Snapchat v Instagram

In How to, Mobile, Review

Lately I’ve been getting itchy feet when using Instagram. I don’t seem to be enjoying it as much as I used to. Outwardly it has changed very little from the way it was in 2010, when I started using it along with a few friends I’d made on Flickr. But what was an exciting young community back then has turned into a global phenomenon, with celebrities, advertising, and pressure to conform to a particular aesthetic style. Sometimes it feels as though it has become a huge game, a competition to attract followers and amass likes. The result is that using Instagram can feel less fun than it used to. This is a familiar feeling: it’s how many of us came to feel about Flickr a few years ago, which is one of the reasons we decamped to Instagram. So the question is: where do we go next?

It’s fun to be part of new photography communities at VSCO and Steller. But neither of them quite scratches the itch that Flickr originally did, and that Instagram did after that. None of them quite feel like the next big thing. There’s only one app that gives me the feeling that it could be the next big platform in photo sharing, and that’s Snapchat. But Snapchat is very different from Instagram, and I can’t decide whether I prefer it or not.

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For one thing, Snapchat’s interface is quite confusing, at least for anyone over 21. (There’s a theory, in fact, that this is a deliberate ploy to scare older people away. I am lucky to have a teenage daughter to act as my guide to this strange new world. In return, I am showing her how to use Facebook, so she can communicate with the elderly.) Instead of buttons to switch between the different screens, Snapchat requires you to swipe in different directions. There are rudimentary photo filters, but they are rather crude (even more so than in the early days of Instagram, when filters were used to compensate for the low quality of smartphone cameras). You can add text, graphics and other elements to images before sending them, and you can share video clips too. But the two biggest differences are that Snapchat requires you to use the camera within the app (it does not let you import images you’ve previously taken and processed) and that nothing you share in your public stream, or “Story”, lasts for more than 24 hours.

In these two respects, Snapchat is the anti-Instagram. It forces you to take pictures and share them right away, direct to your friends or to your Story. The idea is that you show your friends what you are doing right now, and add a silly comment or caption. Of course, that’s how Instagram was originally meant to be used too. But Instagram is very rarely about what people are genuinely doing at the time; instead it’s become populated with carefully staged and heavily processed, desaturated images that portray an immaculate designer lifestyle. You can’t do any of this on Snapchat, because it only lets you share images taken inside the app, which is both liberating and refreshing. Nor do your painstakingly art-directed images stack up over weeks and months into a portfolio-like stream for art directors to swoon over. Snapchat’s defining feature is the ephemeral nature of everything you post: it’s here today, gone tomorrow (or sooner, if you prefer).

Sometimes I worry that Instagram is in danger of becoming a parody of itself. Its clichés have been brilliantly skewered by the “Socality Barbie” account, with its ironic use of the hashtag #liveauthentic to highlight the inauthenticity of posting images that pander to Instagram’s cultish norms. I will continue to post on Instagram, just as I’ve continued to post on Flickr, but I’m looking for pastures new. Snapchat may not be quite what I’m looking for, but it’s undeniably a breath of fresh air. It forces its users to drop the mask and be honest—you might even say authentic. Indeed, if it’s authenticity you’re after, the irony is that Snapchat arguably has the edge over Instagram. Give it a try!

What do you think will be the successor to Flickr and Instagram? Do you also have itchy feet? Let me know in the comments.

Kirstin

18 Comments

  1. Yes! Itchy feet for me too, i couldnt agree more ! About snapchat I vr never used it, and had no idea how it works.. However i will be open eyed for something more true more or authentic than Instagram.. I tried Ello but it felt more than Tublr to me, another passive “deadstill” social media… 🙁

