The time will soon come when we won’t be able to differentiate among any of the social networking apps. Every week, it seems, one of them adds to its own app the coolest aspects of its biggest competition. It’s a high-tech game of leapfrog playing out in the palm of your hand.
This week Instagram is rolling out features stolen from Snapchat (again) and Pinterest, all the more reason parents should be aware of what these features are and how all these apps work. Moms and dads should be educated enough to be able to decide at what age their children should be allowed to use these apps. And after that, conversations should take place often about appropriate tech behavior.
Disappearing messages are one aspect of social media I do not love. I’m trying to warm up to the idea, but it’s tough when I’m trying to make sure inappropriate photos and content never reach my teenagers’ eyes. I realize they will see things they shouldn’t (and probably already have). I just wish apps gave us a way to opt out of certain features. At this point, there is not one major social networking app without the option of photos that seemingly disappear after viewing.
Instagram started allowing messages that self-destruct in November. A week ago, it added new stickers and other ways to be creative in your story or messaging. Now, it has combined disappearing and permanent messages, all under the direct messaging section, called Direct. They used to appear at the top of the screen in a bubble, just like stories, and it was a tad confusing.
You may not use it that often on Instagram, but Direct is that paper airplane-shaped icon in the upper-right corner of the screen. Users have the option of sending a photo to an individual or a group that will disappear after it is viewed twice. Of course, there is the option of taking a screenshot, but Instagram alerts the sender if that does happen. You can only send disappearing photos and videos to people who follow you.
Facebook-owned Instagram announced last week that 200 million people are using Instagram stories every day. Business Insider reported that Snapchat had 161 million daily active users, but the article said not to believe the hype that Instagram was crushing Snapchat.
When you ask college and high school students, 78 percent of them say they use Snapchat every day, while 76 percent say they use Instagram daily. Whichever app is ahead in this digital race for the most users, the fact is tons of kids are using these apps every day, often multiple times a day. And parents should stay up to date on how they work.
Finally, also starting this week, Instagram users can save posts into private collections (think boards on Pinterest).
Several months ago, Instagram allowed users to start saving posts by other users. You’ve never done this, you say? When The Verge noted that most of us have probably done it by accident, I tapped on my profile’s bookmark, and, indeed, I had inadvertently saved random posts. That little bookmark icon under any post is what saves your favorites. Instagram says people were already taking screenshots of other people’s posts, so now, it's simply made it easier for everyone.
You can name these private collections (again, like boards), and for now, no one but you can see them. Tap and hold on a saved post to add it to a collection. Create collections for things you want to buy, places you want to visit or even yummy desserts you want to make this summer.
Most people are using several social media apps now. I personally use Twitter, Instagram and Facebook every single day. With so many similar features popping up on so many apps, is it time to slim down my social media arsenal?
The only advice I can give for sure on that point is that you should definitely be on whichever social networks your kids use. But please show some parental restraint and do not comment on all their posts, especially using emojis.
Amy Iverson is a graduate of the University of Utah. She has worked as a broadcast journalist in Dallas, Seattle, Italy and Salt Lake City. Amy, her husband and three kids live in Summit County, Utah. Contact Amy on Facebook.com/theamyiverson