Instagram's former CEO once flew to the Vatican to personally help Pope Francis create an account
- Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom largely stays out of the news, but he recently conducted an interview with New York Magazine about the platform's influence on the 2010s.
- During the interview, Systrom revealed that he personally helped Pope Francis to create an Instagram account in 2016 during a visit to the Vatican.
- Systrom said he visited the Pope in Rome twice: the first time to convince him to join Instagram, and a second time to personally sign him up.
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Almost everyone in the public eye is on Instagram nowadays, including the Pope - which was apparently the doing of one of Instagram's founders himself.
Kevin Systrom, Instagram's co-founder and former CEO, said in a recent interview that he personally helped Pope Francis to sign up for the photo-sharing service. Systrom told New York Magazine that her flew out to Rome in 2016 to present the Pope - the most powerful figure in the Catholic Church - with the idea of joining Instagram.
"I explained why, no matter who you are, if you have something to say, Instagram's the place to do it," Systrom said. "He said, 'Well, my team will look at this and give me their decision. But they're not in charge, because everyone has a boss.' He pointed at himself. He said, 'Even I have a boss,' and he pointed up in the sky."
It took only "a few weeks" for Systrom to hear back from the Vatican. They agreed with Systrom that the Pope should have an Instagram account, and asked the co-founder to set it up for him. Systrom said he explained how simple the process was for signing up, but that Instagram's chief operating officer - Marne Levine at the time - insisted he had to fly back to Rome to do it for him.
"We had just flown in. We were bleary-eyed. He walked in, and he turned the corner, and he goes, 'Kevin!' It was like seeing an old friend from your basketball team or something," Systrom said about the second visit. "We had an iPad, and it was all set up. The name was filled out. So, literally, all he had to do was click sign up."
Under the username @franciscus, the Pope's Instagram account posted its first photo in March 2016. Instagram was a logical next social media step in 2016 for Pope Francis, whose predecessor (Pope Benedict) was responsible for launching a Twitter account in 2012.
The Pope's introduction to Instagram is what helped Systrom to realise the vast and stark implications that a place like Instagram could have on society, the co0founder told New York Magazine.
"A couple guys can create something and, in a few years, shift the world in some meaningful way for an organisation that's been around forever," Systrom said. "At the highest abstract level, what a magical thing that that can happen, period."
Systrom, along with Mike Krieger, was behind the creation of Instagram in 2010. Systrom and Krieger sold Instagram to Facebook for $1 billion in 2012 when the photo-sharing platform was only an 11-person company. Systrom served as CEO of Instagram for six years, but both co-founders announced their departures from their roles in September 2018, saying in a statement they were "taking some time off to explore our curiosity and creativity again."
Reports later emerged that the breakup came after "growing tensions" between the Instagram co-founders and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over the "direction" of the photo app. Sources later told Business Insider that there was "a long buildup of friction" between the design-focused Instagram and ever-adjusting Facebook.
Curiously, Systrom is largely absent from the platform he helped build. His most recent public Instagram post is back from May 2018, more than 18 months ago, although his reason for being absent from Instagram is not clear.
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