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Ephemeral Social Trends

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Instagram (translated, that means I spend way too much time scrolling through images) but this addition to the app came as a bit of a surprise and I wanted to fully suss out the new feature before giving my two cents. What new feature, you ask? Oh, just a handy-dandy tool called Stories.

Instagram released Stories on August 2 and at first glance it is exactly like Snapchat’s Stories. It lets users post photos and video throughout the day and at the end of that day, the images disappear. To be honest, it looked the same as Snapchat at second and third glance, too. But after using Instagram’s version a few times, it’s clear that while it features many of the same principles, the user experience (UX) is different. In my opinion, the interface and clean design are easier to understand and are more aesthetically pleasing.

instagram stories

Instagram has always appealed to people’s desire to remember – to capture and preserve moment of time. The app has now turned this on its head by introducing a feature that brings the notion of forgettable-ness to the forefront. Casey Johnston, in The New Yorker, has a great perspective. Johnston refers to Stories as an “identity crisis” and in a away it is. Stories seemed to come out of the blue and directly contradicts the original spirit of Instagram. But Facebook (who owns Instagram), is actually making a smart move here. It is adding a dimension to the app that appeals to the thirst for immediacy and the shortening attention spans of media consumers.

Moving past the personality shift now, let’s examine the UX. As we’ve established, as a concept, Instagram Stories is the same as Snapchat Stories (this same-name thing might get confusing.) It’s the same idea, the same general set-up and there are plenty of Augmented Reality filters and lots of photo altering fun to be had.

Similarities Spelled Out

  1. Same name: Stories
  2. Same clip length: 10 seconds
  3. Same time limit on uploads: 24 hours
  4. Both feature filters
  5. Both allow custom text to be added on images
  6. Both have the option to draw with a marker tool
  7. Both show who had viewed your story
  8. Both allow posts to be saved to your camera roll
  9. Both have direct messaging capabilities
  10. Both allow you to share old photos to your story

Differences Delineated

  1. You can ‘rewind’ stories in Instagram
  2. Instagram has more doodling options – more pen tools and more advanced drawing tools
  3. Instagram allows you to post sections of a story as an Instagram post
  4. Instagram Stories switch in a cube-block way that makes it easier to tell when a new person or company’s Story is playing
  5. You can easily ‘X’ out of Instagram’s story and go back to your main news feed
  6. You can take screenshots of stories in Snapchat, but not Instagram
  7. Snapchat has geo-filters and facial-mapping
  8. Snapchat’s app launched on the camera screen; Instagram’s Stories is accessed either by tapping the + in the top left corner or by swiping right
  9. Snapchat’s Stories are ranked in chronological order while Instagram Stories appear at the top of your main feed in order of which friend is closest to you.


I’ve noticed that very few of my actual friends whom I follow have used Instagram’s Stories. They are still present on Snapchat but, interestingly, have yet to post an Instagram story. Companies on the other hand – from ecomerce sites to publishers to museums to event planners – are gung-ho about it. My hypothesis is simply that companies are much quicker to jump on the bandwagon; the minds of consumers take a little longer to accept the latest trend. O it just might be that I need a bigger sample size. Plus, for many brands it is nice to have something like Stories in an app they already utilize and are familiar with.


It’s very typical in the social media world for apps to draw inspiration from others and borrow from ideas that are already on the Internet. Case in point, hashtags originated on Twitter but are now used on both Facebook and Instagram. You might still wonder how such blatant rip-off can hope to succeed. It’s legal (copyright laws don’t protect ideas) and it’s responding to a demand, as simple as that.

Is your company using Instagram Stories? How do you like it? And do you also use Snapchat? Inquiring minds want to know.

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