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Instagram Stories and the Allure of “Disappearing” Posts

Posted by cfeehan on August 4, 2016

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In the world of social media, self-expression is king. Users are encouraged to share as much about themselves as possible – this includes where they live, how they’re “feeling” (thanks Facebook), what they’re eating, and of course, as many selfies as they can possibly cram onto their feed.

Although talking about yourself online isn’t a new phenomenon, there seems to be a new emphasis placed on the “now” and living in the moment. Apps like Snapchat really perpetuate this, as all photos sent literally disappear within seconds of being viewed. Whether it’s that people don’t want these photos of themselves living forever on the Internet, or that their lives seem much more eventful in 5-second “snaps”, one thing is certain: users like the idea of impermanence.

There are a few theories on why this is the case. One of the most compelling is that impermanent posts don’t have as much riding on them as regular newsfeed posts. Most timed posts don’t work on a “likes” system, like regular Instagram photos or Facebook posts. Sure, you can see who has viewed your picture or video, but when people cannot comment or like, the entire judgement piece is removed. And on social media, where approval is a major part of the system, that is a huge deal.

In addition, because these posts cannot be liked, there isn’t as much pressure to post only your very best material. I know people who have waited weeks to post on Instagram simply because they didn’t think that their life was interesting enough to display on social media, and that people wouldn’t care enough to engage with them. This kind of pressure is what has brought Instagram’s daily usage down in 2016 – people don’t go on crazy adventures every single day, so it’s not likely that they’ll have content to post daily.

Instagram finally tuned into these ideas, and introduced a feature called “Stories”. These stories can include pictures or 10-second videos which you can edit, draw on, stick emojis on, and so forth. These stories, however, do not show up on your main Instagram feed – they appear at the top of the screen when you log in, so users can easily skip them if they’d like. 

Blog1_Edit.jpgNow, I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t this basically Snapchat within Instagram? Well, yes. Even Instagram’s CEO, Kevin Systrom, says that all of the credit should go to Snapchat for creating the program, but insists that its success on Instagram will rely on their ability to effectively integrate the idea. Touché, Systrom.

Something cool about Instagram Stories is that you can block certain people from viewing them. Since a user’s Instagram generally has a wider audience than their Snapchat, it is likely that they’ll have follower or two that would be better left in the dark (like parents, bosses, etc.) Think of it like your ability to control who sees which posts on Facebook. This eliminates the “but I have my mom on Instagram!” argument when deciding whether to post a photo at the bar, or a video of yourself crossing the street without looking both ways…you know, things that moms disapprove of. Now you can just go for it, and she’ll never have to know!

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If you want to give Instagram Stories a try, you’ll have to update your Instagram app. Once you’ve done that, you’ll see a screen similar to this once you open it: 

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  1. Click on the little icon marked with a + in the upper left corner to start your story.
  2. Take a picture by tapping the lower middle button, record a video by holding it down, or even import content from your camera roll from the last 24 hours.
  3. Once you’ve taken your picture or video, click the button in the top right corner that looks like a marker to draw on it. You have three style options – regular, wide-tip marker, and neon.
  4. You can also add text – click the “Aa” button in the top right corner to do so. From here, you can add emojis from your keyboard.
  5. Finally, click “Add it to your story!” and it will be posted in all its time-sensitive glory.

Instagram’s new Stories feature seems like it will be a lot of fun, even if it’s not exactly a new idea. Only time will tell if impermanent posts can succeed on a platform based on picture-perfect filtered reality and quantifying social approval.

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Caitlin Feehan, Blogger & Editor


Converse have been my footwear of choice for the past 9 years, I’m convinced that all doors and sidewalks are conspiring against me, and I enjoy sticking my head out of the passenger window on long car rides.