What Instagram Stories say about the state of social media
It’s always a bit of a production. You can take thousands of photos of this sunset on the pier, but only “one” lands on the gram. And this “one” took time. You edited the photo, added a filter. In a world of oversharing, Instagram was for us. High society.
Well, go ahead and throw that whole first paragraph out the window. With Stories, Instagram – which is owned by Facebook – now encourages you to share anything and everything in a vertical slideshow for your friends. Add some text, maybe even a doodle, and within 24 hours the story will be gone. If that sounds like Snapchat, you’re right.
It’s not just about Instagram (and, by extension, Facebook) replicating the next fad of social platforms, although that is one of them. It’s about how every major platform is looking to jump ship and change course for new audiences.
The social platform giants are all competing for growth. Snapchat and Twitter want to become more accessible. Facebook and Instagram want more original content. Almost everyone wants live video.
Clearly, none of the major social platforms feel comfortable with their current status – growth is key to survival.
What Instagram/Facebook are doing makes sense. A Bloomberg estimate in June shows Snapchat has more daily active users than Twitter – at 150 million – and some are already predicting the app will slow Facebook’s expected growth. New market trends force long-standing applications to adapt.
These apps include Snapchat, where snaps now last forever. And Vine, where vines last 140 seconds. Tumblr offers live videos. You can even add stickers to photos on Twitter. Each platform reinvents what has been done before.
The question is whether, as apps strive to become everything, they risk losing what made them so unique in the first place. This risk is particularly evident in an app like Instagram, which has monopolized the niche of beautiful social photography. Just look at some of the habits Instagrammers have developed: deleting photos that don’t compare to their biggest collections, limiting themselves to one post a day.
Instagram was for the best of yourself, and Snapchat was for everything else. Now that dividing line seems to have collapsed.
That’s not to say Instagram Stories won’t work, of course: this isn’t Facebook’s first rodeo. Facebook created Slingshot a few years ago to directly compete with Snapchat before pulling the app from the market last December. The company also acquired MSQRD (an app with filters and face swaps, like Snapchat) in February. On top of that, Instagram has a robust discovery feature where you can easily find your next favorite artist or celebrity, which Snapchat doesn’t. If people start heading to Instagram in droves, consider that as a potential reason.
Still, it’s quite disturbing to see these apps removing the features and limitations that once made them unique. Take them away and you’re left with a contest for the biggest and best party.
Users now have to choose between two social networks that never seemed opposite – while losing the distinctions that drew them to Instagram to begin with.
© 2016 The Washington Post
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