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December 15, 2022

Instagram's new Notes and Candid features are the latest to mimic rival social media platforms

The app previously copied Snapchat and TikTok. Now, it appears to be taking aim at BeReal

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Instagram Candid Notes Souvik Banerjee/Unsplash

Instagram's new features include Notes, which allows users to post blurbs of text, and Candid, which encourages them to post photos to their Stories at certain times.

There are so many social media platforms available today, but one app seems to be rounding up the best aspects of each in an attempt to stay relevant.

Instagram is introducing new features, including one that allows users to post blurbs of text and another that encourages them to post Stories at certain times.

MORE: How to use BeReal, the 'unfiltered' social media app now on 15 million phones

Many Instagram users already have access to the new Notes feature – posts of up to 60 characters that only contain text or emojis. 

To leave a Note, users must go to the top of their inboxes, where they can type a message that will appear at the top of their followers' inboxes for 24 hours. Users can allow their notes to be seen by all of the followers that they follow back, or only the people on their hand-selected Close Friends list. Replies will arrive as DMs. 

Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook and its parent company Meta Platforms, which also owns Instagram, described Notes as, "a new space to share thoughts, ask questions, or post a status."

Internal testing revealed that people enjoy having a casual space to share what's on their minds and to start conversations. Instagram said the Notes features aims to give people a spontaneous way to express themselves and connect with other users.

Many Instagram users have likened "Notes" to the away messages people used to post on AOL Instant Messenger. The feature also is reminiscent of Facebook's status updates, Others users have compared the feature to Twitter, which asks users "What's happening?" when they go to share a Tweet.

The Notes feature is being rolled out as Twitter undergoes changes under new owner Elon Musk, who purchased the social media company in October. Musk has shaken things up at Twitter's headquarters by downsizing staff, revamping the legal department and taking drastic measures to cut costs.

Instagram also is testing a Candid feature that asks users to post photos using their Story cameras when they receive a daily notification. The feature is "a new way for you and your friends to capture and share what you're doing right now in a story that's only visible to those who also share their own," Instagram said. Meta is testing a Facebook version, too.

Candid is almost a copy-and-paste of the premise of BeReal, the app currently taking Gen Z by storm. Much like Candid, BeReal users are simultaneously notified that it's "time to BeReal." At that point, they have 2 minutes to capture and share photos; one photo is taken with the phone's front camera and the other taken at the same time using the back camera. 

BeReal was crowned the "iPhone App of the Year" during Apple's 2022 App Store Awards. It is among the fastest-growing social media platforms of 2022, having skyrocketing from an estimated 10,000 daily, active users in March 2021 to more than 15 million in October 2022.

This isn't the first time Instagram has debuted knock-off versions of features from other apps.

In August 2016, Instagram introduced Stories, which closely resembled a Snapchat feature, and a year later, the use of Instagram Stories was outpacing its inspiration in daily usage. 

Instagram also attempted to capture the success of TikTok through its video feature, Reels, which was introduced in 2020. But this was not nearly as successful. Internal documents obtained by The Wall Street Journal revealed that Instagram users spend 17.6 million hours a day watching Reels, far less than the 197.8 million hours that people spend watching TikTok every day.

With all of this in mind, what do Instagram users think of all the changes to the app, which initially was used simply to share photos with family and friends? There certainly has been criticism. 

"To scroll through Instagram today is to parse a series of sponsored posts from brands, recommended Reels from people you don't follow, and the occasional picture from a friend that's finally surfaced after being posted several days ago," Kate Lindsay wrote in The Atlantic. "It's not what it used to be."

What Instagram "used to be" was a photo-sharing app that, in 2014, surpassed Twitter to become the most popular form of social media, with 300 million monthly users.

Now, with popular new apps, like TikTok and BeReal, capturing the hearts of Gen Z, Instagram privately struggles with fears of retaining and engaging teenagers, The New York Times reported last year.

These fears may be coming to fruition. Earlier this year, a recent Piper Sandler survey of 7,100 American teenagers from 44 states, found Instagram was the third most popular social media platform. Thirty-three percent of teens said TikTok was their favorite app. Snapchat was next, at 31%. Instagram was named by 22%. 

A Pew Research Center study, released in August, found that TikTok was the most commonly used social media app among teenagers, and that teens had largely deserted Facebook, which once was the most popular social media platform among teens. The percentage of teens who use Facebook has plummeted from 71% in 2014-15 to 32% in 2022. 

As Instagram continues morphing into a hybrid of TikTok, Twitter, Snapchat and BeReal, it seems that many of the app's users wish it would return to its original purpose: photo sharing.

Over the summer, in response to a rising frustration over algorithmic changes and copycat features, photographer Tati Bruening posted a graphic expressing users' annoyance.

"Make Instagram Instagram Again," the graphic read. "Stop trying to be TikTok I just want to see cute photos of my friends. Sincerely, Everyone." 

The post went viral, garnering more than 2.2 million likes. Kylie Jenner, the most followed woman on Instagram, with 375 million followers, seemingly showed her support by reposting the graphic to her Story. 

With the introduction of its newest features, it does not seem that Instagram is heeding its users' call to return to its original purpose. Though Notes is in the early stages of it rollout, and Candid is not yet widely available, users are already expressing mixed emotions.

Instagram also is updating its Add Yours feature, which allows users to invite their friends to post Stories following a prompt, and introducing Group Profiles and Collaborative Collections.

Group Profile will allow users to share posts and stories exclusively within a group of friends. Content shared within a Group Profile will not be posted to the user's personal profile. 

Collaborative Collections allows people to save posts to a collection shared by friends with the same interest. 

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