Instagram’s Raison D’Être

Friday, February 6th, 2015

Back in 2010, I discussed Twitter’s Raison D’Être, determining that Twitter existed to provide things like a parody of the mind of the greatest basketball player of all time (which has migrated to a new account here). Facebook, as everyone knows, is a tool for being disgusted by the political whackjobbery of people you vaguely know. But what exactly is Instagram for?

Recently, I worked out the answer. Instagram is a social network for talking to hotels about malfunctions in the area of signage. I realize that seems like an awfully specific reason to create a photo-sharing network with over 200 million users, but the evidence is overwhelming.

It all started with this photo, taken in 2012 while staying at the InterContinental on Howard Street in San Francisco:

Boarding Ass
Caption: “4 Star Hotel”

Allow me to publicly state that I was in no way involved in this juvenile bit of vandalism, nor do I know who the feckless, immature perpetrators were. I merely documented their destruction, because come on, that’s funny. The only way to top it would be to remove the “B“ as well and replace it with the “H” from “Telephone”.

To my great amusement/horror, however, shortly after I posted the image I received a Twitter reply from the hotel’s official account:

The InterContinental's reply, reading: 'Thanks for informing us, we’re working on getting this taken care. If there is anything you may need during your stay, tweet us.'
I believe my thought then was “Companies can do that?!”. It was a simpler time.

Following this unexpected success story, later that same week I documented a sign which had been busted for months, if not years:

Hot L Pickwick
Come stay at the Hot L Pickwick

Lamentably, I neglected to geo-tag this photo, and thus it’s likely that the Hot L Pickwick (as it has been known to all and sundry ever since) never saw the post. The sign had been burnt out for ages before I captured it, and it remained burnt out for many moons after.

Things then went quiet for a spell, until two years later. While staying in New York City at the Fairfield Inn, I captured a shot of the New Yorker Hotel. To get this picture, I had to stick my phone out of one of those tiny angled windows, ten stories up. I made sure to geo-tag the location where I almost smashed my phone:

The New Yorker Hotel

However, as there was no issue with the New Yorker’s sign, there was no response from either hotel. I’m pretty much just including this image because it’s a damned good photo. Hey, it’s my website, I’ll do what I want with it!

But back to the matter at hand: figuring out why Instagram was created. The next step on my path to enlightenment came with this shot of the sign for Boston’s famous Union Oyster House:

Union Oyster Hose
You see it’d be a hose, except instead of water, it sprays oysters.

This photo was properly tagged with the Union Oyster House’s location, and while they’re one of America’s oldest restaurants, they’re also hip enough to be on Instagram. Yet the sign has remained broken (and has in fact gotten worse — I believe we’re currently down to NION YSTER HOSE). There can be only one explanation for this, and that is that the Union Oyster House is not a hotel.

The final confirmation as to Instagram’s purpose came just a couple of weeks ago, when I snapped this nighttime pic:

DoubleTree Suits
Their selection of menswear was honestly just awful. It was scattered between hundreds of different rooms across dozens of floors, with no coherent organization.

Not long after I posted the image, I discovered this comment on it, from Doubletree Suites themselves:

A reply: Haha! Nice catch @pbones! We'll let engineering know. #caughtbysurprise

Jackpot! Another broken sign successfully reported to a hotel! It simply cannot be denied that Instagram is providing a platform for informing hotels about signage malfunctions. These results are irrefutable. Further, they indicate that this is a very functional service for the hospitality industry, touting a 67% success rate.

The comments on the last photo didn’t end there though, as my old pal John Moltz offered his congratulations:

WAY TO ENGAGE WITH BRANDS, PAUL

In the immortal words of Dr. Zoidberg, “Hooray! I’m helping!” Now if I could just get Doubletree to hand over some of those warm cookies.


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