Stories. You know, the social media kind. They’re EVERYWHERE.
Snapchat introduced Stories back in 2013 and monopolized the market until 2016 when Facebook-owned Instagram unveiled their own carbon copy of the feature. In an effort to steal Snapchat’s audience, Instagram has continued to co-opt all of Snapchat’s once unique features. It quickly became clear where Instagram was heading, and while some users grumbled, most creators celebrated the opportunity to share more candid tidbits of their life in real time with a larger audience.
Will the cloning ever end? Probably not.
We’ve all gotten used to the idea that Snapchat will remain in play for more personal communications with friends and family, while businesses and brands will largely focus their efforts on Instagram. In some instances, Instagram has entirely replaced Snapchat. We knew that was coming. What we did not anticipate was that Zuck’s team would introduce Stories and disappearing direct messages to WhatsApp, Messenger, and most recently, Facebook itself.
I’m not quite sure of the rationale on Facebook’s part. To me, it looks like a panic move, in a rush to squash Snapchat. Or perhaps they just recognize that Facebook has more than twice the number of active daily users than Instagram does, so they need to offer the feature across apps to reach everyone. But to those who use both Instagram and Facebook for distinctly different purposes, this is an unwelcome change. We simply don’t need stories in 5 different apps. And it’s only a matter of time until Facebook double dips on another Instagram feature as they charge forward towards camera-first communication.
Is Facebook Stories a solution to OR a catalyst for further context collapse?
In recent years, Facebook users have been creating and sharing less original content, and opting instead for sharing news and information from other media websites like Buzzfeed and Clickhole. The reasoning makes sense: as your network of friends grows beyond your intimate circle, you feel less inclined to share the more personal aspects of your life. The phenomenon is referred to as “context collapse”-- in face-to-face interactions, we read our environment and adjust our behavior to suit the context, but online, there’s no single context that you’re catering to. So there are an infinite number of potential contexts collapsing in on themselves, and we struggle to reconcile our self-representation in the face of such a diverse audience. And consequently, we avoid the dilemma altogether, and stop sharing the more intimate details of our lives on platforms like Facebook.
Some have proposed that Facebook Stories is an attempt to counter said context collapse by catalyzing more personal and original content creation and enabling users to better “read” each other through visual mediums as opposed to text. However, I’d posit that if someone isn’t going to share a carefully crafted status update for fear of the consequences of addressing a broad audience, they’re certainly not going to share off the cuff photos and videos on their Story.
Or will it encourage a return to personal sharing?
Then again, there are certainly people who have migrated away from Facebook due to the overwhelming shift towards news and political content sharing. You and I both can agree, looking at Facebook these days is freaking exhausting. I’ve heard from a number of friends and acquaintances that they’re spending far less time on the platform, or in many instances have deleted the app from their phone altogether. People miss the old Facebook, the one where you went to share your vacation photos and stalk your crush or keep up with your friends from college. So perhaps if Stories can actually catalyze an increase in personal sharing again, it may re-capture some of those lost users.
I’m doubtful though. It’s unlikely that Facebook will ever return to its previous form. Instead, users will opt for Instagram and Snapchat for the bulk of their personal social sharing, while Facebook will continue to be utilized for sharing news and coordinating events.
Will you be using Facebook Stories? Think it’s ridiculous? Or are you totally stoked about it? Send me an email at Sarah[at]snapfluence.com and let me know your thoughts!
Creative Community Developer at Snapfluence.
I'm the Oxford comma's biggest fan.