Ever since SnapChat stories hit the scene, their popularity has been obvious, as other apps like Instagram have carried the torch. Instagram stories are part of the everyday routine of anyone who uses the app, and they are distinctly different than regular Instagram posts. Rather than permanent, highly edited images, stories are raw, unedited, and personal slices of life. They go against everything that Instagram otherwise seems to embody, so why are they so popular?

They’re Less Intimidating Than the Rest of Instagram

Before Instagram had stories, the app was getting a reputation for only being for highly-edited professional photos of grand adventures, expensive food, and other things that people don’t see every day. It was intimidating to make a post on Instagram without it feeling like the post was sub-par. Stories enable Instagram users to share lower-quality photos that aren’t necessarily works of art. Now people can post to Instagram several times a day, rather than reserving one good photo a month for a rare Instagram post. It’s the exact opposite of a regular Instagram post, and it just works. It redefined what Instagram was for and made it a lot more accessible to people who weren’t world-travelling thrill-seekers with fancy cameras.

Real-Time Events are More Interesting than Past Events

Instagram stories are essentially “live”. No one puts last week’s adventure on their stories, they would just upload those as a normal Instagram post. The timeliness of stories help those looking at them feel closer to the person who posted the story. You wonder what’s going to happen next, because maybe it hasn’t happened yet! The fact that stories only last 24 hours helps with that timeliness. You know stories will always contain recent events, and you’ll want to see the full story before it goes away.

They Build a Narrative

They’re called stories, and rightfully so. When someone uploads a multi-part story, it tells the tale of an adventure with a beginning, middle, and end. A story from a concert could include driving to the venue, standing in line, the opening band playing, the main act coming out, someone’s favorite song from the main act, and then meeting the musicians at the end. It’s like watching your friends or your favorite celebrities in a mini-movie. A story-based framework is engaging, and so you engage with it more than you might a picture of what your friend had for dinner.

We Love to Share and to See What Others are Doing

If nothing else, social media has shown that humans are incredibly exhibitionist and voyeuristic. We have a need to broadcast our lives, and consume what others are broadcasting. But that’s what social media is all about, so what do Instagram stories do different? While the rest of social media is full of highly-edited and curated content, only showing the best sides of everyone’s lives, Instagram stories offer a temporary space for people to show the less glamorous parts of their lives. This is where unedited photos and unrehearsed rants go. It feels more authentic, and like we’re spying on something more private.

Next time you’re on Instagram, try to be conscious of how much time you spend scrolling through regular feed posts, and how long you spend on stories. It’s a pretty safe bet that you’ll spend more time on stories!

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