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What it's like to experience the internet

Mike Elgan | Aug. 15, 2016
The technology-using public now demands more than mere information. They want to feel like they're really there.

It's the same story, but to attract experience-craving readers on social media you have to promise a vicarious experience of events, rather than just information about events.

And the technique works. People now gravitate to "what it's like" and "how it feels" headlines because people are increasingly repelled by information and attracted to experience.

Live video

Live mobile video is taking the internet world by storm. It started with Meerkat and Periscope and now Facebook and Google are getting into the act. (Google's live mobile video feature should hit YouTube any day now.)

Here's a truism that vloggers, video podcasters, TV professionals and others know well: Whether you watch live or watch a recording, anything that's broadcast live has a distinct quality that is very different from video with multiple takes and polished editing before broadcast. Live video has less of a packaged feeling and more of a "you are really there" vibe to it.

The world of online video is growing more popular, and the authentic, unscripted, unedited live format is on the rise because it's less like content consumption and more like experiencing someone else's world.

Snapchat and Instagram 'stories'

Snapchat fans were a little stunned by the degree to which Instagram essentially copied the Snapchat stories concept. Instagram Stories hit phones in an update Aug. 2, and, like Snapchat stories, it enables the creation of 10-second photo and video clips that vanish after 24 hours.

The promotional video for Instagram stories shows, among other scenes, a woman shopping for shoes. She captures a video of the shoes with her phone, then draws a question mark over the video before sending it off to friends.

This new way to communicate represents the decline of information and the rise of "virtual experience."

This story of the woman shopping for shoes would replace the behavior standard six months ago, where she would have taken a photo of the shoes, messaged them to friends and asked, "what do you think of these shoes?"

But in the world of "virtual experience," the question mark replaces information in her request, and the video adds the feeling of experience that isn't easily conveyed with a photo.

Most people I know who add images, drawings and words on top of their Snapchat or Instagram stories do so to add a sense of humor or fun to their stories, without explicitly saying so with words.

The trend is especially stark on Instagram, where stars used to thrill followers with beautiful photos. Now, when they add stories, the quality is way down, but the feeling of "being there" is way up, making that content more appealing.

Pokémon Go and virtual reality


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