Yesterday Instagram announced that the social media platform will be introducing a new feature that isn't new to Snapchat users. Instagram now offers "stories " as well, allowing users to share moments of meaning or minutiae that expire after a 24-hour period.
So why bother with two apps that could potentially share the same story in a similar, nearly identical, format? Easy — consolidation.
It’s a pain to post a story on Snapchat, then another on Instagram, and later follow up on traffic/likes/comments on multiple platforms. Many have criticized Instagram for copying Snapchat’s story feature, but both serve as significant indicators of the evolution of social media and society within the last few years.
Snapchat was first presented to me as a safe form of sexting. Friends celebrated the app for allowing them to send salacious photos and videos to a someone (or multiple someones) without fear of being found out. If the recipient took a screenshot or attempted to save the image, they would be notified, and the images came with an expiration date. This feature was attractive because it made it seem as if the exchange never happened, reducing the chance of being found out by a partner, friend, parent or risking the chance of causing a larger scandal.
But as Snapchat gained popularity, it became increasingly social. Users were able to share public stories with followers, while still having the option to send more intimate photos and videos directly to individuals. With the story feature, Snapchatters gained the option to publicly broadcast the events of their day, straying from the more private aspects of the app that were initially so appealing.
The media, celebrities and musicians quickly became privy to the high traffic Snapchat generates and began using it to boost their platforms with fans. Now we have the option to read news stories via Snapchat, as well as engage with public figures — from Kim Kardashian to Hillary Clinton — more easily than, say on Twitter or Instagram, where direct communication is less accessible.
I hung out with friends who are in a band with last week, and noticed the flood of direct chats they receive from fans, sent almost immediately upon posting a Snapchat story. For the first time in history, we have direct -- and instantaneous -- access to figures we could previously only dream about engaging with. I asked my friend if it’s off-putting to engage so directly with strangers. He said yes, and that he prefers Instagram because it provides a comfortable level of distance. But Snapchat is still most engaging.
With the new story feature for Instagram, users can continue to post pictures on their profiles that can receive likes and comments, while also having the ability to post stories to showcase anything they wish. Doing so provides for a sense of engagement and connection with followers, while maintaining a certain level of distance. It’s an interesting implication in the digital age because we’ve evolved to stray away from direct and intimate engagement with one another, in favor of mythologizing our lives to followers through stories.