Every time you post a photo to Instagram, it loses a tiny bit of quality. It’s not really noticeable for a single upload, but if you save and repost the photo over and over, the quality loss becomes extreme. It’s a concept known as “generation loss,” and is the subject of artist Pete Ashton‘s project “I Am Sitting In Stagram (2015).”
In Ashton’s project, the artist posted a photo to Instagram, snapped a screenshot, and then reposted that screenshot to the service. He did this 90 times in a row. Here’s a video showing his process:
Here’s a copy of the first photo he uploaded to Instagram:
…and here’s what the photo looked like after 90 saves and uploads:
Here’s what the generation loss looks like as a grid of images:
Ashton chose to do 90 iterations because that way he could fit a 6 frame per second time-lapse of the degradation into Instagram’s video limit. This is the result:
Lucier did the same experiment using a second photo as well. You can see the results of that attempt on his project website. Here’s the video for it:
P.S. If you thought this experiment was interesting, check out what happens when you save JPEGs hundreds of times: here’s a video and here’s a series of images. A similar experiment was also done with YouTube videos back in 2010.