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How the hell am I supposed to read Instagram Stories so quickly?

AP Photo/Karly Domb Sadof
Wait, how does this work?
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Maybe it’s because I follow a lot of chatty types, but my Instagram Stories feed tends to be really wordy. Long missives in typewriter font, superimposed over a selfie, or a child, or a completed batch of cookies is pretty much the norm.

At first this drove me nuts because I couldn’t figure out how to pause the story to read all that text—or to study a detail in the photo, for that matter. I’m not alone. In a discussion about the New York Public Library launching a program that will “publish” classic fiction via Instagram stories, several colleagues mentioned that they hadn’t realized that you could pause the app for easier reading, either. One assumed the user experience Instagram had designed was just bad, and hadn’t planned for heavy text use.

It’s worth noting that Instagram, which used to be the simplest of all social media experiences—upload a photo, add a filter and some hashtags, scroll through your reverse chronologically-organized feed to see a few vacation shots and documentation from last night’s dinner—has become more frustrating as its complexity has increased. To a certain degree, that’s to be expected, and there are always going to be early adopters who fondly remember the days when you could come to the end of Instagram and have seen all the photos in your feed.

Stories has so many features—many of them very cool and fun to experiment with—that it seems counterintuitive that you can pause one just by touching the screen with your finger. That’s the tap and hold in user design lingo. I actually thought that pausing in this manner was a kludgy workaround, not the actual proper way to do it. To further clarify, to pause a story, whether it’s a video or a photo, you just place your finger anywhere on the screen and then release when you’re done reading all that text or scrutinizing the expression on your friend’s new boyfriend’s face.

Here’s another pro-tip: When someone posts a poll, they can see who voted for what. So if you voted down a co-worker’s Saturday night outfit, be prepared to discuss on Monday morning.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

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