COMMENTS AND LIKES: ENGAGING THE AUDIENCE
We can see another way that people use Instagram to tell stories by looking at the comment and “Like” function. On Instagram, followers respond to posted photographs through their support with the “Likes,” written dialogue, and through questions. Sometimes, usually depending on the number of comments, the user responds or answers the inquiries. But how exactly do these particular tools demonstrate that Instagram works a form of digital storytelling? As Bryan Alexander remarks, “Some story definitions appear to reflect a frustration with other media—hence the argument that stories are objects...with meaning...Related to this sense of story as meaning-vehicle are definitions that place engagement in the foreground. In this model, stories are that which pull in the viewer/listener” (6). Sheila Bernard echoes Alexander’s emphasis on defining stories through audience engagement, insisting that “A story is the narrative, or telling, of an event or series of events, crafted in a way to interest the audiences, whether they are readers, listeners, or viewers” (qtd. in Alexander 6). What we can glean from these definitions is that attraction and audience involvement (including interest) help define what is a story and what is not. Therefore, we can consider the posts on Instagram as stories because they engage followers—whether they are strangers, friends, or even family members—and the comments and “Likes” illustrate this engagement. People become emotionally involved with the individuals they follow on Instagram because they connect with the stories presented, even if they fundamentally dislike a particular story. We see some of this engagement and involvement in the example below:
In this post, we see the audience engagement with the digital story concerning the photo itself. User acownamedoink takes issue with the shirt one of the little girls is wearing that says "I <3 Trannies." Clearly the story here is interesting to at least one of latonyayvette's followers. By deciding to use this particular photo with the caption about taking her white friends to see a black Santa Claus, latonyayvette crafts a story that draws people in and engaging them in the meaning making process.