The other day, I was looking at some old websites from the late 1990s. These include the official website for Bob Dole’s 1996 campaign. I never stopped to think about how much the Internet has really changed until looking at them.
These sites are now little more than ancient relics of the early days of the web. I began reflecting how online images have evolved over the last 20 years, since I began using the Internet.
Today, images are more seamless, socially engaging and captivating than ever. What has driven this change? It’s probably impossible to pinpoint a single factor, but the rise of Pinterest, Instagram and other social image sharing sites clearly plays a profound role.
According to a prediction Deloitte global made last year, 2.5 trillion images would be shared by the end of 2016. That marked a 15% increase from the prior year and over 30 times the number of online images distributed in the 1990s.
There are several ways social images are leaving a mark on the Internet.
1. Every Facet of Our Lives is More Public and Social
When Pinterest first opened its doors, few people expected it to be a gamechanger for social media. It didn't take long for them to have a change of heart.
People have shared many details of their personal lives long before social image sharing sites were a thing. They discussed their triumphs and struggles on Facebook for years. However, few people provided visual proof of their claims.
Today, almost a third of all social media posts contain an image. This gives people a much deeper and more personal look into each other’s lives. It also gives people the opportunity to share certain experiences. Whether you are sharing images of your trip to Belize or pictures of the drywalling work that you’ve done on your home, you are letting them share the experience in a much more personal way.
2. Geographic Barriers Become Less Significant
Pinterest and Instagram have broken down many geographic barriers that used to divide us. As more people become active on these image sharing sites, they form new connections with followers and power users in other parts of the country or even other parts of the world.
One young woman admitted to me that she originally joined Instagram because she enjoys sharing flattering pictures of herself. She has attracted followers from a number of countries and has learned a lot about the people that connected with her. As they commented on her pictures, she followed them back and formed less superficial relationships with them. During their conversations, she had the opportunity to learn more about them and their cultures.
“Over the last few months, I have had deep, passionate discussions with my overseas friends and learned a surprising amount about India, Paraguay and countries I never even heard. This wasn’t at all what I expected when I began sharing vanity selfies of myself over social media,” she admitted.
3. The Line Between Social Media and Everyday Life is More Blurred
Since mobile devices became household items, more people have split time between different social networks and multiple devices. This has changed the way people interact with each other and their favorite brands.
Like many trends, I believe this was accelerated by Instagram. People have become more demanding and insist on better engagement. As people share more content on social image sharing sites, the line between their daily lives and social media becomes even more blurred.
This can be seen in a number of ways:
- People are encouraged to bring their smartphones to social gatherings, because sharing images on Pinterest and Instagram has become an unspoken expectation.
- Brands reward customers for sharing pictures of themselves engaging with their products.
- Brands are engaging with more customers through social media, to the point they are even buying Instagram followers.
- People are ironically paying even more attention to their surroundings, because they are on the lookout for new images they can share with their followers on Vibbi.
For years, social media has influenced the way people engage with each other and interact with their favorite brands. However, Pinterest and other social image sharing sites are setting new standards and expectations every day.