Life in 2019 is a never-resting, infinite content creation gulag but Stories still feel intimate
It may take some time, but eventually the social media networks that we were in thrall to, begin to disgust us.
Facebook: so fun, so innocent in 2008. Only a few short years later it became like walking into an ongoing, never ending, tedious high school reunion. People are constantly shoving baby photos in your face or bragging about their latest promotion or book or renovation, and when you try to sneak out the side door you get caught up in a toxic fight a cluster of friends are having about everything really.
Once the funniest people in the world were on Twitter. Smart strangers you admired (certain writers, comedians and journalists, the occasional actor) were suddenly in the one place, and occasionally they would talk back to you or like something you said. And these things that were said were more likely to be whimsical, or observational. People tweeted a lot about their Blackberries, what they had for lunch and how much they loved this new young dude Obama.
Now Twitter is less like a cocktail party, more like those riots you see in Berlin on May Day. The air is full of burning tyre smoke and hurled bricks, theres cars on fire and the worst offenders have their faces covered. Theyll hurl a Coke bottle full of piss at you, then run away. But youre told its good for your profile if youre at the riot each day (preferably there the minute you wake up each morning) and so what if you cop of a bottle of piss to the head, its just how it is these days.
Then theres Instagram. It was, for a while, the Happy Place. Less text-based so people couldnt spoil the Santorini sunset with too much humblebrag, but it allowed you to be with your friends on the best bits of their holiday.
Then suddenly it seemed everyone was on it and it started to feel different and look more like a Facebook feed (funny that).
Now Instagram is a FOMO factory all the great parties you werent invited to, all the holidays you cant afford and the meals you didnt consume (how did they get into that restaurant? Its booked up for years!)
And the worst thing about all of this, to quote Britney Spears: youre not that innocent. You are the school reunion bore, you are the piss throwing rioter, you are the smug holidaymaker. Guaranteed what is inflicted on you on your social media feeds, is probably similar to what you have inflicted on others.
Welcome to life in 2019, a never-resting, infinite content creation gulag, where, to quote Bono now, we hurt each other, then we do it again.
So whats left for us? The only social media that still brings me joy is the Stories function on Instagram.
Stories is the bit on Instagram that you access by swiping right on the main screen. You can make small videos or take photos of things and they disappear after 24 hours.
Theres also something polite about how Stories is positioned in the app. Its up the top before you get to the main game. You have to go there. Users can post all this ephemera and not worry about clogging up peoples feeds. People visit your little shrine to your day (because thats what Insta stories is) because they want to be there.
Which brings me to Stories most fascinating feature. Its a great way to gauge crushes and stalkers.
You can see whos watched your Stories, which is always interesting as there are some people who have never even liked a photo youve posted but seem to be avidly glued to any content you put up.
Stories still feels slightly rough and artless, a place for double chins and bedroom depression. Its a repository for the off-cuts – the photos that werent quite perfect or flattering enough, the sunset obscured by clouds, the concert where you were standing behind someone tall.
Like Twitter of yore its base notes are whimsy and intimacy. Mostly devoid of ideology, its a place for food and thoughts and moods and family and landscapes and beaches and babies and the shaky shots of the floor of nightclubs and fragments of poetry and the pink wallpaper you like at the cafe the grab bag of things that makes a day, that in turn makes a life.
And then it disappears. Like a day does, like a life does. Like it all should not stored in a digital cloud or on your feed forever, but passing literally before our very eyes experienced and enjoyed, then deleted.
Brigid Delaney is a Guardian Australia columnist