Research done by: Samantha R. Difranco, Rachel E. Michaels, Jordan P. Emmer, Eric M. Schmeisser, and Brittney R. Roberts
Opening my various social media apps, I notice everyone’s mother has taken over Facebook and Pinterest, while Twitter feed and Snapchat is dominated by brands, celebrities and those few funny ‘friend-of-a-friend’s’. So where did everyone go? I open my Instagram app and scroll through the photos. Selfie of my friend… Nike shoes… a birthday collage dedicated to someone I don’t know… tree branches. Wait, I stop. 386 likes. My brother’s girlfriend posted a photo of tree branches against a blue sky captioned with a cat emoji and 386 people liked it. This is incredible.
Instagram is a simple app with one main purpose; to share photos. It launched in 2010 and as of September 22nd, 2015, it has 400 million monthly active users (Instagram, 2015). The numbers make it clear that visuals are the future in social media. When students meet for the first time they don’t exchange phone numbers or names to find each other on Facebook anymore, but rather they exchange Instagram handles.
But, how does a photo of tree branches receive 386 likes? Everyday people, like you and me, have over 7,000 followers on the app and they post photos with hundreds to thousands of ‘likes’. It seemed to us, this is a trend in the younger generations, though we wanted to do some research ourselves because we are fascinated by this popularity of Instagram.
In order to explain the fascination behind Instagram we asked the following research questions:
RQ1: What types of pictures are being posted to Instagram by Mizzou Students?
RQ2:What are the attitudes and interests of Mizzou students using Instagram?
RQ3:What are the attitudes and interests of Mizzou students using Instagram?
To conduct our study, we surveyed 182 students at the University of Missouri using an online Qualtrics survey. Participants were all completely voluntary and were required to be a full-time undergraduate student, age 18-24, and currently attending the University of Missouri. Out of the 182 participants, 156 had Instagram. We administered our survey by posting it on MU related Facebook pages, such as MU Class of 2016 and MU Class of 2020, and by asking our peers to participate. This ensured that we got participants from each age group and class at MU. The survey was open for three weeks and two days.
We asked 21 quantitative, closed-ended questions about how often students posted to Instagram, what types of pictures they are posting and how often, and questions measuring the attitudes and interests of Instagram users at MU. We chose this method in order to get clear-cut and precise results and calculations. We also asked for each participant’s gender and student classification in order to cross-tabulate our findings and analyze the differences in ways that each class and gender uses Instagram.
In order to answer our research questions, we asked the following: What types of pictures do you post to Instagram and how often? How often do you post to Instagram? Do you care about how many likes you get? Is Instagram a big deal to you? Do you care about how many people follow you? Do you wish that you had more followers?.
We analyzed our data by using Qualtrics’ data analysis and drawing percentage amounts of the amount of people that had Instagram. We cross tabulated our results with the participants gender and student classification.
We believe the study worked because we were able to track Instagram usage habits of University of Missouri undergraduates. We were able to obtain a sample of 182 undergraduate students who had taken twelve or more credit hours at Mizzou in the current semester. We then did a cross tabulation between freshman and seniors and between genders.
For our first research question, “What types of pictures are being posted to Instagram by Mizzou students?”, we found most people post photos of friends, family, nature and MU-related activities. Of the respondents, 99% of females, 88% of males, 94% of freshmen, and 100% of seniors all said they post pictures of friends and family. 65% of all boys and 88% of seniors post pictures of nature. Lastly, 77% female, and 64% freshman posted pictures of MU.
Our second question asked, “What are the attitudes and interests of Mizzou students using Instagram?”. This question found that everyone cares about how many likes they receive. Both 69% of females and 69% of freshman say that they do care about how many likes they receive, while 40% of boys and 51% of seniors care.
Our third question asked, “How often do Mizzou students post to Instagram?”. The research question found that 52% of females post more than once a week to instagram while 43% of all freshman post more than once a week.
Instagram is a place for visual storytelling. It created a community for sharing images and a new way of expressing oneself through visual engagement. This generation has a lot to say about where they are, what they are doing, items they bought, and the friends that they have. After some time of posting images you create a visual storyboard of your life for the world to see. Instagram has made taking photos more enjoyable and memorable. Before I created an account, I actually hated taking pictures and being in them. However, now everybody, including myself, enjoys taking pictures, adding filters, posting it to Instagram, and seeing how many people ‘like’ your photos. If you have an Instagram account, odds are you have already checked it once or twice today. Due to this popularity we decided to look into the social media site and its usage between younger and older generations.
Using quantitative questions to get a clear understanding and precise results, our group, then looked to Qualtrics to aid in analyzing our data. We surveyed 182 full time Mizzou students ages 18-24 and only 26 did not have Instagram accounts. Females, as well as freshman, tend to use Instagram more when compared to males and seniors. Also, it is eminent that all participants care about how many ‘likes’ they receive on their pictures. Naturally, the things we love most are being posted to our social media community.
The world we live in is constantly evolving, and there are several forms of communication, some people would have never imagined. This information is crucial in understanding how college age students communicate today because it is part of our culture. Our results tell us that Instagram is important in everyday life for this generation. Students would like for other individuals to see what they consider important in their life, through a picture. The photos become objects of value, and students at MU are communicating with them. ‘Likes’ can bring attention and awareness to the daily activities of students and can even bring the community closer together. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but on Instagram that same picture is worth far more.
Overall I was quite thrilled with our team. I am sometimes hesitant to go into randomly assigned groups because I am not sure what to expect. Dealing with many in the past, I was more than a little nervous to place that much of my capstone grade in the hands of others. Luckily I feel like I was blessed with a good group. We were a quite dynamic and I feel that we each brought something different to the team. I also feel as though we all brought really strong ideas together to produce something that would have been difficult to envision as a lone entity. While we did goof around and laugh a lot at our meetings we also got a lot of work done in our time together as well. I credit my other groups members for being good team players and helping us build what I would argue were very strong presentations.
What I believe made this experience good is that we were placed in a long term group situation that was a major determinant on a large part of our grade for this class. In many previous cases I may have been assigned a group to work with, but the project would be small and the time frame short. Having a semester long team that worked on multiple projects brought an entirely new experience that I am glad I got to be a part of. In doing this it forced me to be more reliant on other people and trust them to get their portions of assignments done as well. I tend to be a control freak sometimes and I feel that this helped me relax those tendencies a bit.
I think the most difficult thing for our group was getting together to work with one another. We are all very busy people and with class and jobs it was hard to schedule meetings. To compensate for this a large bulk of our work was split up and done on an individual level. While this creates less stress and is probably more efficient in many ways, it also has its draw-backs. On several occasions we would get back with one another and the vision of what was assumed to be a shared understanding was not always the case. This resulted in minor frustrations of having to discuss and re-edit portions of our project so that we could all be on the same page.
If I were to do this again, I would have placed a greater emphasis on trying to complete the final presentation in advance of Thanksgiving break. While the practice of assigning parts to work on independently seems to be moderately successful in times of prolonged absence from one another, it also created a great deal of stress. Upon returning from break out scheduled meeting time did not fully work out causing us to have to wait till the last minute to finish all portions of the project. When dealing with a team one of the biggest goals is trying to find a common understanding of false deadlines as you complete a project in stages. Some people want to finish as soon as possible, others are more comfortable finishing at the last minute.
Aside from these problems I would say our group was very effective at completing our task and was quite pleased with the outcome.
In deciding how important availability of public media is, one would have to consider what public media means. To some public media would be only forums of media that are offered up for no charge to those using it. Still others would consider forums like facebook and twitter a public media source since they too reach the masses. For purposes of this post I will argue that public media are the sources of information that are disseminated to the public, free or not, that serve the sole purpose of delivering information. This includes newspapers, radio, tv news broadcast over public airwaves and through satellite and cable as well.
In answering the question of if these sources are needed for a community to be properly informed, I would say absolutely. My reasoning is quite simple actually. We as a free society depend heavily on public media to deliver news to us. Why the public media matter so much is mainly in relation to source origination. While it is impossible to receive news and information totally void of bias in opinion, it is widely acknowledged that in most instances (save a select few) these public media sources are our least biased forms of information.
