Instagram – are you missing out?

some of my instagram shots.

I’ve downloaded just about every photo app there is for my iPhone. Or at least it feels like that sometimes. I’ve also joined every social network that sounded even the least bit appealing to me as soon as I could scrounge up an invite. Often I forget I even have an account on a particular social network because it’s missing that special something that makes its glossy 2.0 interface interesting enough to come back to. But I have a confession to make.

I have fallen in love with Instagram.

Right now it’s only available for the iPhone, which is a damn shame, but is likely part of the reason why it’s still so intimate.

Social network? intimate? I know, right?

Yes, there’re still the spammers who just follow everybody in hopes of having a bazillionty followers just to have them. Others post stunning pix from their DSLR, which I think is cheating because is goes against the concept, IMHO, of a mobile phone photo app. That’s just me, though.

The best part of Instagram, though, is not the filters, which I kind of like but at times find limited, nor is it their clean, simple interface. Instagram has “intimacy”.

Instagram allows you to find friends through other social networks, like Twitter and Facebook or your contact list, and add them if their account is not protected. It’s not as closed a network as Path, which requires that you know your friends’ email addresses last time I checked, and likely I’ll not check again, because I still don’t have any more email addresses than I did last time — most of the friends I have who would use these networks apps maintain contact largely on Facebook and Twitter, not via email.

I think this follower-import feature is essential for any post-Twitter, post-Facebook application. They’ve just developed too much of a following to see them as anything but the social networks to build on.

On Instagram, for now, I am able to follow people who have thousands, maybe tens of thousands of followers on Twitter, people for whom the noise on Twitter can be deafening.

And they follow me back.

And they interact with me!

Instagram is about the now of the image, and is currently a small club. Follow counts on Instagram are low, there’s less noise, and myself and said Twitter celebrity are on a par, judged only by the quality of our images. Instagram’s intimacy levels the playing field, allowing us to connect to people thorough images, not necessarily their blog posts, feed links, snarky comments.

Additionally, my followers and I can all talk in one place about a particular image without other fluff, ads, distractions, make comments (that Twitter does not yet thread properly) as a conversation about that particular moment in time. Yes, it “disappears” unless you have them fed to Flickr (another favorite feature) or your Twitter stream fed to a bookmarking app, but that’s part of the charm. It’s more about the now, the image, than about amassing a collection of awesomeness.

It’s not impossible, right now, for my humble photo to be “liked” enough to get on the “Popular” tab – some take only 15 likes to hit it. On a busier social network the noise is so great that little gems disappear.

I also love how Instagram has a lot of international users, many in Japan and Italy, I’m finding, and when I follow them, sure, I can’t understand their comments, but heck, it’s not really about the comments. It’s about slices of life, the thousand-word bits that fascinate.

Instagram is developing its own follow-patterns, ways to help serendipity along, and I enjoy figuring out these future cowpaths along with other users. The nerd in me also enjoys finding out ways to game the app, like saving filtered pix without posting (a future feature, I hope), and figuring out the @reply function without being told that it works. The paucity of Help features, for me, is a draw, though I fear that I have yet to find all of the features I want simply because I don’t know they’re there.

If Instagram becomes more popular, and thus has more users, I’m afraid it’ll lose the features I love so much about it, but for now I’m head over heels.