How Adorno & Horkheimer Might View Instagram

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Adorno and Horkheimer’s essay “The Culture Industry” (1993), discusses the culture industry as the convergence of industry and with the production of culture. They describe the “culture industry” as lacking authenticity and consumers as “cultural dupes” that blindly participate in the consumption of standardized products generated by the culture industry. They argue that in the culture industry “the notion of genuine style is seen to be the aesthetic equivalent of domination” (p. 37). Essentially, this symbolizes the fact that content and culture is driven by the masses and for the masses. As a result, there is a perception that one contains uniqueness, but in reality, this in actuality is a construction of “sameness.” This “sameness” creates the idea of a “pseudo individual” where a subject is no longer an individual; rather they are a product of what the culture industry has defined as acceptable and popular.

The growing popularity of Instagram as a social media platform provides an open space for the theory of culture as an industry. As a business supported by advertising, this platform provides the culture industry with the means of circulating content at excess. In essence, Instagram allows users to post images through a “filter,” which results in an altered and unauthentic photo, a theory these two theorists believe serves as a product of the “sameness” of the culture industry. They argue that the majority of artists are interchangeable due to the convergence of a standardized process. Through this type of a repetition of the “sameness” there is a lack of individuality due to the standardization of product. The ability to “like” on Instagram drives material and what is considered “normal” in society. People gain acceptance through their images. The drive to attract “followers” is such an act that fuels the systematic cycle of Instagram. Furthermore, businesses are able to advertise their products through Instagram manipulating culture into a business entity that continues the cycle of standardized products.

Individuals attempt to create a manufactured identity through Instagram and as Adorno and Horkheimer (1993) argue the culture industry as a whole “has molded men as a type unfailing reproduced in every product” (p. 35). Users appeal to the masses by presenting their lives in a way that mirrors what is demonstrated through television and film, and as a result, this cycle of standardization continues. The reality of social media is just that, it is a separate entity from our real lives. Adorno and Horkheimer would find that their past theories on culture and illusion would fit within the role Instagram plays in constructing a false reality.

We believe that the power of Instagram has a substantial influence on the way culture is constructed. Users try to present their best selves even if is it not their real self demonstrating that users are in fact “cultural dupes” attempting to pass through the filter of the culture industry. The artificial representation of reality continues to mold a lack of consciousness within society and it has increased the materialistic approach to culture.

References

Adorno, T., and Horkheimer, M. (1993). The culture industry: Enlightenment as mass deception. In S. During (Ed.), The cultural studies reader (pp. 31-41). London: Rutledge.

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