Uses, Perceptions and Impacts of Instagram: A Study with Young Higher Education Students


  • Salomé Morais Polytechnic Institute of Viseu, CI&DEI - Centre for Studies in Education and Innovation
  • Telma Pereira
  • Rui Raposo
  • Teresa Gouveia



higher education, Instagram, socialmedia, youth


Given the evidence that young people have a very active presence on social networks, especially Instagram (Kemp, 2022), it is important to study this phenomenon and understand what drives young people to use this social network to share content, especially photos and audiovisual content. The study presented was guided by the following research questions:  What is Instagram used for by university students? How does Instagram impact and influence youth perceptions regarding everyday life? From a methodological perspective, the case study resorted to a mixed methodology. Data was collected through a questionnaire and a focus group from undergraduate students from a public higher education institution in Portugal. The study collected data from 89 respondents, mostly female and aged between 19 and 22. The results revealed that Instagram is one of their favourite social networks and is where they spend the most time daily, mainly to keep in touch with friends and family and find new content. Participants affirmed that they don't use social media to feel accepted, validated or integrated. This shows that they use social media to reinforce what they already know and feel through the feedback they receive from shared content. Even though most state that they don't engage in getting likes, comments or reactions on their shared content, the participants in the study admit that this is a consequence and are happy with the feedback they receive. The study, although limited to a sample of students from a single higher education institution, enabled the researchers to understand better some engagement habits that currently take up little under one-fourth of the users’ daily time while awake. The sheer fact that users spend so much time on this social media platform daily, sometimes with little or no positive impact on other activities, has already been outlined as an issue worth tackling in future studies.

Author Biographies

Telma Pereira

Telma Pereira has a degree in Advertising and Public Relations and completed a master's degree in Applied Communication at the Escola Superior de Educação de Viseu. Her research focuses on youths' use of Instagram, and in professional terms, she is currently a social media manager at a co-communication company.

Rui Raposo

Rui Raposo is an Associate Professor in Science and Communication Technologies, at the Department of Communication and Art at the University of Aveiro. His current research focuses on using Extended Reality technologies and experiences (VR, AR and MR) in various contexts of use. 

Teresa Gouveia

Teresa Gouveia, master’s degree in Multimedia Communication (Audiovisual branch) and a PhD in Information and Communication in Digital Platforms, is a professor at the Polytechnic Institute of Viseu. As a member of the CI&DEI Research Group, her recent work focuses on Social Media, Artificial Intelligence in Education, and Audiovisual Production.