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Instagram: The White Man’s Folly


Like me and millions of others, you probably have a smartphone. I was relatively late to the smartphone craze, buying one only when all the cheap-ass options had been thoroughly exhausted, and so I was surprised when I came to learn of the technological turf war going on between iPhone and Android users.

Apparently people who use iPhones are the real deal; they want the achingly cool Apple brand and will accept no substitute, whereas Android users just want the same phone for cheaper, without feeling like their technology is obsolete within a year. The fragile balance between iPhone and Android users has always had me leaning towards Team Apple – until a recent development that is.

When Instagram, a ‘fast, beautiful way to share photos with your friends and family’, announced that they were making the app available to the Android market, internet message boards have been jammed with discussion ever since. When I say ‘discussion’, what I mean is comments like this: ‘___ Droids and go back to your own apps’, ‘Dead ass Androids can ___ a whole ____’ and my favourite ‘We are so annoyed that Android has Instagram we was like a gated community’.

Oh how I feel for these people. They truly do know suffering. I was going to spend a year in Africa caring for children with no drinking water, but I’ve cancelled that now. I ripped up the airplane tickets in disgust as soon as I found out there are people here – in this very country – with running water and electricity who are cursed by a photography app that isn’t exclusive to their phone!

In all seriousness I didn’t get it. I didn’t get why this bothered anyone, particularly enough to go online and complain. To me an app is just something that you download either to kill time or to assist with your work, not some sort of precious commodity that needs to be harboured from a section of society. Anyone who feels that their phone is an expression of themselves probably shouldn’t be trusted with real technology, it must be said. Nevertheless, the discontent surrounding Instagram jumping ship is not limited to a handful of persistent complainers. There are in fact thousands of online comments and messages debating Instagram’s decision to open their doors and allow the general unwashed public to sample their wares.

The whole situation reminds me of the Native Americans and the European settlers that came to America. The Europeans started banging on about killing Native Americans for the land, under the illusion that it was their land really, and, you know, the Native Americans wouldn’t use it properly anyway. All the while, the Natives pointed out that you can’t ‘own’ the land, any more than you can ‘own’ the sky or the water, but the European settlers pressed on anyway, and claimed Instagram to themselves, as well as the bagging the most fertile soil to live, breed and farm on.

And now, several hundred years later, we have people arguing over a non-physical computer programme being shared with more than just one group of people. They don’t ‘own’ the app in the sense that it’s theirs to give away; they are using a product that can be replicated infinitely.

The Android Instagram App has already been downloaded 5 million times, and with the recent acquisition by Facebook, downloads show little sign of abating. In so many ways that’s a good thing – the white man’s folly finally realised through the power of cross-platform app sharing. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this daring app exchange will become a regular occurrence, people will have one less thing to argue about, and we can all get a little closer to smashing the walls of that ‘gated community’.

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