5 Ways Your Marketing Funnel Is Exactly Like Your Dating Life – Blog – 10 minute

Marketing, at its core, connects the brand and the customer. We meet the customer, get to know them, ask questions, and nurture the relationship forward. Doesn’t that sound a lot like dating? 
Our challenge is to develop the relationship forward, whether it’s through branding, content or any other part of the experience. The customer responses, at any touchpoint, determine where the customer is in our marketing funnel, where they are on their journey, and how we should approach them. 
Replace “marketing” with “dating” and “customer” with “date”, and the analogy is clear as daylight. It’s actually a really useful way to approach marketing. 
Want a solid relationship? You need your customers to be successful and become your raving fans – and for that to happen, you need to create exciting experiences and foster your relationships.
You don’t want to be pushy or clingy or irrelevant. If you are, you’ll lose them – your dropout rates will be huge and you’ll have to reevaluate your messaging or offering. 
Just as in marketing, love has five goals: attract, convert, nurture, close, retain. And for the love of your dating life, or your marketing funnel, follow them closely:
1. Awareness
You’ve just met. You have their attention. They grow familiar with your brand, but your intentions (or offering) aren’t just clear yet. It’s vital to share who you are and how you can help them solve their problems. It’s about them, not you. 
What to do (and to avoid): Use their favorite formats! Talk to them through blogs, social media, FAQs, or video tutorials. This isn’t the time for your sales pitch (i.e. the marriage proposal). Have some empathy and practice active listening. Focus on their needs, educate them, and establish trust. Your goal is to attract attention, spark interest and most of all, please, be authentic. Isn’t that the foundation for any relationship?
2. Consideration
Yes, we’re moving forward! Both parties are interested in developing the relationship. There’s a real sense of connection and meaning, and more personalized information is being exchanged. The more in-depth it is, the higher the chances of engagement. 
What to do (and to avoid): Stick to the formats that worked for them in the past: blog, respond to social media or emails, or why not offer them a free trial (no commitments yet)? Let them determine if the value is there. 
Get to know your prospects better. Avoid blanket approaches and personalize your messaging. You should already know what their pain points are, so offer exact solutions. And don’t leave them hanging; be timely with your responses if you’re serious about this.
3. Intent
We’re now beyond texting and phone conversations. You go to dinners, movies, concerts. Have you even Netflix and chilled already? OK, skip to the world of sales and marketing. At this point you’re doing demos, walkthroughs, offering e-guides, case studies, and giving them real thorough trials of whatever it is you’re selling. Show them your value; the Why and the How are paramount to this stage.
What to do (and to avoid): Yes, this may still seem more serious than it is, but the customer is truly evaluating if there’s a good match. Whatever doubts or objections there are, handle them quickly and effectively with a no-nonsense approach. They are interested but not yet 100% convinced. Find out what’s missing and fill the gap. 
4. Evaluation
Looks like you may have this wrapped up. This is the final chance to prove you’re a match. The customer may be weighing the pros and cons, pricing and longevity of the relationship. But you know what? They are probably doing the same with a competitor too. Help them choose you! Ask questions like: What do we need in order to make this the best decision for your business? How do we compare to the competition? How can we go the extra mile?
What to do (and to avoid): Encourage them to talk and to open up. What are they missing? What are the obstacles to their decision? But don’t forget that this all has to be done tastefully, ensuring the best experiences for the customer. If you’ve been honest, responsive, and helpful from the beginning, you will be the go-to person for questions when it’s decision time. 
5. Conversion
It’s decision time! Be 100% confident in the service you provide, ensure you’ve shared all the key information they need, and create the best possible scenario for them to choose you without obstacles. You can already start thinking about the bright future ahead. 
What to do (and to avoid): They know and trust you. Be persistent and confident, but not pushy, needy, or greedy. Remind them of your shared values, hint at the exciting future ahead, and highlight the benefits if needed – you got this! 
The Takeaway 
And now just as you finally wanted to take a break, the customer journey continues far beyond the sale. Always have your customer’s success as your top priority. Don’t contact them only when they’re up for renewal or when a new product is launched. Maintain the trust you’ve built. 
Have a customer nurturing strategy so you stay in regular contact. If you stay customer-focused, you’ll build brand advocates and let the good word spread further. 
Always impress with top-level service. And remember, they aren’t just buying solutions, they are buying experiences. The better experience you create, the longer and happier the relationship will be.

