The majority of Instagram users are drawn to the popular photo-sharing platform for social news and entertainment, and they are less likely to engage with political or controversial images, says a study. “The reasons that users avoid political or controversial news photos are multifaceted,” said T.J. Thomson, a doctoral candidate at the University of Missouri in the US. “Some users said they felt badly about ‘liking’ a photo of a tragedy while others said they turn to other sources when they seek serious news stories,” he added. “Many people view Instagram as an oasis where they can escape from the troubles and concerns of everyday life,” Thomson said. In the study, published in the journal Visual Communication Quarterly, the researchers identified three user groups that emerged from the study’s sample. Feature lovers, who mostly engaged with exciting photos that showcase adventure and travel. News hounds, who engaged most strongly with photos concerning politics and global culture; and optimists, who engaged with uplifting, positive and funny images.
While the majority of users in the groups preferred feature images to news images, the researchers found that news images can garner strong engagement if they are presented in ways both aesthetically pleasing and empowering. “Most users in our study preferred simple, clean images,” said Keith Greenwood, Associate Professor of Journalism at the University of Missouri.
“So news organisations might draw in more engagement from users if they post images that are representative of the story they’re telling, but are still friendly to the eye,” Greenwood said.