Snapchat is one of the social media tools that never did much for me. However, I recently became interested, as I found myself trying to understand the evolution and use of the Instagram and Facebook Stories features. Snapchat, launched in 2012, probably had one of the most “like in real life” qualities of the more well known social media tools. In most real life situations, a conversation will happen, and then it is over – not usually recorded, or photographed. This was the initial appeal of Snapchat – the temporary nature of the communication. In 2013, to compete with Facebook, Snapchat launched a Stories feature. In August of 2016, Instagram launched its own Stories feature, in response to Snapchat’s popularity. Instagram Stories combined its existing method of communicating to all of one’s followers, with Snapchat’s creative tools and the more temporary, disappearing “here’s what’s happening at this moment” appeal. Facebook soon followed, and launched its Stories feature in 2017. In 2017 Instagram added the capability to create an archive, to save those Stories. This is where it begins to get muddy for me.
This evolution has me wondering, are these apps trying so hard to compete with each other that they forgot why they were created in the first place? If the Instagram Stories can be saved, what makes Instagram Stories so different than the Instagram most of us are familiar with? Do we need to call the Facebook or Instagram features “Stories” at all? Stories, by nature, are ways for humans to communicate, to give meaning to our lives, to share and to understand each other, across time and space. Before there was written language, man drew pictures on stone to tell stories, to record his very existence. Stories are how we connect with others, how we show that we were here.
I struggle to see the value of the Stories feature on Facebook and Instagram, at least in their current state. Perhaps I am too hung up on the actual name “Stories.” Instagram and Facebook apps, by their very nature, are ways to share your story through words, photos and videos. Their specific Stories features, at least initially, were intended to be temporary, but that is not even the case any longer – with Instagram at least. A quick poll of my own Facebook friends (admittedly, most respondents were my age, mid to late 40s) found that most either did not know of the feature, or found it not useful. I heard some confusion about what the Stories features even were. Then again, this is the same age group that will sometimes readily admit to getting it’s news from Facebook, but that is a topic for another post. While I am all for growth and diversification in any business, maybe Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat were trying to be all things to all people too quickly. Perhaps to help people better understand how and why their users need certain features, they should get their own stories straight.