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What the Beck?

By Josh Beck

I want you to boycott Instagram.

Well, kind of. I don’t necessarily have a problem with Instagram itself, aside from the fact that I find it to be the most boring of the social media apps/websites. What I do have a problem with are its Zuckerbergian overlords.

Lately I’ve been noticing a lot of the celebrities I follow on Facebook owned Instagram’s rival app, Snapchat, have been far less active than they used to be. For a while I thought this might just be because people were getting bored of the app. However, when one of those celebrities apologised for ditching Snapchat for another app, I realised what was really going on.

In 2014 Facebook offered $3 billion dollars to acquire Snapchat from its chief executive, Evan Spiegel. Mark Zuckerberg attempted to frighten Spiegel into accepting the offer by claiming he would be releasing a similar app to Snapchat in the next few days. Spiegel refused the offer, and Zuckerberg’s new app didn’t eventuate, but two years later something similar did.

In August 2016 Instagram added a brand new feature – Instagram stories. This feature works in pretty much exactly the same way as Snapchat’s stories feature, and this is no coincidence.

It seems that when Facebook realised Spiegel wasn’t going to hand over the keys to Snapchat, they got to work recreating aspects of the app for Instagram. The goal appears to have been to make Snapchat obsolete. If you can’t beat’em, join’em, right? Or, more accurately, if you can’t acquire them, steal their ideas in a petty attempt to phase them out of existence.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it has happened before. Earlier this year, Twitter, who acquired it in 2012, shut down Vine. At its peak Vine was massively popular, but it’s success was relatively short lived. You could potentially put it down to the platform being a fad, but I think there were other more sinister factors at play.

In 2013, while Vine was still in its heyday, video was added to Instagram, initially a platform exclusively for photographic content. Users were also given a video length of 15 seconds, as opposed to Vine’s six seconds. I don’t think it’s far fetched to assume that at least some of Instagram’s motivation behind this change was to cut Vine off at the knees, and it worked.

Instagram seems to have become a stomping ground for Facebook to flex its muscles. Absorbing aspects of Vine and Snapchat, it has become a weird, Frankenstein-esque amalgamation of the three apps.

I’m glad that Evan Spiegel was so steadfast in his commitment to Snapchat. I think it’s his passion for keeping the platform’s innovation alive that may still give it the edge it needs to continue thriving. As it currently stands, one of the more popular features of Snapchat – the silly filters – have not been added to Instagram stories. To use these on Instagram stories you have to take a photo on Snapchat, save it and then upload it to your story. This is all a bit of a hassle and is probably a large part of the reason that so far, people have been hesitant to ditch Snapchat completely. I want to keep it that way.

This is why I want you to boycott Instagram. Or, less dramatically, just it’s stories feature. I don’t want to live in a social media space where Facebook has so much power that it is able to bully other social media sites into submission/dissolution. Snapchat was a really exciting prospect because finally there was a fresh new competitor in the social media market and I was excited to see where they might be able to take it.

Maybe I’m being a little bit extra about this all because I deleted Instagram long ago and have a constant sense of FOMO. That feeling is set to only get worse if Instagram gobbles up all of the people using Snapchat. For my sake, and for the sake of a diversity of social media apps and websites, take a stand against Facebook and Instagram. Even if your only reason for doing so is to ensure a break in the monotony of blue app icons on your phone’s home screen with a splash of Snapchat’s yellow.

Make sure you support Snapchat, because where else can you turn yourself into a cute little bee dancing to music?  Not Instagram stories, that’s for sure.

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