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Your Dating Life Is Exactly Like Your Marketing Funnel – Social Cast Ep. 10 – Blog – 10 minute

First dates are a time for getting to know your love interest. Understanding the baseline of your partner’s wants and needs prepares a relationship for success, while the same holds true for client relationships in marketing.
In many ways, clients have a similar wishlist of desires that a new partner would. Typically, one seeks out a person who models honesty, understanding, patience, and effort. In marketing, this can be manifested through listening to the client and respecting boundaries.
Ultimately, practicing authenticity encourages a strong foundation and encourages long-term client retention. In dating, many of us struggle to keep the spark alive further down the relationship funnel. Similarly, in marketing it becomes a challenge to maintain a customer who is enthusiastic about the product they’re receiving.
A fantastic tool to combat this is by consistently providing the customer (or partner) with valuable information that will support them in achieving future growth or success. In marketing, this can mean being honest about your brand, while in dating it’s about being supportive of your partner’s aspirations.
Whether you’re spending this Valentine’s Day in the office or on a romantic date – or both – these tips will assist you in marketing and in love.

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Some of the interesting comparisons we discuss in this episode include:

How can marketing strategies benefit from a relationship timeline?
What can dating goals teach us about long-term marketing expectations? 
How do ethics and honesty play a role in client retention?
How do personal relationships compare to a user journey?
What are the similarities between dating and marketing wishlists?

About the Social Cast:
Socialbakers’ podcast series tackles some of the most challenging and interesting aspects of marketing. Our experts offer tips, hacks, and advice on almost any marketing subject you can think of.
You can subscribe to our podcast on the following platforms:
In the previous episode, we spoke to expert Matt Shealy about how to build a top-notch remote marketing team. You can listen to that episode here, watch it here, and read Matt’s piece about the subject on our blog here.
Stay tuned for new episodes! 

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Top 10 Google Assistant Tips & Uses To Make Life Easier – Blog – 10 minute

What do Alexa, Siri, Cortana, and Google Assistant all have in common? They all exist to make your life easier by being a personal assistant powered by artificial intelligence. Google Assistant is built into smartphones, smart speakers, and smart home devices. It puts Google’s knowledge base and search function in the hands of a Google device owner.
Many devices are embedded with Google Assistant and built-in microphones to enable users to do various things, such as order food, call a friend, or look up the weather.

There are so many Google Assistant tips can help you that you might not be aware of. 
Find Your Phone
How often do you misplace your phone? If you are like most people, the answer is very often. It is especially frustrating when you are in your home but have no idea where it is.

If your phone is running Android 4.0 or later, you will have access to the Find My Device function. To install it, search for Find My Device in the Google Play Store.

Select the first search result, click on it, and choose the green Install button. Once installed, from your Google account, sign into your Find My Device by following the steps below:

From your app drawer or home screen, open Find Device.
If you have more than one Google account, choose the one you want to use.
Click Continue.
Put in your Google account password.
Tap Sign in.
Give the service location access.

To link your Google Account:

Open the Google Home app
Tap Settings
Scroll to find Google Assistant service
Tap More > Assistant > Voice Match > Add devices
Make sure your device is listed and selected
Tap Continue > Next > I agree
Ensure that Personal results are turned on
Agree to terms and set up Voice Match

To find your phone, say: “OK Google, ring my phone.” Google Assistant will ask you which phone you want to ring and call the one you choose. 
Make a Holiday List
Holiday times can be stressful, but with Google Assistant, you can create and manage lists and notes in Bring, Any.do, and Google Keep.

Connect the Assistant with the app you choose to use. Select the Services tab in the Google Assistant setting and choose which provider you want from the Notes and Lists section.
Set Reminders
With so many things to do every day, it’s easy to forget something important. Google Assistant will remind you.
Set reminders for yourself by location, date, day, and time. Start by turning on Personal Results in the Home app.

Next, you will need to set up Voice Match in the Assistant settings panel so that your voice will be recognized.
Using the reminder feature is as simple as talking to your device. For example, you can say: “Okay, Google, remind me to take my antibiotic at 7 pm”.
Your assistant will let you know that it has filed your requested reminder.
Screen Your Calls
Don’t want to get annoying calls from telemarketers? Google Assistant can screen your calls for you. 
The latest Pixel phones come with a Call Screen feature that enables your Assistant to answer your phone.
Currently, this feature is only available on Google Pixel phones. When your assistant answers your phone on your behalf, it will provide you with a transcript in real-time.

