“In 2017, there was a widely popular study by the Royal Society for Public Health in the U.K. that named Instagram the number one worst app for mental health for youth, specifically because it drives people to compare themselves to one another and fosters anxiety.”

Instagram is an app that most of us are so used to that we can’t imagine a day without it. It’s so entangled with our daily lives that it’s crucial to understand the business story behind it and its impact on us.

More than a billion people use it actively each month, while only a few know its inside story. In just 10 ten years, Instagram has gone from being a simple photo app to a $100-billion company. Isn’t that insane?

So when my friend gifted me this book called No Filter by Sarah Frier, I got really excited to dive into it.

No Filter by Sarah Frier

I have a funny relationship with Instagram. Sometimes I love what the app enables for many creators around the world, and other times I am annoyed but how much it distracts me and makes me worse-off after using it.

I read the book February, which is also when I had decided to delete the app because I realized I was addicted to it. I vouched to only use it on the browser for less than 10 minutes a day and to not engage in posting content. (Yes, I kept that promise)

This book filled in the space that the Instagram detox created. If you decide to read it, here’s what to expect:

How IG started

Did you know it was initially called Burbn and with a different use case.

Burbn let “people say where they were, or where they planned to go so their friends could show up. The more times a user went out, the more virtual prizes they got.”

I have no idea how it worked and if it was useful but I guess it was cool in 2010.

After raising a total of $500k in VC funding, co-founder Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger also realized that while Burbn was fun, it was not useful. After brainstorming, they realized sharing photos was the most popular feature and pivoted to Instagram where photos would use as few pixels as possible. It would also use a square frame giving the users some creative constraint just like Twitter had a 140 character limit.

And they added filters because it would give us, the “instagrammers permission to present their reality as more interesting and beautiful than it actually is which could make the product popular”. And it certainly did.

Next, Sarah talks about the chaos of success that followed. In just one week, they had 100k users on the app thanks to a tweet by Jack Dorsey.

Then being bought by Facebook for $1bn and being the first mobile app ever to be valued at that price

Getting celebrities onboard and how Kevin’s life became a real-life Instagram as he started hanging out with celebs all over the globe

The rise of new celebrities a.k.a influencers. There was an example of a woman who left her job to manage her dog’s Insta account. In the early days, IG featured user’s accounts in their blog and kind of had the power to make anyone popular.

Then, of course, there is a full chapter on what is insta worthy, using filters to hide reality, celebrity dramas, teen mental health concerns, and how IG handled it all.

The book has many stories of Kevin dealing with Mr. Zuckerberg fighting for resources and Facebook defending itself in the courts for its data scandals.

And a full chapter on fighting with Snapchat and launching Instagram stories.

For some stats: In 2012, when it reached 1 billion, they had 4600 employees. When IG was going to reach 1 billion in 2018, they had only 800 employees.

And it finished off with the co-founders leaving the company in 2018 to pursue other interests.

The app those 2 men developed has shaped cultures globally, transformed businesses, and is continuing to change our lives.

The author says in the start, “The story of Instagram is ultimately about the intersection of capitalism and ego-about how far people will go to protect what they built and to appear successful.”

I highly recommend reading this book, I think everyone should know about the things and inventions that impact our lives.

To wrap up, keep using IG but be mindful of it’s impact on your mental health.

If you do read the book, hit me up and let’s chat about it.


  • Post author: