Life is a story- thanks to social media. Between Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and blogs (the list goes on), we have ourselves…. and then we have our digital selves. Our digital personas are often entirely different than who we are in real life because there are now two different stratospheres in which a person can live and communicate with others.
Our interactions with people in ‘the real world’ allow for no premeditation. You can’t sit and craft your response for 10 minutes when your boyfriend is sitting across the table from you suggesting “it’s time for a break.” You can’t make words seem nonchalant when there are emotions coursing through you and time is of the essence. The digital world gives us control and protection from these moments, so it’s no wonder we utilize all of these different apps and platforms to create the story of ourselves that we want everyone around us to see and believe.
Each social media platform has its own role to play when it comes to making a well-rounded digital persona. Instagram is there for that one beautifully edited photo that depicts either your mood or activity. If you take 50 pictures of the hike you went on, Instagram is where you pick the 1 picture that tells the best story from the hike. Facebook is there for the other 49 pictures and the occasional life announcement. Snapchat lets us create a ‘play by play’ of our lives, so you would send updates throughout the hike. This platform is still premeditated because there are filters and you can try and try again to get the best angle for the shot, but it is typically far less staged than an Instagram photo may be.
All of these apps have evolved over time, and there are times when new features are not well received. Snapchat just added a memories feature that I am more than critical of (see Is There Value in Snapchat Memories? Is Anyone Using it?), however Instagram had done a great job staying true to its purpose in the social media landscape…. until now.
The addition of “Instagram Stories,” is a not-so-sly attempt to combine Instagram and Snapchat into one super-app. We have seen functionality of our social media apps merge when larger companies such as Facebook buy the smaller company like Instagram. However, this is not one of those situations. Snapchat is its own entity, so the fact that Instagram has gone as far as to name these updates “Stories” shows how clearly Instagram would like to become a Story-poster’s go-to platform. Instagram and Snapchat stories have the exact same function in the social media landscape, so there is no pretending that Instagram was looking to add another dynamic to the type of content we post. This is purely a play to take over Snapchat’s role in our digital identity.
This is not the first time Instagram has added Snapchat-like features. The Direct Messaging portion of Instagram, which was launched in late 2013, was also eerily similar to sending a Snapchat. While the direct message could be an edited photo or a video… the concept of sending another person a direct message that no one else could see remained the same.
I do not see the addition of Stories taking away from Snapchat’s popularity. Snapchat is too strong of a platform to be replaceable at this moment in time. Snapchat (26%) is second only to Facebook (32%) in popularity for 12-24 year olds. This strength comes after Instagram’s direct message addition, which serves a similar purpose to Snapchat.
While Instagram Stories can add another layer to an influencer’s account who may not be as popular or active on Snapchat, our friend to friend updates still live on Snapchat. For example, on my current feeds there are 23 Snapchat stories (I checked this feed 2 hours ago) versus 20 Instagram stories (I checked my feed yesterday). Around 20 posts in 2 hours as compared to 20 posts in 24 hours definitely showcases that people are posting regularly to their Snapchat timelines as opposed to their Instagram Timelines. Additionally, 15 of the 20 Instagram Story updates were from influencers as compared to my friends.
While the addition of Instagram’s Story timeline could be useful for influencers, I think it is redundant to Snapchat for the average user. I can hardly keep up with my Snapchat Story timeline, so the idea of having an additional timeline to check is daunting. With how my friends are currently using the Instagram story timeline, I do not see this becoming a platform I will feel the need to check when it comes to moment to moment story updates.
Ultimately, this leads me to wonder why Instagram Stories exist in an already cluttered social media world. Instagram is a great compliment to Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter. It does not need to try and replace them. While Instagram’s monetization and influencer appeal may increase due to its Stories update, I don’t see it having much value to the every day user who cares about connecting with their friends. As with all of the changes that occur in the social media landscape, only time will tell if the addition of Instagram Stories will be a success. In the meantime, Snap on.