Young adults’ information needs, use, and understanding in the context of Instagram: A multi-method study


The use of information has changed in recent years—particularly among young adults, for whom social media are now the most important gateway to engage with news and various other types of information. Focusing on Instagram, this multi-method research project takes an audience-centered approach and investigates how young adults use the platform for (which kind of) information, the information needs that guide their use, and the contextual dynamics that shape their understandings of ‘information (use).’ Empirically, the study builds on a combination of a seven-day diary study with semi-structured qualitative interviews with 48 German Instagram users aged 18 to 24. Analyzing the diaries in conjunction with the interview transcripts allowed us to gain rich insights into information usage practices and how these are influenced by the characteristics of (audiovisual) social media platforms as well as the motives and needs of using them. The findings suggest that Instagram is an integral part of young adults’ information repertoires, although information is usually not actively sought. Moreover, platform characteristics and affordances not only shape possible and actual information behaviors but also matter for whether participants understand their Instagram use as information use.



Digital Journalism