How Video Gives Instagram A Split Personality

Instagram is my favorite app.

In fact, I think Instagram is the perfect app. Not for the billion dollars Facebook paid for it or for its moody filters, but because it gives me the perfect way to do one thing I love to do: share photos with my friends.

I can do that other places. I can hop on Facebook or Google+ or Twitter, but odds are I'll get lost in some social rabbit hole and lose my way. Those services are the Swiss Army knives of social networking. Instagram is the waiter's corkscrew—a singular, elegant solution. 

Ever tried opening a bottle of wine with a Swiss Army knife? It sucks. 

Two's A Crowd 

Just like the rest of us Instaphiles, I freak out every time Instagram changes anything, so I'm freaking out today over the news that Instagram now supports the sharing of short videos.

But my freakouts aren't because I'm afraid of change. (So Google+ got 41 incremental changes today? Cool, not too worried.) No, I lose my shit every time Instagram tinkers around with its recipe because it's an app that I love, one uniquely unsullied by ads, undiluted by some scattered vision—until now, anyway.

What happened to not messing with perfection?

The reality is that Facebook owns Instagram and Facebook is obsessed with doing all the things … just look at Poke, Facebook Camera, Facebook Messenger, etc. Why launch a Vine-like video product under Instagram's banner? Slap a Facebook label on it and jet another spinoff app into the mobile void. 

What happened to not messing with perfection?

Instagram's Identity Crisis

With video for Instagram, our beloved single-purpose app suddenly is seeing double. Sure, it makes sense to acknowledge the existence of Vine, but I'm not convinced that Vine users and the rest of the mobile Web's budding videographers have meaningful overlap with Instagram users. Instagram is a flourishing mobile photo-sharing community, one with its own language (like how Instagram has become a verb), customs (the Throwback Thursday hashtag, or #tbt), and culture. Adding an entirely new medium to the mix changes everything. 

In my feed, the signal-to-noise ratio is already off-kilter. Scrolling through a mix of not-so-artful video stills and the traditional Instagram pics that I care about already feels messy. Sure, Instagram lets you pick the cover image, but users need to learn how to make use of that feature. I'm already wondering which of the accounts I follow will take the new route—and how long I'll be able to hang on before unfollowing them, hoping they don't notice.

Now Instagram does two things. And that's one too many for any good app, if you ask me. 

Videos Are A (Beastly) Different Beast

I admit that I have more of a disdain for video content than most people in my cohort. I didn't watch "Gangnam Style" until one billion people had already beaten me to the punch late last December. For us social-media users prone to motion sickness, Instagram was a safe harbor—up until today. 

No, I won't watch the YouTube video of the fabulous all-male cheerleading squad in Alabama that you just sent me the link for, though I'm sure that it's charming. And no, I will not remember to open Vine more than once every two weeks. And good god no, I will not be—and may not be capable of—catching up on my Snapchats. Ever. 

Similarly, I will not watch your videos on Instagram, as cleverly executed and chock-a-block with cats as they might be. As a writer, I like words. As a photographer and an Instagrammer, I like images.

I just wish that they would stay still. 

Image courtesy of Instagram's blog.