Twitter finally rolled out Instagram stories, and they are bragging about it. The social media platform announced this week that it is rolling out “fleets” as a permanent feature worldwide, after testing it in select locations. Like Instagram and Facebook’s stories or a Snapchat, fleets are fleeting posts that disappear after 24 hours. Comments on them are sent directly to the message inbox and are not publicly visible.
Fleets, and other near-identical features on various social media platforms, were an inevitable innovation. An entire generation has come of age on social media, and as rebellious teenagers have turned into corporate stuffed-shirts, a permanent record of every angst-ridden post, every piece of bad poetry and even politically incorrect public declaration has come back to haunt many. Politicians in power are held to account for taking the same positions as the Opposition when they were out of office; comedians are pilloried for jokes that are in poor taste now, but were just slightly provocative when they were first posted. A fleet builds into itself the right to be forgotten. But, perhaps, more importantly, it allows people to forget.
There is a moment of dread only old millennials truly understand — it can occur before a job interview, during a date or even while meeting prospective in-laws: What if, while “researching” me online, they found that post? What if they see the unflattering photo of an inebriated dance at a party? What if the suited-booted boss reads the long, ranting — if naive — post on the evils of hierarchy? And what about all the ones we don’t remember posting? With daily posts, over years, it is difficult to remember which memories deserve nostalgia. Twitter, the most public and political of social media platforms, is particularly one which requires finesse — unless one is keen to emulate the late-night rants of the soon-to-be-former US president. It’s important, really, that a fleeting thought disappears in a flutter.
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