Instagram: New Research Study on Intercultural Issues

In a recent project, me and my colleagues Pavica Sheldon (University of Alabama Huntsville, USA), Mary Antony (Schreiner University, USA) and Sandra Car (University of Zagreb, Croatia) looked at college students’ motivations to use Instagram. We studied motivations for Instagram use and how these motivations drive different usage behaviors. In addition, we compared the results between two samples. Sample one is from the US, a highly individualistic country. The second sample is from Croatia. Croatia is a collectivistic culture. Uses & Gratification Theory was the framework we applied. The findings provide a better understanding of social media use and can guide the development and implementation of social media marketing strategies.


Motivations for Instagram Use

We identified the following motivations for Instagram use (items in parentheses):

  • Self-Promotion (To become popular, To self-promote myself, To show off).
  • Social Interaction (To see what other people share, To follow my friends, To “like” my followers’ photos, To see “visual status updates” of my friends).
  • Diversion (To escape from reality, To avoid loneliness, To relax).
  • Documenting (To remember special events, To remember something important, To commemorate an event).
  • Creativity (To create art, To show off my photography skills).


Cultural Differences in Social Media and Instagram Use

The following figure presents the mean scores of the gratifications.


Further regression analyses show how these factors drive different usage behaviors, and how these factors differ between the two studied cultures. For example, why do Instagram users use hashtags (#)?

hashtagging motivations


Abstract of our intercultural Instagram Consumer Research

Although Instagram is one of the fastest growing social media, scholars are yet to examine cultural differences among users’ behavior. The current study compares motives for Instagram use between participants from two countries: Croatia, a highly collectivistic culture, and the United States, a typically individualist culture. Specifically, it examines the relationship between motives and behavioral outcomes of use (time spent on Instagram, the frequency of hashtagging, and the number of Instagram followers). Findings reveal that while motivations behind Instagram use do not vary across cultures, different forms of gratification determine how Instagram is used, and how culture moderates these relationships. Croatian students’ Instagram use reflects collectivist tendencies, primarily social interaction. American students’ use of Instagram reflects individualistic trends, namely self-promotion and documentation. In addition, American students’ self-promotion gratifications are significantly related to the amount of time spent on Instagram, although this effect is not apparent among Croatian students. While American students are inclined to use hashtags for documentation, Croatian participants tend to use hashtags for other reasons, including self-promotion, social interaction, and creativity.


Sheldon, P., Rauschnabel, P. A., Antony, M. G., & Car, S. (2017). A cross-cultural comparison of Croatian and American social network sites: Exploring cultural differences in motives for Instagram use. Computers in Human Behavior75, 643-651. | RESEARCH GATE.


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