Spoiler alert: It's the same way I always wanted to use Twitter's 140 characters
by Brittany Taylor
published October 26, 2018
¶ How do you use Instagram Stories? When they first hit the app, that was the question of the day. And, truth be told, it still is. Back then, it was awkward 10-second video clips. Now, it’s still that, occasionally, but it’s so much more.
Instagram Stories has become a vibrant tool that you can use to share the more minute details of your personal and professional lives. Share your lunch, your family, your playlist, your deepest secrets, your silly pro tips. Share whatever makes you you—and rest easy in knowing that, in 24 hours, it will vanish. It’s something ephemeral for the Internet, which makes it exciting and strange and new. The way you use Instagram Stories is full of possibilities. It’s always changing. In fact, the way I use Instagram Stories changes from day to day.
But to understand that, you need to start at the very beginning, with another platform I so wanted to love and never could: Twitter.
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Twitter seems like a land of possibilities, a Winnie the Pooh-style Land of Milk and Honey. Techies like to talk up Twitter as truly being that dream platform. There they were: interesting people sharing interesting things about their lives and experiences. Dull things, too, of course, but we can’t all be fascinating specimens 100-percent of the time. This was the place, I thought. This was the place where I could be my whole self. This was the place where I could talk about all the things I was interested in, and other people would listen.
When I used it, I tried to believe these Twitter aficionados were spinning. I tried to make their dream into my own. I tried to see it as a place where I could connect with anyone at any time, where people I looked up to would see me and hear me. I tried to see it as a place where I could engage, share, and grow.
But that’s not what it was. Not for me, anyway. Not ever.
I’m not an early adopter of anything, and Twitter was no different. The platform launched the summer before I started college, and I didn’t sign up for an account of my own until graduation. To me, Twitter has always seemed like a world unto itself. I had my account and I could tweet and whatnot, but I was always looking at it through a window, from the outside.
I never felt like a part of Twitter. Because of that, I never felt at home there. I never felt like part of any Twitter community, no matter how many chats are participated in, how many times a day I tweeted, or how much I interacted with others. It felt like I was speaking into a void. When no one engaged with me, I felt left out. And that feeling made me loathe every moment I spent trying to make the platform work for me.
I started and stopped my Twitter efforts over and over again, until finally, I’d had enough. I quit Twitter.
Instagram launched the year I graduated college. That was when it was still an iOS-exclusive app. And there I was, with a laptop and a dumbphone. No IG for me. It was 3 years before I purchased a smartphone like the rest of my peers. Three years until I could have an Insta account of my own. I wanted it so much.
Unlike Twitter, it was just as wonderful as I thought it would be.
Instagram, then and now, has been a friendly place to me. It’s been a community—one large IG community made of smaller, niche communities that always let me come in and participate. As a user, I felt welcomed and valued. I contributed. Others saw my work and appreciated it. As a viewer, I was inspired. As a fan, I was supportive. As a friend, I was a cheerleader.
On Instagram, I could build new relationships in days. I could speak directly to those I admired, and they’d talk back! I could discover new creators. I could deep-dive into different topics and themes. It was a wonderland, and it was one I could curate for myself.
A sense of belonging—that’s what I have always felt, regardless of the trolls, despite the violent social upheaval we’re experiencing, regardless of the personal issues I struggle with. That feeling is what keeps me clicking on the icon, posting every day, and scrolling through my feeds.
Instagram, I love you.
It’s been about 2 years since Instagram Stories rolled out. By now, you shouldn’t be surprised that I didn’t rush to use them on the first day or the second. It took me weeks to start watching my peers’ IG Stories, and months before I used them myself.
Now, I use Instagram Stories every day. And reader, I adore them.
I use Instagram Stories the way I always wanted to use Twitter: to keep my followers apprised on the realities of my daily life. Not the boring stuff, like what I ate for lunch (usually). I use Instagram Stories for the more interesting points of my life and work, the tidbits I think will inspire them or help them in some way. There, I talk about current events and about how I’m handling periods of struggle. I share other Instagram posts I’ve found useful as well as other Instagrammers I adore and other things I’m obsessed with.
My Instagram Stories are very much in the moment, which is how I imagined my Twitter would be. While my feed is curated, themed, and planned, my Stories are spontaneous. In terms of timeline, my feed is a long-term plan while my Stories is a short-term burst of different interests and insights.
And people are watching them. It’s a regular, loyal bunch made up of real-life friends, online pals, and even a few entrepreneurs I think of as mentors. They tune in every day, even on weekends, and they make me feel seen and supported—a feeling Twitter never gave me.
I use Instagram Stories for you, my audience, but I use it for me, too. Being a part of that community gives as much to my soul as I give back. And isn’t that the point of social media?
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My name is Brittany, but my friends and clients call me "Britt." Online small business owners hire me to create content strategies and write their blog posts, email newsletters, and social media updates. I work with bosses around the world from the marshes of Charleston, S.C.
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