Dark Shadows - Or, Instagram Sucked the Blood Out of My Twitter Posts

The other day, while I was sitting in the waiting room at the pediatric orthopedist, I saw the strangest thing: it was the soap opera “General Hospital,” playing on the flat screen in the waiting room. I thought that show, not to mention soap operas, was dead. But it turns out even Robert Scorpio is alive!

Forgive me, but now I’ll turn to the kind of soap opera that only people in social media care about. It’s our own little internal drama, wherein the major platforms are fighting over photos and fretting over filters. This soap opera -- let’s call this one “Dark Shadows “ -- proves that the genre may not be dead, but the open social Web is.

I mean, seriously, when the Instagram photos you so lovingly post to Twitter start to get cropped funny -- and then, only days later, show up as a link to Instagram, wow, that’s a sad day. The major platforms are at war, I tell ya, and it’s not a pretty sight!

Um, OK, forgive the facetiousness, but I can’t help but be amused. I’m not laughing at people’s Instagram pictures getting butchered, but at the overanalysis of what’s going on here.

Here’s what’s been happening, followed by the trenchant analysis you have not come to expect from the Social Media Insider.

Plot Point #1: Last week, Instagram pulled its integration with Twitter Cards, which let you embed media into a tweet. The result? First, those nasty, badly cropped photos, and then, the ultimate downgrade: the posting of a mere link to Instagram in a tweet! Oh, the humanity!

What It All Means: Despite the explanation of Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom, that this was really about enhancing Instagram’s Web presence, don’t believe that for a minute. Instagram is working on its Web presence, sure, but is there any doubt that photo-sharing services will only become more mobile going forward? This is really about Facebook and Instagram’s increasingly cozying up together, up to -- and including -- the expected policy change that will have Facebook data and Instagram data being shared between the two services.

Plot Point #2: Twitter earlier this week unveiled its own Instagram-like photo filters, using a third party, Aviary, to create them, eight in all. Take that, Instagram!

What It All Means: The most excruciating bit of navel-gazing I read in the social media-o-sphere was some rant about why Twitter didn’t create its filters in-house. Who cares? My guess is that Twitter discovered they’d get photo filters up faster and better by using a third party that specializes. While I’m not suggesting that Aviary created the filters overnight, it’s not a coincidence that Twitter was able to respond to Instagram-gate, with a competing product, in less than a week.

Plot Point #3: Flickr turns around from its journey to photo-sharing obscurity to emerge as an unlikely eminence grise, by launching its own photo-filtering, to positive reviews. In fact, it has seven more filters than Twitter!

What It All Means: Marissa Mayer’s gettin’ it done!

But now lets get back to “General Hospital.” Here’s the weird thing about soap operas: somehow, even as the particular plot points change, the big (dare I say it) picture seldom does. It doesn’t take long for you to pick up where you left off. In fact, the moment you realize that is the exact same moment you realize that spending so many hours obsessing over every little plot detail is a complete waste of time.

So what you really need to know about all of this internecine photo conflict is that visuals matter. And that whoever coined the term “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words” was actually writing one of the most succinct plot summations of all time.

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