The Ephemeral Dilemma

Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, Medium, and Snapchat are just some of the apps today that have “Stories”, a way that lets you craft a chronicle of your day or journey in an ephemeral manner. Each service is jockeying for your attention and adding new bells and whistles, partnerships, and the latest technology to curry favor. For individuals, it can feel a bit overwhelming.

Yes, I get that each app has its own targeted audience, like Snapchat is for Generation Z, while WhatsApp and Messenger are used for communication versus sharing with a social network, Instagram is framed for more creative uses, and Facebook is for possibly a much larger audience. But at the end of the day, is it feasible for someone to be using more than one app to talk about their day or adventure? At which point do we no longer live in the moment and instead subject ourselves to what’s on our screens? It’s possible that’s already happened because we’re obsessed with what’s happening on our smartphone.

The reason why I bring this up is because of a trip I’m about to embark on and feel like I’d love to share it with friends. While normally I’d love to share photos and videos through Instagram, I’m not looking to post every single thing that I see — the experience I have on the app is one where more professional-looking content is shared. So what about posting to a private Facebook album? Sounds ideal, but what if I prefer the ephemerality and the filtering? That’s not totally possible.

This leaves me with contemplating an app that’s essentially the “lesser of two evils”. I’ve decided to outline the pros and cons below and while this could be a “first ephemeral messaging problem”, this may be something that others encounter…

  • Snapchat: Fewer connections and won’t necessarily be seen by all people that should see it, but more creative options for photo editing.
  • Instagram: A native environment for photo and video sharing, but no privacy settings to limit visibility of stories by the general public, and not as many connections. There’s also the fact that people are spending more time on Instagram Stories versus Snapchat.
  • WhatsApp: Not as many connections, but it’s a single app you’re using when traveling internationally.
  • Messenger: Plenty of connections since based on Facebook friends and a somewhat natural app for stories, but the usage of Messenger Day doesn’t seem to be on par with Instagram, so will people actually see my story? Also, it may require some people to download the app, which can be a technical issue or a personal preference why they don’t want it.
  • Facebook: This has the largest audience of the apps, with some privacy controls, but still limited. In addition, it’s not exactly sure how many people would view these stories. It would be great if Facebook offered users the ability to better target their content to specific audiences.

So what’s the right Story for me to make?

By Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a journalist fascinated with the tech industry and internet culture. He's currently Flipboard's Assistant Managing Editor, overseeing news curation in technology, science, gaming and health. In addition to his day job, Ken's the co-host of "The Created Economy" podcast, examining the Creator Economy. In a past life, he was a former reporter for VentureBeat and The Next Web, covering tech startups, the industry's innovations and funding.