No Filter by Sarah Frier was definitely a #BookstagramMadeMeDoIt read for me. I saw several posts with intriguing reviews and comments on the book and since Instagram is my favorite social media platform, I felt like this book was a must-read for me and requested a copy via NetGalley.
Developed in 2010 by Kevin Systrom and Mike Kreiger, Instagram is a photo-sharing app where people can post beautiful, professional-looking photos that were taken with their phone. What started out as a niche audience of artisans and photographers simply sharing photos, turned mainstream; inspiring celebrities to share their lives with fans and allowing users to brand and build successful Instagram-made businesses and lifestyles, eventually birthing a new phenomenon of “influencers.”
In No Filter, Sarah Frier takes the reader on an unfiltered journey through the start up days of Instagram, the $1 billion acquisition by Facebook, the clash of Facebook’s company culture with Instagram’s, the eventual departure of Instagram’s founders, and a bittersweet glimpse into the future of the app. Beautifully written, this story captures the true essence of Instagram and how this app has fundamentally changed the world we live in and how we interact with one another.
Sarah Frier did an amazing job at objectively sharing the stories of these tech companies and brands in exquisite detail. I enjoyed learning about Instagram’s history and reading about how they were largely able to maintain independence from Facebook until they achieved 1 billion users. I applaud Systrom’s commitment to maintaining the true essence of Instagram throughout the app’s growth, the acquisition by Facebook, and despite some of the cut-throat feedback provided by Mark Zuckerberg. Without spoiling anything, I personally have a lot of mixed feelings about Zuckerberg and while this book didn’t drastically sway me to lean further into one way or the other, it did cement a lot of the feelings and suspicions I had prior to reading the book.
I enjoyed learning more details about the various mistakes that Facebook has made over the years in regards to the data of its users and even its role within the 2016 presidential election and how Instagram was unfortunately compromised by this too. The book really sheds some light on how some of the algorithms in place work and how much data they are able to access of their users. At one point, the book mentioned how Facebook was growing largely concerned with the number of users no longer posting personal status updates and photos as they were in the past. As a result of this, the app introduced the “On This Day” feature in hopes that people would re-share these personal throwback posts to help bring back that personal feel the app once had (the slightly dystopian feel to this portion of the book made me think of Followers by Megan Angelo).
There were definitely a lot of entertaining moments in the book that I enjoyed, such as the history of how celebrities became so instrumental to Instagram and what it was like working with some of them in the beginning (Justin Bieber 😅) as well as the influencer phenomenon and how this has come to be what it is. Having been old enough to recall a lot of the earlier versions of Facebook and Instagram, it was fun being able to travel through those time frames and reminisce on my own earlier experiences with these apps in connection with the story. I also enjoyed reading about the shared history and connections among Twitter, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Vine, etc.
Overall, I found this book to be very intriguing and a resourceful tool in changing the way I think about and use social media. This was a great debut by Sarah Frier, and I recommend it to anyone that uses social media and is fascinated with learning about the history of these companies. Thank you so much to Simon & Schuster for providing me a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review! 💛
BEER RECOMMENDATION: No Filter by Sarah Frier is best paired with Death by King Cake by Oskar Blues Brewery. This highly enjoyable white porter was inspired by the traditional Mardi Gras cake and is brewed with vanilla, cacao nibs, nutmeg, pecans, cinnamon, and orange peel 🍻