While word of mouth and other forums of communication can effectively deliver information, sometimes more quickly than traditional forums, we rely upon and usually expect the public media to deliver our information as straightforward and with as little bias as possible. It is for this reason that I argue public media is absolutely needed in informing the community properly.
Aside from this obvious threat of incorrect information being circulated, imagine if you will a scenario in which tv radio and newspapers did not exist. Much the important information that we obtain on a daily basis would have to come from alternate sources. As much as we rely on public media to give us accurate information we also rely on them to give us relevant information. Left to our own devices using the internet to try to get through all information our there, more than likely we would miss a great deal of it. We depend on public media to give us the information we need and the information to make our communities and lives better. If you were to google search news and information for columbia mo, the results you would find are primarily the sources of public media we have spoken about. The only other source reliable enough to produce results consistent with public media would be through the government. The government is also an important source of information, but something inherent about democracy warns us to prevent such political power from being the only source of news and information.
It is for these reasons that I argue that public media availability is highly necessary for keeping the public properly informed.
My experience collecting surveys was not that bad at all. I spent most of my time in around Jesse Hall collecting surveys from people who clearly did not fit the bill of a young MU undergrad student. In collecting my responses this way I found it very easy to get them taken care of. I would usually wait until lunch hour or around 5pm and try to get as many of the people coming out of the building as possible. Most of the people I asked were willing to take my survey I think partially because they identify with the culture a little bit more than the average public. I did have plenty of people politely decline because they were in a hurry, but I never had any trouble getting people to take the time and fill one out.
At first I was worried what people would think when they saw a survey as long as the one we were requesting the public fill out. After the first two or three got it done in around 10 minutes I realized that it must not be so bad and used this to persuade future requests. One of the issues I thought about was demographics of the people working in the building. While I did not find anyone on the extreme low end of the scale, there were part-time employees and assistant directors that filled out my survey so I believe I got a fairly decent mix as far as income was concerned. I did find out though that there appear to a disproportionately high number of female to male workers in Jesse Hall. Completely irrelevant but interesting.
There were a few people who were a little perplexed at the length of the survey but of everyone that started my survey everyone got completed as well. While enjoyed meeting many different people and making small talk with them as they filled out the survey, it was not my cup of tea and would never consider a career in it. Over all it was good, just really long. I think the most time intensive part was going back and entering all of the answers into surveymonkey. I understand the reasoning and usefulness of such a request, it just took a lot of time and was very redundant. Other than that I had no major problems with the survey gathering process.
The Financial Aid Office is a good example of a community with many forms of communication. Working within the office are several different departments. This structure offers an effective way of streamlining the aid process and allowing people to specialize in certain areas. For example, the most well-known group of office members would be the desk staff. Myself included, desk staff are responsible for helping customers at the front desk and receiving all calls. In peak times of the year we will get over 1000 calls in a given day. The financial aid advisors responsible for packaging the students and fixing problems have an equally high level of face time. Loans, operations, scholarship, and IT departments also exist within our office and are critical to processing aid. Financial aid employs over 40 people and our office is fairly large. This makes face to face communication nearly impossible and highly inefficient.
Due to these limitations the office relies heavily on electronic communication to get things accomplished. Aside from using the phones, we also take advantage of something called office communicator. It is very much like instant messaging across the office. In this way we can notify advisors of appointment arrivals and quickly get the answers to most of our questions. Aside from these two forms of communication email is a big part of our daily communication. In this way supervisors can more easily notify the entire office on important issues and information. Lastly the entire office staff usually have weekly meetings as a collective to discuss any further issues and to make sure everyone is on the same page. For customers our office provides an extensive online website to answer many of the common question people have. This includes links to other sites, PDF files for forms needed, and online applications for financial aid.
Being a student staff worker allows me to interact with each of the different departments in a way that increases my understanding of how the entire office communicates with one another. From time to time there are communication break-downs, but these are usually few and far between.