As you scroll through your Instagram feed on the train home from work, you probably see pictures of your friends on vacation, your cousin’s new baby, a plate from your favorite restaurant, and maybe even a photo of your hometown baseball team. Although there may be a wide variety of photos on your feed, there is one common factor: these are all pictures that you want to see. One of the most important features of Instagram is the power it gives its users to choose the content they wish to view, and one’s newsfeed becomes very personal to their interests and hobbies. In the ever-changing technological landscape, it seemed that only Instagram had resisted the social media trend of commodifying its users.
However, this presumed power of Instagram users was revoked in the social media app’s recent announcement that it will soon open up the newsfeed to advertisers. While many brands already use social media as an engaging marketing tool, users still had to choose to like that brand or company. Now the element of choice is taken away as marketers will soon invade the newsfeed and force users to view their products. These advertisements could be anything from national brands to the sandwich shop down the street and, by tapping into user profiles, these advertisers can target Instagrammers based on previous likes, age, and location.
Pinterest made a similar announcement recently, stating that there will now be a buyable pins feature. If a user likes an item, he or she can pin it and be directed to a link about where to buy that item. For example, if a person posts a pin of a leather jacket, they then have the option to actually purchase this jacket through the social media outlet. While Pinterest was previously used as a forum where people could gather photo inspiration, it is now becoming a site where people can actually purchase the items that inspire them. These announcements are an exciting step forward for advertisers, as it opens new markets; however, it also sheds light on the fact that the very nature of social media is, once again, changing.
While it is understandable that these social media outlets may need to increase revenue, but they are doing so by literally selling out their users and turning them into a commodity that can then be sold to advertisers. The sad truth is that personal social media accounts are no longer personal or social. Pinterest is becoming an online shopping site and Instagram is becoming an advertising billboard. Sure, there will always be #selfiesunday and #throwbackthursday, but can we now also expect to see #shoppingsaturday and #targetbuyertuesday? With new technology, comes new horizons and it was only a matter of time before these outlets expanded advertising to make money, but the question remains: at what cost?