At the end of each year, a major Japanese publisher of reference books gives an award to the year’s most popular buzzword. The Japanese press gives this wide coverage to reflect the current times. Thirty words have been nominated for this honor in 2017 and one of them is photography-related.
It is “Insta-bae” (インスタ映え) which basically means “taking photos to show-off on Instagram.”
On the morning of Sept. 16, 2017, NHK TV in Japan aired a very interesting program about the Instagram boom in Japan. It was a discussion among a few celebrities and social media experts. They talked about the major aspects and issues about Instagram use, especially by young women in Japan.
The keywords for popular Instagrammers were “Kawaii,” “Kolorful,” and “Kako” (digital filters/enhancement). That’s what you need to focus on to become an Instagram star. One example they showed was a girl named “Nano” who used a pink theme to show confections. (Her Instagram wall is pink.)
The motivation behind Instagram is to show something “Right now,” “Only here,” and “Only me.” It’s about instant, fleeting, and unique moments plus You, the star. Vis-a-vis other conventional social media which was more about “Anytime,” “Anywhere,” and “Anybody.”
They also mentioned that a whopping 40% of Instagrammers and social media users in Japan were going on trips and to restaurants mainly to post photos on social media. So it’s creating economic ripples as they buy train tickets, food, etc.
It’s a great way to publicize products and businesses and for marketers to see current consumer trends and preferences. Many amusement facilities have set-up picture-taking ops or backgrounds just for these Instagrammers. Like a water park providing mermaid costumes for girls to wear for Instagram photos.
The social media experts also cited major differences between Instagram and Twitter. On Instagram, at least in Japan, there is a culture of praising each other. Post on Instagram and people will give you compliments. While on Twitter, you can be subject to flaming or criticism. (“Your makeup/hair looks ugly today!” etc.) So Japanese users seem to favor Instagram over Twitter.
On the darker side, users can become obsessed with the numbers game of gaining more “Likes” and comments. Their lives may revolve around social media so much that it affects their work or mental health. They might also go as far as posting fake or staged photos. Like borrowing a friend’s Gucci bag and posting it as their own. Or renting fake friends (¥8,000/person for 2 hours) to pose with you at a fake party so you can post the photos (photo above). Then there are followers who get tired of keeping up with all these people leading “exciting and wonderful” lives. The drudgery of “liking” all these photos…
If you can read Japanese, you can see the complete list of 2017’s nominated buzzwords in Japan here: http://singo.jiyu.co.jp/
They will announce the winner of 2017’s buzzword award on Dec. 1 at 5:00 pm.
UPDATE: On Dec. 1, 2017, “Insta-bae” was indeed selected as a co-winner as Japan’s buzzword of the year in 2017. CONGRATULATIONS to us and our photo world/culture in Japan!! Camera makers are responding to this phenomenon by offering Insta-bae-friendly cameras.