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Instagram is forever: how Stories are a mirror of modern society

July 1, 2018

I was shocked when I watched the American TV show ‘Criminal Minds’, which I happened to catch while working out at the gym recently. The episode ‘The Internet is Forever’, originally aired in May 2010, goes roughly as follows:

A criminal analyzes the behavioral patterns of target women using the details they share of their daily lives on social media. He then installs cameras in their homes to monitor them and eventually kills them. The criminal himself is a narcissist who reveals his presence by publicizing his crime on the internet.

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The story is about a psychopath who uses Social media to stalk women and commit murder.

There is a reason why I was horrified by this episode; although it was originally aired eight years ago, I think it is more likely to happen now. I was also unsettled at the same time because it reminded me of the Instagram Stories feature that I have been using a lot these days.

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First, if you look at Instagram, you can see it offers various use scenarios for online photo sharing and social networking services. There are a great number of use cases, such as official accounts, products/service promotion, portfolios, daily shares, and secret accounts (shared by a small number of select users), yet still, it is all underpinned by a common user experience.

Ibelieve the reason why this Instagram experience is attractive to users is that it satisfies one’s 1. Craving for attention and 2. Voyeuristic urge. In other words, it allows people to express (or to show off) their lives, and/or observe the everyday lives of others (whether it be anonymous or not).

Instagram, which faithfully follows a model of satisfying these twin desires in users, recently introduced a 24-hour real-time story sharing functionality, a key UX of the rival Snapchat service.

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A story allows you to share your daily life, in real time. As with Snapchat, it disappears after 24 hours.

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I can check who viewed my story and how many people saw it.

Photos posted on social media, like most “Instagram worthy photos”, are usually carefully selected and refined by going through a thorough filtering process. It requires lots of efforts to prepare and upload them. In contrast, Instagram Stories is functionally easier, featuring a lightweight sharing option of what you are doing in real time without such prior manipulation. My followers can check my story updates and I can monitor their activity instantly. You are not notified whether your followers have seen your Instagram post or not when they are just, simply put, “passive followers” of your profile, meaning that they didn’t hit the like button on any of your posts. However with Instagram Stories, you will actually be able to see a list of those who viewed your Stories.

I had thought Snapchat’s 24-hour sharing feature wouldn’t hit it off on Instagram. Isn’t this a feature that contradicts the way Instagram works? Originally people could roam on Instagram without others knowing, but with Instagram Stories, the users can find out who watched their story. In a way, you are revealing yourself and letting a certain trace behind. On the other hand, since Snapchat is a pretty closed-off service, I thought the 24-hour sharing feature as Snapchat Stories would fit very well. Given my analysis, I expected that users wouldn’t respond well to and be more hesitant about Instagram Stories.

However, contrary to my expectations …

Source : statista(left), sproutsocial(right)

Eight months after the launch of the feature, the number of daily users of Instagram Stories reached 200 million, surpassing Snapchat’s 155,000.

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Instagram Stories documents the ‘moment’, what I am doing at that very point in time! (Of course, it is possible to upload prior taken pictures and videos on the story). The combination of the real-time element and, plus instant access to the list of people watching my story, makes me like it more.

There is definitely a huge temptation to look at the views more often than the ‘Like’ numbers. I constantly wonder who viewed my story after the upload and who checks faster than others.

With Instagram Story, we are increasingly sharing our daily lives real time, and as they are. It is a hassle to decorate photos, run them through filters, and other such effort. It all happens quite subconsciously and of course, all too voluntarily.

It’s because we want more immediate responses, gratification and attention in real time! (Oh, I’m describing myself!)

I have never given serious thoughts into how I share my daily life on Instagram Stories. I just enjoy people’s attention (once again, I’m admitting I’m an attention whore!) It’s really addictive to allow people access to what I’m doing in real time, as with the ‘like’ counter. But if you think about it from another perspective, continuing to share your daily routine allows followers to get really familiar with the patterns of your daily life (for example), and these followers of mine are observers, in a way. Of course, I do enjoy it.

On the other hand, I’ve often discovered something surprising when I subconsciously and habitually check the stories of those I follow. Famous YouTubers, super stars, are all actively using Instagram Stories to promote their products and content, and they are truly giving us access to what they are doing, practically 24 hours a day. Where they are, what they are eating and who with…in fact, you can delve into the daily lives of people you don’t even know, 24 hours, non-stop! So creepy!

The reason why I mentioned the Criminal Minds episode ‘The Internet is Forever’, was because I think it has grown more likely to become our reality, despite that fact it aired years ago. I’m not just talking about simply the possibility of crime.

Rather, I would like to note that various kinds of social media that demand more immediate and real-time responses, are becoming increasingly common and accepted in our daily lives. I think that Instagram Stories play a very big role here.

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I wonder what would happen if not only celebrities, but also the majority of people became less hesitant about sharing their daily lives. Are possible crimes, like the one that portrayed on Criminal Minds, the only potential concern? Rather, shouldn’t we look at the more fundamental risk associated with growing dependence on social media and increasing addiction to it? On Instagram, uploading photos takes time and patience, in terms of applying filters and making edits, but the story feature accelerates the level of detail people share about their daily lives with others with less time and effort. Will Instagram, too, last forever, as long as we live? Or will it evolve more and more?

I am genuinely worried. I’m concerned about myself because I can’t seem to fully enjoy and just live in a moment without sharing it on Instagram Stories too. What’s more worrisome is that there are far more people around showing signs of serious social media addiction, more so than I am. It is a bit scary that people can so easily probe the lives of others (yet actually not know them in real-life) and constantly monitor their daily activity.

Will this increasingly narrow world of no privacy, or secrets, make us feel more free…or just more lonely and empty? The answer is up to each individual, but I think it is worth listening to Simon Sinek who is an author and motivational speaker.

We’re growing up in a Facebook, Instagram world. We know that engagement with social media and our cell phones releases a chemical called dopamine. That’s why when you get a text, it feels good. You know we’ve all had it. It’s why we count the likes, it’s why we go back ten times to see if it’s going right. If my Instagram is growing slower, did i do something wrong? Do they not like me anymore? Dopamine is the exact same chemical that makes us feel good when we smoke when we drink and when we gamble. In other words, it’s highly highly addictive. We have age restrictions on smoking gambling and alcohol and we have no age restrictions on social media and cell phones which is equivalent of opening up the liquor cabinnt and saying to our teenagers “hey by the way, this adolescence thing if it gets you down”. But that’s basically what’s happening. That’s why is this important. Almost every alcoholic discovered alcohol when they were teenagers when we’re very very young. What’s happening is because we’re allowing unfettered access to these dopamine producing devices and media, basically it’s becoming hardwired and what we’re seeing is as they grow older, they too many kids don’t know how to form deep meaningful relationships. Their words, not mine. They will admit that many of their friendships are superficial. They will admit that their friends don’t count on their friends. Stress starts to show up in their live, they’re not turning to a person, they’re turning to a device, they’re turning to social media, they’re turning to these thing which offer temporary relief. We know that the science is clear, we know that people who spend more time on Facebook suffer higher rates of depression than people spend less time on Facebook.

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Further reading : Infographic: 80% of robbers check Twitter, Facebook, Google Street View | ZDNet

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