What is Instagram?


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What is Instagram?

Instagram logo surrounded by hearts

What's coming up?

This activity provides you with an overview of the Instagram social media platform. You will learn what the platform is used for and how people using the platform interact with each other.

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So, what is Instagram?

Instagram is a photo and video-sharing social media platform where users can upload and share photos and videos from their mobile device. You can access Instagram by downloading the app to your mobile device.

Instagram logo

eSafety Tip

Only download apps to your mobile device from either the official App Store for Apple devices, or the Google Play Store for Android devices.

The Instagram home feed screen

The Home screen

When you first log in to Instagram, you will see your Home screen. The Home screen displays a continuous feed of photos and videos that you can view by scrolling up and down the page.

Your feed is made up of content that has been posted by other Instagram users that you follow. Your feed also displays advertising based on your interests and the accounts you follow.

The Add, Like and Comment icons

Home screen icons

Instagram is a highly visual app that uses icons instead of a text-based menu you might find on a typical website.

At the top of the Home screen, there are three icons that allow you to do a range of things:

  • The + icon lets you add a new photo or video
  • The heart icon lets you access your notifications and review your activity
  • The paper plane icon lets you send direct messages to other Instagram users. On some devices, this icon may also appear as a speech bubble with a lightning bolt through it.

Home screen icons (continued)

At the bottom of the Home screen are icons that allow you to access:

  • The Home screen
  • The Search function
  • Reels (videos hand-selected by Instagram based on the accounts of other Instagram users you follow)
  • Shop (items for purchase based on the accounts you follow and your search history)
  • Your Profile.
The Home, Search, Video, Shop and Profile icons

eSafety Tip

Instagram provides handy shortcuts to some frequently used features. You can swipe right from the Home screen to access the camera on your device and create Posts, Reels and Stories. You can even stream live video to your followers. Swiping left from the Home screen lets you send direct to messages to other users.

The Like, Comment and Share icons

Followers and following

Instagram works based on its users following, or linking to, other users. Users can then interact with posts by:

  • Liking them
  • Commenting on the photos or video in them
  • Sharing posts with their own followers.

You will learn more about each of these later in this course.

Your profile

Tap the Profile icon to access your Instagram profile. Your profile displays the photos and videos you have posted, as well as information on the number of followers you have and the number of users you follow.

You can also add a new photo or video by tapping the + icon, and access your settings by tapping the menu represented by three horizontal lines. This is known as a Hamburger icon.

You can customise your profile by adding a profile picture and creating a Bio line. You’ll learn more about these later in this course.

The Instagram profile screen with photo, name and Bio line
Liking a photo of a beach with an umbrella on the sand

Likes, comments and shares

Each photo or video that appears in your feed has three small icons below it:

  • Like: Double-tap the photo or video to show your appreciation, or tap on the heart icon underneath it to achieve the same result
  • Comment: Tap to open the keyboard and type a comment about the photo or video. This will also allow you to add a different emoji icon other than the heart
  • Share: Tap to share the photo or video with another Instagram user.

Instagram Stories

The top of the Instagram Home screen displays circular icons that are called Instagram Stories. These are short videos that are uploaded by users you follow and which you can view by tapping on the icon.

You will notice that your own circular icon displays on the far left. Tapping the Your Story icon allows you to film a short video, or post photos that you can upload for your followers to watch. You can also re-share the Stories of other users to your own Story feed. Instagram Stories only display for a period of 24 hours.

The Instagram Story circular icons side-by-side
The Instagram Search screen

The Search feature

You can use the Search feature to search Instagram for users and content based on your interests. Tapping the Search icon displays a list of genres, or types, of content that you can tap to select. Alternatively, you can type a specific search term into the Search box at the top of screen.

Instagram also displays suggested content based on your search history within the app, and the types of accounts you already follow.

Searching by hashtag

Hashtags (#) are used on social media to identify uploaded content by category or topic. For instance, if you upload a photo of a cake, you may wish to add hashtags such as: #baking #food #cake.

You can use the Search feature to locate content based on categories you’re interested in. For example, you can search for the hashtag #vintagecars to view photos of old cars.

A hashtag and the Vintage cars hashtag
The Instagram icon and Jeremy's profile photo


You have completed the What is Instagram? activity. You now have a basic overview of the Instagram platform, and know what it is used for.

Next up, you can learn how to get started with your own Instagram account in the How to create an Instagram account activity.