Instagram and Snapchat are basically the same thing now, with one major difference: Everyone you know is on the first, and not the second.
I know, Snapchat is cool—the superior offering, really—but it’s true. Instagram, quickly becoming the dad-rock of social media, has 300 million daily users versus 158 million on Snapchat. I didn’t think this mattered until Snapchat shot itself in the foot with a small but significant update recently.
It’s all to do with Stories, which work similarly on each platform. Basically, you take a picture or short video and post it under your profile, where your followers—all of them, or a select group, depending on your settings—can watch it for a span of 24 hours.
Used to be, if you posted something to your Snapchat Story and wanted to see who looked at it, you could swipe up to see a list of names. That’s still true, but Snapchat now divides that list into categories: “My Friends” and “Other Snapchatters.”
I loved this at first: a not-insignificant number of randos follow me on Snapchat, and this was a pretty handy way to see if the people I actually interact with were looking at my #content. And yeah, okay, only 81 people checked out this snap, but even fewer—13!—were humans I know “IRL,” as it were. Sifting through the mess to see if anyone I was personally connected to looked at my snaps used to be kind of annoying, and now it isn’t.
(This is actually about to get even sadder, so hang tight.)
The Snapchat update seemed good, but in fact, it was bad.
Because, on a lark, I posted basically the same thing to my Instagram Story:
Forty-six people ended up viewing it, but there was a key difference between this list and Snapchat’s: I knew who the vast majority of these people were, and even though I don’t follow a number of them, they were all at least people I’d make small talk with at a party.
In other words, they’re the exact breed of person you perform for on social media. And there were a lot more of them on Instagram than on Snapchat, as that platform’s new update made a bit too clear to me.
Instagram itself isn’t cool. Everything about it is anodyne—especially compared to Snapchat’s overabundant weirdness and cheeky aesthetic. But try as we might to avoid this fact, as a gargantuan social media force, Instagram’s rate of coolness per capita is higher than Snapchat’s. There’s just a bigger audience of interesting people to communicate with on Instagram, even if it’s about the essence of hygge:
Snapchat will likely remain my favorite app for sending incredibly weird things to a handful of close friends—its selection of stickers, face-transforming filters, geolocation tags and so forth—which run circles around Instagram’s features. But where Stories are concerned, Snapchat’s in trouble.
And this isn’t just anecdotal noise or purely speculative guesswork. As TechCrunch noted last month, user numbers show that Snapchat’s growth slowed by 82 percent after Instagram released its Stories product in August 2016. If there was some subconscious force compelling people to create this exact type of multimedia on Snapchat, it may have been quelled by Instagram’s new product.
Or maybe people just came to the realization before I did: Even if the party down the street’s cooler, why leave the big one? After all, along with everyone else you know, you’re already there.