Apart from the obvious things like preventing climate change, getting Anne Boleyn out of that relationship earlier, seeing a dinosaur, and stopping the production of Magic Mike’s Last Dance, if I could go back in time: I’d do social media differently.
Firstly, I’d use a consistent username across all channels (I’m still chuffed I got @nadine on Serializd).
Then I’d create a second account for all my ramblings, away from any main one.
I should probably say I’d never sign up to Tumblr in 2009, but I don’t regret that. Instead I would message the creators of Instagram and Twitter (before Elon) and tell them to introduce Close Friends / Twitter Circle earlier, while also getting credit for the idea (if you wouldn’t use time travel to benefit yourself financially, then you are lying).
I blogged about social media features to help you feel in control in 2020, a year when I posted a lot. I still use a lot of these features to manage my social media usage like who sees my posts and time limits.
The Close Friends feature I feel needs a special shout out.
Why is Close Friends so great?
The rush I feel when I see that someone I follow has posted to their Close Friends story on Instagram cannot be replicated on another social media channel. It means that not only am I seeing some exclusive content the person wants to share, but I AM that Close Friend that they are choosing to see it.
It is a privilege. It’s the equivalent of receiving an invite to the evening part of someone’s wedding you didn’t expect. It’s like being chosen for a team during PE. It’s the same as someone sending you a meme they think is funny. It’s a social media ‘I like you’. It is exclusive.
Using Close Friends is curating a feed for a specific group of people. Whether it’s for privacy (not wanting everyone to know where you are at a certain time), safety (feeling able to share a views, knowing those who see are probably likeminded), or simply wanting to show content to limited eyes, the feature is one of the most useful on social media. It is akin to sending a letter to friends in the 1800s.
Plus, the name! “Close Friends”. Impeccable. Social media allows you to outline your friendship with someone without ever having to approach that conversation. You can add them to it and bam! I consider you a close, personal friend.
Now I’m not saying this actually equates to whatever the modern definition of a “close friend” is. I don’t think everyone in my Instagram Close Friends would pick me up from the airport at 3am (ooh, an online discourse reference!) or would bail me out of jail, though maybe they would surprise me.
But I do think I could confide in a lot of them and feel I can be myself around them, hence the Close Friends.
Who are the Close Friends?
I analysed who is in my Close Friends circle on Instagram, by looking at how I met each person. I have collated the results in a handy chart:
Those 14% I may not have met in person. I might not know their job or where in the world they live. I couldn’t tell you if they are tall or short, or whether they have a regional accent. But I know that for most of my Close Friends who I met online, I am part of their Close Friends too because they’ve selected me. We have a mutual fondness and like sharing parts of our lives with each other. Having friends you met online be close friends is something I’ll never take for granted.
Having seen a few online discussions about social media previously, I think it’s quite common for people to have ‘online’ friends as part of their Close Friends circles. I find the topic fascinating. Maybe that’s a blog post for another time.
Others in my Close Friends I think are pretty standard. BFFs are friends where our origin story is no longer important, because they’re the common definition of friends. Family Friends are the people who you know in a family context, but are not technically family. The others feel self descriptive. I’d be interested to know how the categories add up for other users.
Why I love Close Friends
To say I’m an open book would be an understatement. I hope I’m better at differentiating between private and secret in the last 5 years, as it’s something I’ve been working on. I don’t really have secrets; it’s just not me. In that sense, I think I can be read easily. Though I do try and keep certain things private, because I think that’s the way I need to be for my mental health (privacy sign on the door and on my page and on the whole world), in most cases I like sharing things with people.
That’s why I love Close Friends. It’s the quickest way to feel connected with your friends, your circle.
Nothing I share on my Close Friends is interesting, by any means. In actual fact, it’s dull. Places I’ve been to eat, hangouts with friends, movies I’ve seen, memes I think are funny, current pop culture obsessions. I want people to know about it, but not just anyone. I want to share it with those I consider my people.
I’m a simple person and I like to feel understood by those I consider my friends. To be understood, you need to communicate which is pretty much how I use social media. By using Close Friends, I’m connected to the people I care most about. It’s the one of the few good things about social media.