This way you can decide if you want more information, pick up the call, or let the caller know you aren’t available.
There is no need to turn the feature on as it’s on by default. When your phone rings, in addition to seeing the standard call interface, you will see a new Screen call button.
To use the feature, tap on the Screen call button to have Google Assistant answer it. The caller will be told that they are speaking to a screening service and asked what the reason is for their call.
You will see the response in text message format and can choose to take the call or not.
Where Should You Eat, Drink, Or Go Dancing?
Need some ideas on where to go out? Ask Google Assistant for some suggestions. Your assistant will respond with a list of names of restaurants near you including their star ratings.
To get more information about any restaurant, tap on it to see its address, directions, and a link to call.
Get The News
Google is keeping up with the trends of digital audio and podcasting with their new Your News Update. To use it, you need to update your Assistant news settings.
Go to Assistant settings > Your News Update > You  > News. This is where you can change your News playlist format.
To get the news, say “Hey Google, tell me the news” or you can add news to another one of your Assistant Routines.  

When you ask Google to play you the news, the update will start with a mixture of news stories selected for you based on your location, interests, preferences and history.
Send a Text
Typing can be time-consuming. Send a text message with Google Assistant without lifting a finger. Simply tell your device that you want to send a text.
Speak the name of the contact and your message. When you have completed speaking, review it on the screen.
With Google Assistant, you will have the opportunity to edit your message if there is an error. If it’s correct, say send it.
Get Answers To Your Questions
Ask your assistant any question you want, no matter how obscure. Start by saying, “OK, Google, how far is the moon from earth?”
Google will respond verbally “here’s what I found” and then list the sources. In some cases, it will read the information to you and then tell you the source.
Purchase Movie Tickets
There is no longer a need to wait in line when you want to see a movie. Ask Google “what movies are playing near me this weekend”?

[purchase tickets]
When you choose the theatre, movie, day, and time, you will be given the option to purchase tickets through your Google Assistant via numerous ticketing services such as AMC, Fandango, and MovieTickets.com.
Your Assistant will then open the Chrome browser to guide you through the purchase process.
Set Your Alarm
You don’t need an alarm clock when you have your own personal assistant with Google. Tell Google Assistant “Wake me up at 8 am” and it will.
Do you want to wake up to a song or artist rather than a boring alarm sound? Tell your Assistant to wake you up to a tune you like.
There’s even more. You can tell use Google Routines to set an alarm that will trigger other actions such as turning on your lights after you wake up.

To use ready-made Routines:

Open the Google Home app and tap Settings.
Search for Google Assistant service.
Click More Settings > Assistant > Routines.
Select the routine you want to use and set the actions.

Google Assistant is a voice-assisted personal aide that offers voice searching, voice commands, and voice-activated controls to make your life easier.
Complete tasks and get help by saying “Hey, Google” or “OK Google” to benefit from the artificial intelligence used to collect relevant information about your interests and what matters to you.
Do you have any other cool Google Assistant tips or hacks that make your life easier? You can help out other HDG readers by sharing them in the comments below!

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Inside the Life of a Fashion Influencer – Blog – 10 minute

1. What are the key things someone beginning as a fashion influencer should know?
You should be prepared to work extremely hard in order to succeed in this competitive and niche industry. 
In order to make it as a fashion influencer, you not only have to be original, you have to be prepared to devote all of your time to the job. This is why it’s absolutely crucial for you to be passionate about what you’re posting or writing about. If fashion and photography aren’t your things, then I wouldn’t recommend pursuing a career as an influencer. The path to becoming an Instagram influencer is not an easy one, which means you have to make it worth it in the end by being true to yourself.
If you’re certain you’re ready to take on the challenge of becoming a social media influencer then the best piece of advice I can give is to not compare yourself to others. With so much competition on social media, this can be easier said than done. But I do think that to be happy in this line of work you need to remember that every person has their own strengths and weaknesses. Success is not copy paste – what works for someone else may not work for you. If you remember this it’s easier to be who you are.
Having such a high profile you’ll get a lot of criticism from people and comments that aren’t always written with the best intentions. You have to have thick skin and learn to not take the comments too personally. I never block people, they have their own right to think and comment on whatever they want. I have made the decision to be a public figure and as such, I have to be able to take criticism as well. I always try to get the point of other people and sometimes it might be the case that there is a good reason behind their criticism.

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2. You’ve grown your audiences from 0 – 720,000 on Instagram and received 4 million views on all of your social media channels combined. Could you tell us a bit about how you went about growing your audience? Any tips for influencers just starting out?
That’s right! But it’s important to note that this growth didn’t just happen overnight. Growing an audience on social media takes a lot of hard work and requires strategy. It becomes even more challenging when you’re balancing your full-time day job with content creation.
To become an influencer you’ll need to accept that you’ll have to donate all of your free time to building an audience – that’s the hardest part. Gaining traction on Instagram takes more than just posting nonstop. You also need to create your own network which can consist of other social media stars from bloggers to YouTubers. You can start out by liking posts, commenting, and producing content for influencers in your niche. Eventually, you can build a relationship that can create awesome content opportunities such as cross-collaborations or takeovers which can help build your following in a natural and organic way. 

But at the end of the day, you also have the ability to turn your social media interactions and partnerships into real relationships. Having a network you can reach out to can make all the difference in this line of work. The connections you have with other influencers allow you to have a community you can relate to on a personal and professional level. You get advice, exchange some shared experiences, and even just vent. 
3. Can you talk about an interesting influencer project you worked on that you’re proud of?
There are a couple of projects that I am really proud of, but a recent one that comes to mind is the charity project I worked on with TKMaxx. I joined their efforts, together with other influencers and celebrities, to support the UK Red Nose Day charity initiative. I am proud of this campaign as I managed to use my social media influence to spread the word about this great charity campaign and help raise funds for it! I am a strong believer in the idea that influencer should use their popularity to promote such charity initiatives! They should use their influence to set an example and try to make the world a better place for all of us.

4. What does your typical day look like?
I don’t actually have a typical day! 
The way my day unfolds really depends on where I am. I spend at least one-third of the month traveling, but there have been some months where I’m traveling for up to 20 days. One of the perks of being a travel influencer is being able to collaborate with hotels and travel agencies that usually cover costs in exchange for coverage. Of course, not everything is paid, there are plenty of trips that come out of my pocket.
When I am on the road I spend most of my time creating content and exploring the city I’m in. I make it my job to seek out hidden spots and write about them on my blog so the audience can have some cool tips and destinations to visit when or if they ever travel where I’ve been.
Sometimes, I get in touch with hotels and restaurants in the area and ask if they wish to collaborate. Usually, I get a positive response which results in a mutually beneficial relationship. I would say that finding places on my own is the only way to ensure that my tips are genuine and the places are really worth visiting. I love providing advice on what to eat what to see, and where to shop, it’s one of the things I enjoy writing about the most!
When I am at home, I spend most of my day in front of the computer. I catch up on emails, edit the content I’ve captured while traveling, schedule upcoming posts, and of course plan for my upcoming collaborations and trips. 
5. You’ve worked with more than 150 brands, including huge names like Tommy Hilfiger and Hard Rock Cafe. Could you tell us a bit about what the process looks like for a fashion influencer going into a partnership with a brand?
Getting yourself into serious partnerships with huge names like the ones I have worked with is certainly challenging. It becomes even more difficult if you’re coordinating these collaborations on your own, without the help of an agent or agency.
When I was just starting out, I was tagging brands I was wearing in my post to get visibility. I’ve also contacted marketing teams asking about collaboration opportunities, however, this was usually a dead end as the teams already had an idea of who they would like to partner with. To get my name out there I first started collaborating with smaller brands, which were more than happy to work with me. And little by little I was able to grow trust and eventually had the credentials to work with bigger names.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to stick to your own personal style when collaborating with a brand – no matter how big they are. Though sometimes it can be difficult to turn down an offer, it’s important that you choose a partnership wisely, no matter who the brand is or what they sell. 
When I’m approached by a brand, the first thing I do is look into the brand’s style, tone of voice and values to ensure that they are aligned with my style. Of course, agreeing is just the first step in your partnership. Once you get the contract you’ll need to make sure that you read each and every part carefully. All influencers should be aware that they don’t need to sign the first version of the contract. Don’t hesitate to make amendments or adjustments if there’s something you don’t feel comfortable with. As an influencer your most important asset is your community, so everything you do needs to be authentic or you put your reputation and everything you’ve built at risk.
Also, you should always be punctual when it comes to deadlines and make sure that you are completely aware of the required deliverables before creating the content. Sometimes, it might be the case that you have a great idea about the content you want to create for the brand, but what they truly need is completely different content. 
6. You’re not only present on social media, but you also have your own fashion blog La Elegentia. How important would you say it is to combine your social media efforts with blogging? Is it a must?
When I started blogging, it was extremely important to be equally present on the web as well as on social media.
I would say now, things have changed a little. You see more and more people who got their start blogging, only present on social media. Social media has become so ingrained in people’s lives, it’s much easier to be found on these channels vs the web where keywords can triumph over great content.
Luckily, I still get significant web traffic on my blog which can always translate into building followers on social media authentically. I still try to publish posts on my blog as much as possible and share links through my social media posts to provide more context about my experiences or travel tips.

