Late last week Instagram tested something that could be pivoted for the future of social media as we know it. The "Insta Stories" feature which was earlier just a single row at the top that you could go through was replaced by a set of two rows of "stories". For most regular-sized phones, this means nearly half of the screen is now statuses, a clear sign on what Insta is focusing on, if one was ever needed!
From humble beginnings in 2016 when Instagram took "inspiration" from Snapchat's most famous feature, Stories have come a long way! In today's post we try to look at what makes stories so attractive, and why they are likely to be an even bigger part of social media networks going forward!
Getting the supply back
Imagine a giant amusement park, and every time you enter there are new rides and toys for you to play with! The novelty of the rides will keep you coming back to the park every time, sometimes just to check which new rides have been installed! The rush of the novelty makes your tiny lizard brain happy, and the park makes money every time you spend time in it.
But there is a problem. The park itself doesn't make these rides and toys! They are made by random people who come to the park to show their creations to the people in the park. As the park gets more glamourous, the maker of small toys feels afraid to present his toys in the park, and stops adding them.
Multiple problems - One solution
Social media companies across the globe faced a similar problem a few years back, when people became increasingly hesitant to share their photos online, driven by a combination of privacy as well as confidence concerns. As the content dries up, the next thing that would take a hit is engagement, with ad revenues next in line. Instagram tackled this in a novel way using a feature copied from SnapChat, stories! What this effectively did was allowed users to add photos that would "disappear" after 24 hours. This single solution solved many problems at once - it to a large extent mitigated the privacy issue as your photo was no longer available after a day, it reduced the "pressure" on people who didn't get enough likes or thought their photos weren't good enough, and in doing so radically increased the content folks posted online.
And it took off like there was no tomorrow. Starting from 0 in Sep 2016, Instagram had surpassed Snapchat by April the next year, reaching a whopping 200 million daily active users! In June last year it crossed 500 million!
Good for their bank, but good for your brain?
With the recent addition of the two-row stories, it is becoming increasingly clear that the focus on stories is only going to increase. With the ad experience also a lot smoother with the swipe-up option, stories will provide a good source of revenue for the social media giants. Their bank wallets grow larger by the day, but is it the best for your brain?
Imagine the same park where you could go and see the toys and rides other people had created. Earlier you visited the park every Saturday, had a good time and came back. But now the rides people add go away every 24 hours. That means you need to visit the park atleast every day. The larger number of people adding means there are probably a lot of new rides even if you go back after a few hours, and so you do! After all the amusement park is "free!"
But you pay - you pay with your time, you pay with your attention, you pay with your peace of mind. And in light of the recent events, it is important we treat our attention, our time and our minds with the same respect we would treat our money.
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