Instagram hasn't been around all that long, but in its two years, it's exploded to become the most popular way that smartphone users are sharing photos. And what are they sharing?
Last week it was pictures from Hurricane Sandy, Instagram's CEO said at a conference. "Sandy was the single largest event captured on Instagram -- and the largest event captured on cellphones ever." Nearly one million photos were uploaded to Instagram with the hashtag #Sandy. And some of them were mine.
Back in graduate school, I studied photojournalism, so it would be fair to say I have a thing for cameras. I've got some pretty serious equipment and have had photos published all over the web. But nothing has been as indispensable as my iPhone, and from the first time I used Instagram, I was hooked.
Confession: most of my Instagram photos are of food, cats, and babies. This may be true of most of the Instagramming population. But the way people were able to share pictures in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy showed that the social network was good for much more than just kittens and brunch. Instagram became a source of real-time news from our friends and families.
We saw photos people shared of a fleet of flooded-out taxis, of the storm waters ravaging Manhattan's Lower East Side, and of the beaches of the Jersey Shore, drowning in water, sand, and destruction. With the photos our friends shared, we were able to see what the storm was like for them. It gave us a way to communicate without words. I saw photos of a street I've driven down thousands of times, deep underwater. I saw photos of my friend's neighborhood in Ocean City, N.J., where the street was full of small sand dunes.
Once the storm had passed, I ventured out into my Brooklyn neighborhood to survey the damage. Our biggest casualty were tall, strong trees, blown over at the roots by even stronger winds. Most of them landed on cars, sparing the houses around them. My street was blocked by a fallen tree whose trunk landed between two parked cars. In the park, I snapped more photos of fallen trees as others did the same with their phones.
Did you use Instagram to share photos of Hurricane Sandy?
Image via Jennifer Lawinski