestingly enough, despite Facebook’s one billion users and Twitter’s 140 million “followers,” this event was the first in our ever-expanding technological generation deemed “an Instagram Event” – a title with which we will get accustomed.

For those unfamiliar, Instagram is a photo-sharing app made available to smartphone users worldwide with the (free!) touch of a button. Though recently purchased by Facebook for one billion dollars, Instagram deviates from the quintessential social networking page by creating uploads containing simply photos with captions, and the ability for followers to “Like” photos or make comments about them.  Unlike many other news events worldwide such as the London Olympics or the Elections, Instagram’s 100 million users were drawn to the app during this hurricane disaster due to the grave, imminent, and heart-wrenching graphic details of the wreckage and suffering the wind and rains have caused.  According to the news source Mashable, over two million photos were tagged with the hashtags Sandy, hurricane sandy, or frankenstorm.  Sandy has been a devastation that simply cannot be communicated effectively or thoughtfully through words.

This concept of a particular social network being ideal for certain global crises or situations relates back to our class discussion regarding what makes certain networking avenues more popular or plausible than others.  Despite the HITS link-analysis algorithm’s current programming restricted only to webpages, apps will soon play a large part in these networking studies as well.  The fact that Hurricane Sandy is being deemed “an Instagram Event” nationwide is a sign of the times, as well as an interesting shift in social media from text to graphics.  At 100 million users, Instagram’s popularity has surged since 2010 when just 100,000 subscribers existed.  With no signs of slowing down, Instagram will create the opportunity for a shift in focus in social media and yet another new form of efficient communication and worldwide collaboration.




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October 2012