No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram by Sarah Frier

I’ve got a love/hate relationship with social media. I recognize the need for it for my blog to reach more people, but I don’t necessarily only want more followers on a particular platform: I want people to read the blog. So it’s a double-edged sword. I strive for more followers in the hopes that they click through to the content, not just give me a “like”. My camera is old and takes marginal photos, so Instagram has never been a big thing for me. I also don’t seem to have a lot of dried or artificial flowers and teacups that I see on many bookstagram posts, so I know I’m way out of my league. And Instagram is owned by Facebook, which I also have some issues with (read my review of Facebook: The Inside Story here). But I live with four kids who are Gen Z and the two that are old enough are all about Insta. What’s their story?

“Since its creation in 2010, Instagram’s fun and simple interface has captured our collective imagination, swiftly becoming a way of life. In No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram, technology reporter Sarah Frier explains how Instagram’s founders married art and technology to overcome skeptics and to hook the public on visual storytelling. At first, Instagram initially attracted artisans, but then the platform exploded in popularity among the masses, creating an entire industry of digital influencers that’s now worth tens of billions of dollars.

Eighteen months after Instagram’s launch and explosive growth, the founders—Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger—made the gut-wrenching decision to sell the company to Facebook. For most companies, that would be the end of the story; but for Instagram, it was only the beginning. Instagram borrowed some lessons from Facebook and rejected others, until eventually its success stirred tension with Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, just as Facebook became embroiled in a string of public crises. Frier unearths the details that led to the cofounders’ departure, bringing to light dramatic moments unknown to the public until now.”

No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram (Amazon) (AbeBooks) obviously focuses on the inside story of the social media giant. The who, what, where, when and why the app was created, how it evolved, and the influence it has on society today. I have to say that because I’m rather ambivalent about Instagram as an app, I kind of felt that way about this book, too. It just wasn’t as interesting to me as if the author would have also focused on the “outside” story of Instagram as well.

It was interesting to read about Facebook’s takeover of the company, and instead of shutting Instagram down, the social media giant let it function without too much oversight. That is, until Instagram neared a billion followers. As with Facebook, there are ethical questions that arise when involving content moderation and the use of “influencers.” In a capitalist country, it’s always important to follow the money to get the whole story.

No Filter relies on exclusive access to Instagram founders, as well as employees and competitors to the social media giant. It also relies on information from influencers of all types. This book also reveals how some people strategize their use of Instagram and how they do it. What this book ultimately tells us, is that like Facebook, Instagram has fundamentally changed how people interact with each other in society, for better or worse.

This is the 23rd audiobook I’ve listened to as part of my 2021 Audiobook Challenge.

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