In a callback to AIM Away Messages, Instagram introduces new ‘Notes’ feature [Comment]

Instagram this week rolled out a new feature to users they are calling “Notes,” a way for users to leave a sort of status update – or Away Message – to their followers or to their Close Friends.

Flying drone with camera

How it works

When you open your Instagram DMs, you’ll now see a linear line of Notes that you can scroll through from your followers or anyone who has put you in their Close Friends list. 

Instagram ‘Notes’

According to Instagram’s press release:

We’re beginning to roll out Notes, a new way to share your thoughts and see what your friends are up to. Notes are short posts of up to 60 characters using just text and emojis. 

During testing, we learned that people liked having a lightweight, easy way to share what’s on their mind and start conversations. From asking for recommendations to sharing what they’re up to, Notes give people a casual and spontaneous way to express themselves and connect with each other.

Adding a Note to your profile can be done in the same manner you would add a Story; simply click the “plus” icon on your profile picture when in your DMs. Similar to a Story, Notes can last for upwards of 24 hours, and they can be deleted and/or updated as frequently as you’d like – users can also respond directly to Notes in the same manner that they can respond directly to someone’s Story.

A sneaky difference

On both Instagram Stories and Instagram Notes, users have the option to share content with their Close Friends list. “Close Friends” is exactly what it sounds like – a group of people whom you have chosen to be allowed access to your content that you are choosing not to share with the rest of your followers. Your Close Friends list is the same group of followers for both Stories and Notes.

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However, there is a caveat.

When you are someone’s close friend, and they post a Close Friends story, you will see a green circle surrounding their profile picture on your home feed, indicating that you are, in fact, on their Close Friends list; in Instagram Notes, however, no such indication appears. There is no green circle around a Note, no matter if the person sent the Note to all of their followers versus their preselected close friends.

This means that whether someone has one person or 20 people on their Close Friends, there is no immediate way in Notes to discern who is and isn’t a part of that group. That said, if you want to double-check their Close Friends to see if you are a part of their inner circle, you can go to the person’s profile and will see a green “Following,” as shown below:

A green “Following,” indicating you are on someone’s Close Friends list

9to5Mac’s Take

Unfortunately, I love this silly little Notes feature, even though I know it is one more way in which Instagram is sucking me into its platform.

As someone who spent formative years in the AOL Instant Message (AIM) era – not unlike Mark Zuckerberg and Adam Mosseri – seeing my friends post Notes ranging from “~brb call my cell~” to “can’t wait for senior year!” to song lyrics, this feature has transported me directly back to my parent’s living room as a kid. All of a sudden, it’s 1997, I’m 11 years old, and I’m trying to think of a clever yet covert way to grab my crush’s attention via an Away Message (the original subtweet).

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What I don’t love about Notes, though, is two-fold.

Firstly, I don’t love that this is another engagement tool that will, inevitably, keep people online and within Instagram for even longer – at least for me it will, because frankly I lack self-control when it comes to social media. I can post as many Notes as I’d like throughout the day, and I can respond to the ones my friends are posting.

Secondly, I really don’t understand the lack of transparency with Close Friends. Why not throw a green circle around someone’s Note in the same way we see with Stories? Why should anyone have to navigate (should they choose to investigate) to a person’s profile to be sure? “That’s suspicious… that’s weird.”

When it’s all said and done, though, and while I haven’t yet posted any Notes of my own, I think this is a cute feature that gives (another) interesting glimpse into people’s personalities.

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