  2. I was constantly logged on Flickr during the golden Flickr days (years). i loved it there. everyhting was so new, so fresh and everybody was so different. i spend hours (days) looking at photos of people who’s work i admired. we went everywhere with backpack, water bottle, kid, and our big camera (or everything x 2).
    then it came Facebook.
    then everything started to change pretty fast. the great joy of lightweight smartphone and possibility to snap a moment everytime was overwhelming. I was a bit late to Instagram but i enjoyed it as well. at least in the begining. Flickr started to fade. Facebook started to be not what it was in the begining as well.
    Snapchat came. i started to feel oldfashioned and old, even though i already didn’t used Facebook a lot at that time.
    lately i noticed i got my dose of Instagram and that my cup was full. Sociality Barbie sums it up so well.
    I love that sentence about your teenage daughter. teenagers are nice. they make us realise what the today’s world is all about. i have a son that is so updated about everyhting that it makes me realise how some parts of my brain are oldfashioned and slow.
    i kind of think i just need time to go into myself and sort what i want to share and how much of others life i want to know about.
    in the end is probably about what everybody likes best themselves. i use snapchat time after time (it is good to inform my kids that dinner is served and getting cold) , but deep in my heart I am an oldfashioned film camera type of person that sees most excitement in waiting for a film roll to be developed and scanned.

  3. I still love Instagram. Is there things I would change, for sure. But all in all, I have found a great community of friends, and it is a great way to test out new series ideas. Do I hate the “sponsored” posts and the random, foreign sounding that start following me? Yes. But for me for now, the connections far out way the few things I find annoying. I think sometimes we are too caught up in the next best thing, and the latest and greatest. Sometimes we need to weather the storm and settle in for the long ride.

    • You may well be right. I definitely go through times when I enjoy Instagram more than others. Thank you for your advice.

  4. I was JUST talking to my interns about snapchat. I seriously don’t get it…. But after reading what you are saying here, it makes a bit more sense.
    Not sure I’m ready to dive in though! Haha.

  5. It all makes me feel like I’m back in my college dorm on a Friday night. I remember wishing everyone would just stay put for a little while and have a nice conversation, but almost everyone else kept looking for where the “real” party was happening, running from room to room, never settling down. It was overwhelming to me. That being said, Flickr had gotten to a point where there were so many obligations that it started to feel like work. I was upset when people started leaving, but looking back, it started to become less of a burden, and eventually I was able to let it go too. As you know, I’m newish to instagram, and so far, it’s remained fun, but I can imagine that when you have a lot of followers on instagram, you might start to feel that burden I was feeling on flickr. Currently I have no temptation right now to join Snapchat, but mostly because my 18yo really needs an online place where her mother isn’t. Maybe in the future.

    • Well I’ve been on Instagram for five years now, so I do feel that I’ve had quite a few lovely conversations over there and certainly made some wonderful friends. I’m glad you’re finding it fun!

  6. Kirstin, I was rolling laughing! “teaching her to use FB to communicate with the elderly” still giggling. Because well, I’m so afraid of snapchat, my kids use it too. My 17 year old son never has had a FB, has no desire and he gave up on IG a long time ago, he keeps trying to get me over to the dark side so he can share his stories with me on snapchat but I’m so afraid, it seems so foreign to me. But maybe…hum…maybe I should at least look at it. I hold your point of you quite high. Love to you..Love your old flickr friend, Tracie

    • Dear Tracie, I do so hope you’ve had a go with snapchat! Even if it’s just a dabble. You never know, you might enjoy it! Much love, xox

  7. I think you’ve made a good point that IG is now a bit predictable and tedious. (you said it in a much nicer way). Snapchat doesn’t appeal to me at all, perhaps because I like to scroll through people’s ports and see their work (or their lives) as a whole. It’s probably why I will always be a FB person, because you can dip in and out and not miss anything. Important things will surface. IG has become its own worst nightmare; it’s all hashtags and glamourous life posting, no one comments, they just tag other friends. There are few discussions between humans, despite the fact that we are more connected than ever before. You’re right, there is no joy anymore and I’d love to find a new, fresh community.

  8. What was magic for me about flickr, was that the connections there felt very real. IG is beautiful, but it’s too perfect and for show most of the time. Maybe because images and words were on equal footing at flickr or maybe it was just that moment in time – it really created the space for photo sharing. I’m really not sure how to get that feeling back, but as amusing as that weeping photo is, I’m pretty sure that’s not going to be it for me. Maybe I crawl back into the analog, luddite hole and write paper letters stuffed with printed photos.

    • Those flickr days were so very magic, weren’t they? And I love that I made so many enduring friendships through a connection and love of photography. x

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