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My Life as a Canvas

Like a canvas before painting, a profile is empty before creating it on Instagram as well. People who accompany us know our character, know how we think, know what we feel. On Instagram, we are just the canvas and the paint. Strangers are the brush. What we upload on Instagram, whether as a post or packaged in a story, always shows just a snapshot. Pictures are worth a thousand words, but in this case, there are too few. What happened before the picture? What happened afterwards? What does the picture say for the creator? Strangers, who do not know us, form their own opinion, their own story and thus write their impression of us. A brush stroke, which we cannot control.

In our project, we tried to find out how important it is to pay attention to what we post and when we post something.

Brainstorm & Research

Smartphones today. What do they do? What possibilities do they have nowadays? They are no longer just a means to call or text other people. They shape them character, make people rich, make people addicted or sick, and can also quickly destroy identities. 3.9 billion people owned a smartphone in 2021 – and the number is growing. They are everywhere, and it's hard to imagine life without them.

Post SmartPhones_Mindmap.jpegPost SmartPhones_Mindmap.jpeg

The topic of the course is one that has a thousand of ways to address it.

We've decided to focus on the social impact of apps. For us, it was important to find out if we are now so socially limited in what we are allowed to post or not. Are we just imitating others, or are we still writing our own stories? How significant is it to us to show other people only the perfect sides of ourselves? Do we still have the courage to make extreme posts?


In 2018, Instagram released the 'close friends only' Story feature.

It is a feature that lets you create a subset of followers who are given special permission to see private Stories. When you publish a story and select this feature, only the accounts you've selected for your 'close friends' list will be able to see the story.


When we analyzed Instagram, we observed that people were trying to create an identity with the photos they shared. In these posts, in general, the main concerns were to be liked, who could see this photo, and what the followers would think of this photo. It was not a new phenomenon for people to define themselves from the perspective of others. Perhaps our perception in the eye of the beholder has been a part of our lives since the renaissance. From Renaissance to the present, every image created was aimed at a spectator. The image portrayed itself through the perception of the spectator.

Image has always wanted to tell something, to convey emotion and the viewers, on the other hand, interpreted the image with their own thoughts and self.

An expression of Berger, who makes evaluations of art history, describes this very well. “The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe.” John Berger-Ways of Seeing.

Another point of inspiration for us was the French philosopher Foucault's mirror metaphor. In the article called Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias Foucault states that “In the mirror, I see myself there where I am not, in an unreal, virtual space that opens up behind the surface; I am over there, there where I am not…But also the mirror does exist in reality, where it exerts a sort of counteraction on the position that I occupy. From the standpoint of the mirror, I discover my absence from the place where I am since I see myself over there. Starting from this gaze that is, as it were, directed toward me, from the ground of this virtual space that is on the other side of the glass, I come back toward myself; I begin again to direct my eyes toward myself and to reconstitute myself there where I am.”

As soon as we see ourselves in the mirror or in any other medium, we begin to judge ourselves. Instagram, on the other hand, allows us to create a presence in a virtual world that does not exist in reality, just like a mirror. It is not possible to say that this environment is completely virtual. Because with the photos we share, we transform this environment into some concrete form. Just like in the mirror metaphor, the virtual and the real are intertwined. Unlike the mirror metaphor, on Instagram, we not only judge ourselves but also present it to the judgment and evaluation of others. This brings to mind the question: “what do the others think about me?”

This question was the trigger for our project for us as well.



1. Questionnaire

At this stage, we created a poll via Instagram and asked Instagram users when they used to choose “close friends”. We received responses from 8 university students from a total of 5 different countries. The 4 main situations that came to the fore in these responses were “ being criminal”, “being dumb”, “being political” and “being emotional”. Therefore, we found out that people do not feel comfortable when they share a post related to these subjects or situations. In the next stage, we prepared a photo series including photographs pointing to these 4 concepts.

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2. Photo shooting

All of the photos were taken with a smartphone and for the post-production and editing process also smart phone applications and filters were used. Instagram story dimensions were taken as a photo frame size. The aim was for the students to experience the feeling of sharing an Instagram story during the interview.

