The demise of Twitter Circles left a void that Instagram Close Friends can’t fill

When the circles of close This week, the app formerly known as Twitter turned its back on the best product it has delivered since the Quote Tweet. Like a Close Friends Instagram story, Circles allowed users to post to an exclusive, hand-picked group of up to 150 people, where they could be themselves without worrying about personal or professional consequences.

Now that Circles has been inexplicably removed, chronic oversharing and the young millennials among us are mourning its demise. Since the era of LiveJournal and MySpace, Internet users have craved a place where they could share their most private thoughts with an audience of people they trust. Although there are countless horror stories about supposedly private blogs being leaked to the public, these public logs – later replaced by “finstas” and “alt accounts” – help us develop a passive intimacy with the people around us. It’s a way to convey how you really feel, but in a way that makes you feel less annoying or burdensome to your friends, since they can choose whether or not to engage with you.

Put it like this. If you get a really long text from a friend about something their therapist said to them that made them reconsider the value of shame as an emotion or something, it can be a little overwhelming, especially if you receive five of these texts a day. week. The problem is that many of us are that friend: the person who has so many feelings that they compulsively need to share with the world. But when you’ve grown up on the Internet, just writing in a journal doesn’t do any good. We need an audience. Like a A ten-year New York Times essay turned meme tells us: “If we want the rewards of being loved, we must submit to the mortifying test of being known. »

This doesn’t mean that we can’t have normal relationships with our loved ones, in which we talk about our feelings in a healthy, reciprocal way. But sometimes you don’t need to have a real conversation; you just need to post a few sentences into the ether, but now the ether is a minefield where anything you post can be taken out of context and go viral, making you the main internet character du jour . Nobody wants to be next Daddy Beansor the woman who had castigated for saying that she likes to drink coffee in her garden with her husband in the morning.

Now, social media users are deprived of spaces where they can share honest thoughts and updates with people they truly trust. Maybe you want to complain about your job, but you don’t want to risk your employer seeing your messages, or maybe you want to talk about your romantic problems, but you don’t want your ex to know how much you are having trouble. . Maybe you just don’t want to share so many details about your life with a wide audience, which may in one way or another include both your uncle and your college roommate’s friend that you met twice. So until start of Instagram story Close Friends in 2018, we had to hack “alt Twitters” and “finstas” together to satisfy our desire to be known to a select audience.

Close Friends was so successful because it erased the extremely awkward friction of getting people to follow your second account. Do you post publicly that you have a private account and ask people to follow you, or does telling people you have a finsta defeat the purpose of having one? What happens if someone asks to follow you, but you don’t want to let them in? Close Friends and Circles have solved this problem: you can avoid all the mess by just adding the people you want to add.

Although it took Twitter about four years to catch up, Circles was great because it’s even more of a journal than an Instagram Story, which requires you to post a photo — often of yourself — that disappears into the 24 hours (a blessing or an annoyance depending on the case). your point of view). Perhaps part of the thrill of the Close Friends story (or “finsta,” an entirely different narrative) is that it is so antithetical to the highly curated Instagram terrains covered by influencers. But this proximity is a double-edged sword: For me, at least, I struggle to oscillate between my quasi-professional Instagram and my Close Friends stories, where I try to paste walls of text over a mediocre selfie.

BeReal saw this gap in the social media market and decided to create an app that encourages people to be more authentic with a smaller, more immediate circle of friends. Unfortunately, BeReal doesn’t relieve that same itch. The app – in its purest form – prompts you to post a photo once a day within a specific two-minute window. If you’re lucky, the BeReal notification might go off while you’re doing something interesting, but for the most part, people are showing up at their desk at 1 p.m. on a Wednesday, or walking their dog or something. gender. The banality of BeReal is refreshing in itself, but I’m not going to caption a photo of me making dinner with a reflection on how my new medication regimen is going (literally, the caption sizes on BeReal aren’t so long).

An application that I talked about more than two years ago, Team, also sought to fill this void. The app invited people to form groups of up to 12 friends (“squads”), where they could share voicemail updates throughout the day. Unfortunately, no matter how compelling a product is, it’s rare for a startup to overcome our collective discomfort with downloading yet another app (unless you’re BeReal, which is fast becoming less popular anyway). And startups have no incentive to create compelling social products, because there is a high probability that even if they succeed, they will simply be copied by Meta or TikTok.

So where does this leave us? Should we post our deepest confessions on LinkedIn in some sort of postmodern act of irony? Are we coming back to Tumblr, a platform better known for posting your secrets to thousands of strangers, rather than your close, real-life friends? Or do we simply learn to resist the urge to share our every thought in some sort of online forum? We have gone too far for that.

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