General trends instagram


This exercise reinforced what we already knew: every generation comes with a unique lexicon that is intentionally meant to confound anyone over the age of 18.

Most young people using Instagram, including our research participants, catalogue information using hashtags - this generations’ new dewy decimal system. Days of the week are associated with posting behaviour; selfie Sunday (#SS), man-crush Monday (#MCM), tool-pick Tuesday (#TPT), women-crush Wednesday (#WCW), throw-back Thursday (#TBT) and fashion Friday (#FF).  Swag, yolo, fitspo (fit inspiration), emojis are all examples of popular, inside speak to describe youthful attitudes and digital posting behaviour.

MSN introduced none-of-your-business acronyms into text communication over a decade ago -think POS (parent over shoulder), PIR (parent in room) and PAW (parents are watching) throwing parents into a virtual tailspin. Hashtag speak is this generation’s social currency and some hashtags, i.e. thirst-trap, reinforce the generational divide. (Thirst-trap is urban speak to describe someone desperate for someone or something.)


Although the number two social media channel, Instagram has been colonized by young people. It is, without a doubt, the most popular social media platform for the 10 - 18 set. The trends observed by our youth research participants, confirm the supremacy of selfies as the tool du jour for personal brand building.

Other Interesting trends include the prominence of Starbucks selfies as a “brand” elevation tool. Students told us their peer group can’t afford expensive homes and cars, but they can afford a frothy java, which is understood to be “status” shorthand for cash-strapped youth.

Gender Trends – Instagram

Research participants were asked to identify common gender posting behaviours on Instagram. We’ve used Wordles (word clouds) to show their responses.

Male trends

Both genders in our research said the Justin Beiber effect of #shirtless selfies (which he may have learned at the heels of David Beckham) and #flexing are amongst the most common themes for male selfies. Students chalked it up to attention-seeking, “thirst-trap” behaviour. Many young people in our research groups lamented the sad, self-objectifying trend amongst young males who see “six packs” and #abs as the road to self-esteem.

Many female participants in our research suggested males are less likely to have selfies on their Instagram feed opting instead to hand the camera/mobile phone over to a friend to take the picture.

Male Trends

Female trends

The young women in our research agreed  #selfies have provided a continuation of the decades old practice of objectifying women, and in many cases -  the emerging trend of self-pornification. The “annoying” Miley Cyrus’s #tongue, #twerk and the #duck face are also acknowledged as huge selfie themes that many argue are more than a little tiresome. 

Female trends