There are certain spots in New York City that anyone with anywhere to be knows to avoid at all costs, lest the hordes of Instagram zombies lock them in eternal gridlock. Times Square is an obvious example, Washington Street in DUMBO another. But while any NYU freshman with half a semester under his belt could probably guess the most Instagrammed spots in NYC—Chelsea Market makes the list, as does Rockefeller Center—now a group of CUNY Graduate Center researchers is challenging us to consider what kind of Manhattan is being proffered to the outside world through our smartphones.
Hint: It's a pretty well-heeled one, that doesn't extend much beyond 110th Street.
CUNY's Inequaligram project pooled 7.5 million public, geotagged photos posted to Instagram and Facebook between March and July of 2014, and mapped the results to show which corners of the island are getting the most love on the 'gram.
"These collective posts create an 'image of a city' for its residents and the outside world," the study authors write. "In this image, some areas are represented well, while others are invisible."
The project maps Instagrams taken by visitors—assumed tourists—separately from those snapped by New Yorkers. City Lab points out that more than half of all of the visitor Instagrams are tagged in census tracts that cover about 12% of Manhattan. And before you go dismissing tourists for being unoriginal, New Yorkers didn't fare much better: half of our Manhattan Instagrams are concentrated on one fifth of the island. Everyone gives Midtown and Downtown more love than they probably deserve, and Manhattan above 110th Street effectively gets the boot.
Below: the more purple, the more Instagrams (tourist Instagrams are mapped on the left).
Here are the top ten most Instagrammed Manhattan census tracts for tourists (repeats represent different census tracts within the same neighborhood):
1. Times Square
2. Times Square
3. Rockefeller Center
4. Empire State Building
5. 59th Street and Madison Ave.
6. Times Square
7. Central Park South and 5th Ave.
8. Madison Square Garden
9. Bryant Park
10. Chelsea Market
And for New Yorkers:
1. Times Square
2. Rockefeller Center
3. Times Square
5. Central Park South and 5th Ave.
6. Bleecker and Lafayette
7. Times Square
8. Union Square
9. 59th Street and Madison Ave.
10. Cooper Square
"This directly affects city economy and social life," the study posits. "The areas well represented in social media attract more people who spend time and money there. The invisible areas are less likely to be visited."
Happy 'gramming, sheeple!