Instagram not media of choice for news

Launched in October 2010, Instagram celebrates its 10th birthday this month.

Like other popular platforms, Instagram grew up fast. One million users subscribed by December 2010, and within a year, Instagram celebrated 150 million image uploads, thanks to 10 million daily active users.

It was a meteoric rise. When Instagram was a mere 18 months old, it was adopted (OK, “acquired”) by Facebook for $1 billion.

In 2020, Instagram has 1 billion monthly active users.

According to Statista, most of Instagram’s users are 18 to 34 years old, and it ranks second as the most preferred app among teens, after Snapchat, of course.

The largest user base is in the U.S. (130 million as of July 2020), but users in India (100 million), Brazil (91 million), Indonesia (73 million) and Russia (51 million) have added to Instagram’s popularity.

When surveyed by the Pew Research Center, four in 10 Americans reported using Instagram.

“The share of U.S. adults who say they (use Instagram) has grown from 9 percent in 2012, when the Center first began asking about the platform,” said Brooke Auxier, Pew research associate. “At the time of (this) survey, though Instagram had grown to be one of the more popular online platforms in the U.S., most Americans still did not use it, unlike the two most popular social media platforms, YouTube and Facebook, which were used by majorities of U.S. adults.”

If you’re not an Instagram user, you probably think it’s just a site for posting memes, selfies, food and pet pics, and short funny videos. And you’d be right.

However, Instagram also has become a haven for disinformation campaigns (i.e., mostly political). So, like other platforms, Instagram has done yeoman’s work in trying to stay ahead of fake news, creating algorithms and training reviewers to clamp down on bad info by removing nefarious users and images.

This is important because Pew’s data also reveals something about the age at which kids are using Instagram. They’re getting younger — even with the platform’s age restrictions.

“Despite most social media sites having age guidelines in place, which usually restrict children younger than 13 from joining, some 5 percent of parents of a child age 11 or younger say that, as far as they know, their child uses Instagram,” Auxier said.

This number jumps to 11 percent for children ages 9 to 11. However, according to parents, it appears TikTok and Snapchat are still more popular than Instagram among children 11 and younger.

On the slightly more positive note, most users report not trusting Instagram to provide news. In fact, only about one in seven U.S. adults report getting any news on the platform.

“That’s similar to the share who ever get news on Twitter, but far smaller than the shares who ever get news on Facebook (52 percent) or YouTube (28 percent),” Auxier said. “There are considerable demographic differences in who gets news from Instagram. Around six in 10 of the site’s news users are women while 38 percent are men.”

When it comes to election news, Instagram users are even less trusting of the platform to provide truthful information.

“Just 6 percent of U.S. adults say they trust Instagram as a place to get political and election news, with a much larger share (42 percent) saying they distrust it for such information,” Auxier said.

To read the full report, go to www.pewresearch.org and search “8 Facts About Americans and Instagram.”

Dr. Adam Earnheardt is a professor of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn and on his blog at www.adamearn.com.


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