If you’re ever in the mood for a minor existential crisis, go through your Instagram profile and try to decipher what it says about you. Are you an insatiable foodie, traversing the world to find the best bite? Are you always on-trend, always well-lit, always wearing the very latest? Do you have kids? Do you selfie? On a platform that encourages every post to be perfect and beautiful for maximum engagement, you can tell a lot about someone’s priorities from their image grid. And as Instagram’s popularity continues exploding, that impression matters more than ever.
Starting today, Instagram profiles might start to look a little different. Don’t panic: The image grid is still there, and it’s still three by three. But above the grid, if you choose, you can now offer a sort of mixtape of your Instagram Stories, which the company hopes will help you give fans an even better sense of who you are.
From now on, every story you capture will automatically download to your Instagram archive. (You still have to manually save anything you want to keep on your phone’s camera roll.) They’ll go their by default, next to the posts you’ve chosen to yank off your profile because that beer-pong photo doesn’t really fit your #brand anymore. But you can choose to share them through what Instagram is calling “Story Highlights,” permanent groups of your stories that live on your profile. They’ll still leave your story after 24 hours, but they can now live forever.
Let’s say you’re a travel photographer, on a trip to the Maldives. You’re only going to post a couple of times, but you’ll be taking stories the whole time. Normally those stories would be gone forever after 24 hours. Now you can create a collection called “Maldives trip,” save your favorite stories there, and keep it on your profile as a behind-the-scenes experience. Other people can respond to those stories as they normally would, and your view counts accrue over time.
For Instagram, the move seems to reflect the company’s effort to make profiles a little less stuffy and pristine, and a little more human and fun. “People get to know you through your profile,” says Robby Stein, Instagram’s product lead for sharing, and the company wants to make the experience as well-rounded as possible. Stories in general tend to be less edited and curated, and thus a better window into real life. With Story Highlights, you can show that side of yourself to new people, too, not just those who were already following you.
The risk, of course, is that by allowing stories to live forever, Instagram could change the nature of stories altogether. Maybe you won’t be so goofy when you’re thinking about where this’ll go in your highlight reel. Not to mention, there’s something decidedly different about a stories product that saves everything forever, even when nobody but you can see it. But as stories become a dominant form of sharing, it makes sense that Instagram would look for ways to keep them around. Because there’s no fun in doing it for the ‘gram if nobody can see it tomorrow.
© 2018 Condé Nast. All rights reserved.
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