Growing Up in a Visual World


The latest Coming of Age on Screens report from Facebook IQ explores how teens and young adults are using more images and less text to express themselves and connect with people online.

For today’s teens and young adults, image is everything—particularly when it comes to how they communicate.

Take it from Aria, a 22-year-old from Canada: “People don’t really want to read through text all the time … they just want to see it visually. It’s more appealing.”

People look to visuals not just to learn what others have to say but also to express themselves, making images essential in today’s universal language. And Instagram, a visual member of the Facebook family of brands, is where people fluent in that language come together.


This post, our latest installment of the Coming of Age on Screens series, explores the role of visual language in the lives of teens and young adults from Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, the UK and the US. As part of a study on what it means to grow up in a world of constant connectivity, Facebook partnered with culture experts Crowd DNA to interview and survey 13–24-year-olds.

We found that Instagram plays a meaningful role in the lives of teens and young adults as they learn about the world, discover their best selves and find a sense of belonging.

Instagram inspires the journey

Instagram is a place where teens and adults go to discover what’s new and what’s next. The platform holds unique appeal because it captures the immediacy of the moment, ignites creative expression and provides a connection to a likeminded community.


Teens and YA Describe Instagram


Instagram also plays a deeper role over time for many Instagrammers ages 13–24, inspiring them along their journeys of self-discovery and self-expression.

Instagram is aspirational: For Thomas, a 14-year-old in the UK, Instagram is a way to monitor “the trends and what people use,” enabling him to “use exactly the same type of things” as his role models. And he’s not alone—53% of Instagrammers in our study credit the platform with helping them define who they are.

Instagram ignites visual storytelling: 63% of Instagrammers in our study say they use Instagram to document their lives. Many document regularly, with 72% posting photos on the platform monthly.* And they do it creatively, curating moments and artistically filtering their images to display life at its best. As Mohamed, a 19-year-old in Germany, says, Instagram is where “you have these effects available … where you share your coolest pictures.”

Instagram creates belonging: 56% of Instagrammers in our study said that the platform makes them feel more connected to the people they know, and 52% agreed that it gives them a sense of community, which can be important for those on the path of self-discovery.

The journey is multifaceted

The places where teens and young adults access Instagram paint a picture of its role in their everyday lives. A third actually start their days with Instagram, checking it from bed when they wake up. And for the 39% who access the platform right before going to sleep, Instagram may literally inspire dreams.


Teens and YA Check Instagram


As teens and young adults go on Instagram throughout the day, they post about their passions. Some of the most popular topics to discuss and share include fashion/beauty, food, TV/films, hobbies and music.

Brands are some of the most creative and inspiring contributors on Instagram—and 68% of Instagrammers ages 13–24 say they interact with brands regularly, be it by looking at photos, liking content, following a brand, visiting its website or engaging in some other way.

What it means for marketers

In a world where people communicate through visuals, a brand’s presence must also be visual to drive impact. The teens and young adults who spend time on Instagram are open to storytelling that is authentic and visually stunning.

Showcase what makes you special: Brands, like people, often have rich and unique narratives to share. To resonate most vividly with teens and young adults, brands will want to channel the authentic perspective that only they can offer the world. Brands can reveal how they see the world differently, using their distinct points of view to guide content creation and inspire Instagrammers.

Blend in to stand out: Instagrammers appreciate aesthetic quality in visual content and will often make the effort to transform the banal into a thing of beauty. Brands seeking to engage teens and young adults will want to offer an organic experience by aiming for quality, too. Images and video will ideally be beautiful, thoughtfully composed and artfully presented.

Inspire the moment: Among other things, teens and young adults also value Instagram for being current, trendy and exciting. Brands seeking to resonate will want to deliver on at least a few of these attributes by playing to their followers’ desire to know everything and/or experience something. For many brands, this will mean finding ways to continuously surprise and delight—be it by unveiling new or exclusive news, taking people behind the scenes or even sequencing a story in little chapters that continue to give people a fresh reason to engage.


Source: “Coming of Age on Screens,” by Crowd DNA (study commissioned by Facebook). Survey of 12,180 people online, ages 13-24, across 14 markets (this piece includes data for AU, BR, CA, DE, FR, UK, US), Apr–May 2014.
*Instagram internal, anonymized, aggregate data, Mar 2015.