Times of Youth

Dear Instagram: What’s on your mind?


Dear Instagram: what leads you to introduce features as astute as the questions’ sticker?

After revolutionizing the story feature in the application, Instagram has introduced yet another breakthrough feature to its stories. Emulating, to some extent, the overarching idea behind websites such as Ask.fm, Instagram has introduced a feature whereby users can invite the viewers of their stories to ask questions, answers to which the users can subsequently provide and share in their additional stories.

The most salient feature of this new introduction that stands in contrast with the way apps like Ask.fm work, however, is that there is no provision of anonymity when it comes to Instagram stories. While the users know which question was asked by who, the viewers remain clueless, left only to ponder over the slate of possibilities that exists. According to Instagram, the idea behind this new feature is to afford users and the viewers an opportunity to get to know each other better, all the while also sharing what matters most to them—and what matters the least—with the wider audience.

While websites such as Ask.fm served the radar well in terms of providing a totally anonymous platform, the Instagram question-sticker provides a unique platform for its users in that the stories are ephemeral; after 24 hours have passed, the stories, including the questions asked and the answers provided, are taken down automatically by Instagram. The only exception that can prolong the duration for which a story remains, of course, is if the user chooses to add it to a highlight. Nevertheless, the story duration is long enough for the viewers to peruse through the concoction of eclectic questions asked—ranging from questions about the users’ love life to their professional obligations—but still concise enough that the questions do not linger on forever, creating space for newer stories thereafter.

Although the utility of such a feature to the Instagram users is quite apparent, it is imperative to note that this introduction is in fact a very astute way for Instagram to continuously engage its users. Asking a question—or conversely answering one—foments a positive-feedback loop; the very act of engaging and interacting with viewers in this manner induces an interminable desire in users to be further engrossed in asking and answering questions. In this manner, the new feature veers on the assumption that users view stories not just to stay posted about others’ lives, but also to prod further about who they are and who they have been. That said, however, it is indubitably true that the new feature has exorbitantly increased user traffic and has prompted the otherwise inactive users to jolt awake.