Dear Instagram

Dear Instagram

I remember the day I got Instagram. It was December 12, 2010 and for some reason I was making cupcakes. I decided to download this new photo editing app called Instagram. I took a photo of the cupcakes and put a filter and border on it and posted it. Not even knowing people could follow what you posted. I kept in this understanding of Instagram for a few months. When I realized it was more than photo editing.

But it wasn’t until September of 2012, almost two years since I joined, that my use and understanding of Instagram drastically changed. I followed this Instagramer named Cory Staudacher, @withhearts. He used Instagram unlike anyone else I followed. He had somewhere around 100,00 followers at the time. Because of his influence he hosted these “instameets.” An instameet is when instagramers get together and walk and take photos. Cory traveled the country and hosted these meets.

One day I got on Instagram and saw he was going to be in town and was hosting a meet. I knew I really wanted to go if nothing else to meet this guy. Saturday, finally came and I was nervous to go. Back then I was not one to meet new people, but thankfully I got my sister to come with me. It turned out to be one of the best decisions. I ended up after the meet getting to have dinner with Cory and a few other influential instagramers, @jerseang &, @kylesteed. It was a definition shifting night.

Cory told me about his travels and how he goes from town to town in hopes of building and starting a community of instagramers. It was something that was foreign to me. How can you build true community through a social media? But I caught on to his vision and heart fast. Almost over night, the way I used Instagram changed from photo sharing, getting likes and followers, to building genuine community.

From there things accelerated fairly quick. I began to interact and engage with the community in Dallas. I began going to almost every Instameet held in the DFW area. And that is not for the reasons you may think. These people, gramers, were slowing becoming friends and people did life with. After meeting these people online and then in person, unlike any other social media, we immediately bonded over this common interest of creativity and photography.  It was almost unbelievable to build and step into this tight knit community so quickly.

In October 2012, one of my photos was featured on @instagood. Instagood is an account that simply features photos submitted to the tag #instagood. They have around 290,000 followers.Things really began accelerating in terms of followers and engagement here. After meeting so many people and hearing many stories. I had an idea.

For one of my classes I had to make a fake movie trailer. To make it easy, I decided to make a fake trailer about Instagram. I called it Instagram is. I shot one of our instameets and interviewed those present and asked a simple question,

What is Instagram to you?

The trailer was supposed to be a minute and 45 seconds. After stepping back from editing, I had a full length three minute trailer for something more than a fake trailer. I knew in that moment that the story of Instagram had to be told. I remember driving in my car from work to school knowing that what I had just made was bigger than I could have ever known. God was at work and I knew I could never make this in my own strength. 

The community immediately attached to this idea when they heard about it. One week later @instagood featured the film banner on their page. The once fake trailer was now in all respects real. I knew I had to make a full film. There was just so much story to tell. Because I love killing two birds with on stone, I madeInstagram is my capstone/ senior project for college.

Bottom line: I simply want to tell peoples stories and how Instagram is woven into it and the community and culture around them.

The fim came together with ease. People to interview literally fell into my lap. The story seemed to tell itself. On a side note I think this speaks of the depth of this community. The process of making the film took six months. Some of the most challenging six months of my life. Instagram, the company itself, picked up on the film back in April. They told me how much they loved the trailer and how it had inspired them.@jayzombie, one of the community mamgers, even cried.

On May 24, Instagram Is released to the world, one week after I grduated college. It features Kyle Steed,Brenton Little and Allison Anderson. Read more about the Instagram is story here

That day, May 24, Instagram contacted me. They said how much they loved and were inspired and motivated by the film. They said "this is what Instagram is to us." I had a flip out moment. Not to mention @jayzombie cried again (isn't she the sweetest).

On another note June 28, today, is Jessica's last day at Instagram. We love you Jay and are so grateful for your impact on this community. 

A day after it's release, May 25, Instagram posted about the film on the Instagram blog. I was with my Instagram friends in Dallas when it happened. I remember them jumping up and down. (That seems like an overreation if you aren't on Insagram.) But it is a big deal. This blog helped put the film out to people all over the world. It is almost the highest honor to recieve from the company. 

Instagram then invited me to fly up to the HQ in San Francisco to tour the campus and meet the team. So of course I turned it into a trip and visited San Diego too. I hosted two instameets that weekend in SD and SF. It was one of the best weekends of my life.

I met with the team on Monday, June 10. I was a tiny bit nervous. I didn't know what to expect. One thing really struck me after meeting the team--they are just people. That characteristic made my me feel like I was spending time with family and friends.

The community they have as a team is what trickles down to us as a larger whole.

My experience there made me love Instagram and this community even more. 

That same night before I boarded a plane home, Instagram featured @luke_asper and I on the Instagram account on Instagram. We both flipped out. Big time. 31 million people followed the account at the time. Instagram, the company, had become the megaphone for my film and my ideas. I was honored. In total they reached 58 million people with the message of Instagram Is and me. I was overwhelmed. 

Today, 2 and a half years after joining Instagram I just hit 10,000 followers (June 28). I am so thankful. UPDATE: On July 10 I officially became a suggested user. (So crazy)

I am excited for what lies ahead for this community. This is the beginning of a new chapter and I am ready to dive into new projects and meet more of you.

Instagram is the most encouraging social network I am a part of. All of my interactions on the network have been positive. Most people truly want to build an authentic community of creativity and collaboration.

One of the most interesting things is the amount of friends I have made in statescities and countries outside my own. I feel like I could go anywhere and have friends in that city. Most of these people out of state I communicate with on a daily basis outside of Instagram. Know this again, I’m not normally one to meet new people. But, It just feels so right to reach out and engage and build relationships with those around the globe.

You can follow me on Instagram @technopaul.

Paul Tellefsen is a storylistener, photographer, videographer, writer and speaker. His mission is to explore and connect our world by finding spaces of solitude in otherwise busy destinations. Through the exploration of the less-exposed places, Paul's ultimate vision is to encourage a more digitally disconnected yet personally connected society.