1st Photo:

Some of the participants said that they did not prefer to share photos with political or provocative themes, as they thought it might cause problems in their professional lives.

For this reason, a critical photograph was taken for the first photograph, which could be associated with women's rights and policies on this issue.


2nd Photo:

Another response from the participants is; that while sharing a photo showing that they acted against the rules or were unethical, they said that they could only share it with a certain group of friends. At the same time, they said that the humorous side of such photos can only be understood within the close group of friends or judged by the followers who are not in the close group of friends.

In this photo, the model is holding a traffic sign and is drinking and having fun with her friends. She does not hesitate about the traffic sign she stole and even has fun with it. However, removing/stealing a traffic sign is considered a crime in Germany and is subject to traffic fines.


3rd Photo:

In another response, one of the male Instagram users stated that when he wants to share deeper feelings and thoughts, he prefers to share them only with his close friends.

For this reason, in a photograph, the man was shown in a position that we are used to seeing in women in general, which shows him in an emotional, fragile mood.


4th Photo

Participants said that they use the „close friends“ option for photos that they usually take for entertainment purposes and show themselves in dumb situations.

For this, photos were taken using various Instagram filters.



We conducted interviews with our fellow students, in which we wanted to find out their usage patterns of the Stories feature on Instagram. There were four different main topics: Being political, being crazy, being criminal and being emotional. For each topic we prepared the photos from the shootings to show them.

To make it more diverse, we decided to interview the international students from different countries. We had people from Spain, Turkey, Iran, India, the USA, Jordan, Germany, and New Zealand. Our hypothesis: Different countries meaning different cultures, where people don‘t post anything on certain topics, nor do they express incriminating personal views.

When would they choose the public post? When would they all rather post in private mode instead or would post via the ‚close friends only‘ function? What would be the hashtag or statement of the interviewees for each of the topics? What could be the differences due to different cultures?!

We decided to ask them two questions:

1. Would you post photos like ours in your story?

2. What would be your message for the photo you would post in your story?

Interviews_First_Page.pdf PDF Interviews_First_Page.pdf
Interviews_Second_Page.pdf PDF Interviews_Second_Page.pdf

With the second question, we wanted to decorate our pictures. They are the statements of our interviewees. As it is with social media that news, quotes, or links are published on the shot image, we wanted to follow this scheme.

In our final version of the poster, we included almost all the written down statements of the interviewees in the image. Besides several aesthetic embellishments and variations of the typography, we decided to use a neutral font and a simple, slightly transparent bar for the image.


Our project was an experimental journey through the topic of social impact on Instagram.

After we had to readjust our concept several times and change the focus of our topics, we were finally able to pursue our goal.

Our hypothesis that different cultures have different views turned out to be wrong. Due to this fact, we find that our project has become even more meaningful.

We also assumed that in the Eastern world it would be difficult to express opinions on political issues, to post criminal pictures or to show one's childish side. But we were proven wrong, because there are no big differences between the Eastern and the Western world. Political, criminal or crazy pictures are rather shown privately, in order to withhold one's own image from the public.

But everyone agreed on one point:

Emotionally, no one would want to show themselves. Not in the direct way we interpreted them. Thus, if at all, it is only posted privately, or it is reinterpreted and posted differently. For example, with a quote or indirect images, which do not necessarily show you in a sad moment.

The project was very revealing for us, changed our opinion and successfully disproved our hypothesis. Moreover, we had to realize that society has set norms in posting pictures. If we show too much, show things that are too extreme, or post something at the wrong time, our canvas risks slipping into a false impression. People are more open with certain topics than we assumed, but everything is carefully considered in how, when and what is posted.

Final Poster

Oyku_&_Yoshi_Poster.pdf PDF Oyku_&_Yoshi_Poster.pdf


International Integrated Design

Art des Projekts

Studienarbeit im Masterstudium


foto: Klaus Pollmeier

Zugehöriger Workspace

EM Photo 2022


Sommersemester 2022