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We gave teenagers smartphones. Did we rob them of an inner life? | Johanna Leggatt | Opinion- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

There are many reasons to fret about our relationship to technology, not least of which is the way smartphones, and their slot machine-like apps, have hooked us so thoroughly. Thanks to these miniature overlords many of us now boast the attention span (and manners) of a toddler, and, like prisoners on parole, are physically incapable of moving about without our electronic monitoring devices on us at all times.
When adults behave this way it’s depressing and odd, but when teenagers step into this world – not having known an alternative reality – the problem becomes a social concern.
Health experts have warned of a spike in anxiety and depression in teenagers addicted to smartphones. In her piece in The Atlantic, psychology professor Jean M Twenge argued there is a potential correlation between the uptake in smartphones among “iGens” (born between 1995 and 2012) and increasing rates of youth depression. She writes of kids who spend holidays “hanging out” with their friends online, while rarely leaving the bedroom, let alone the home. Her concerns seemed to be shared by those she is speaking for: a 2018 Pew Research Center survey found that 54% of American teens say they spend too much time online.

Recently, academics and researchers have argued that our fears about the influence of tech on teen wellbeing are overstated and the science inconclusive. Andrew Przybylski, the director of research at the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) and Amy Orben, a researcher at the OII and lecturer in psychology at the Queen’s College, University of Oxford, have previously argued: “While it is true that some research suggests that young people who report higher social media use show slightly lower levels of wellbeing, most of these findings are unreliable and their conclusions might amount to little more than statistical noise.”
Meanwhile, the founder of the Stanford Social Media Lab, Jeff Hancock, most recently noted: “… if you compare the effects of your phone to eating properly or sleeping or smoking, it’s not even close.”
But this does not mean we should let tech off the hook so easily. While it’s important to not overstate teen tech addiction, nor assume adolescents are a homogeneous group with replica social media habits, it’s worth being wary of what such widespread devotion to these devices represents.

This over-exposure to smartphones threatens to rob teens of a vital inner world, and this loss is much harder to measure

These days, it’s harder for kids to disconnect. It’s one thing to feel exhausted by the jostling for power in the social hierarchies during school hours, it is quite another to go home, retreat to your bedroom, log on to social media and discover there is in fact no end to your day: you weren’t invited to that party, your crush is still flirting with someone else, and the bullying has merely moved online.
As every therapist in the world will tell you, we are ineluctably shaped by our childhood years, and a teen with no way of escaping their social paradigm, be it pleasant or destructive, is a person in constant performance mode, or at the very least, steadying themselves for it.
Adolescence for many (if not all teens) also represents a confusing time of uncertain boundaries and competing identities, one they will need to retreat from, to build internal defences against, to learn how to cope with and survive. This over-exposure to smartphones threatens to rob teens of a vital inner world, and this loss is much harder to measure through studies. After all, the childhood curiosity that is never cultivated is hard to track or trace, as is the person you never became or the interests that failed to evolve because you spent your spare time engaging primarily with a phone.

In this sense, you could argue a generation is being denied the means with which to find out who they are, what they love or don’t love, what makes them feel alive. Everything meaningful is realised in that place of disconnection from the social sphere, while meaninglessness swarms online in its infinite iterations.
Doubtless, the debate between researchers over a link between teen anxiety and smartphones will continue, but there is no denying the transformative effect on society when a significant cohort spends more of their developmental years on their phone than off it, and cannot fathom a pre-smartphone reality.
Perhaps we need to prioritise “alone time” as more than just the preserve of over-committed professionals, but a very human right, one that is as important for teens as it is for exhausted parents.
In fact, teens more than anyone need that crucial time spent in solitude, where emotions are processed and the brain powers down; a place to go when the noise of the world drowns you out or you simply want to drown out the world.
• Johanna Leggatt is a Melbourne-based journalist

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Top 10 Instagram Stories Apps That Will Make Your Life Easier – Blog – 10 minute

Stories across all platforms have been on the rise. They are so ingrained in our everyday content creation that it’s hard to imagine life without them. But their introduction into the social media content wheel is actually pretty new.
We all remember that people were skeptical when Instagram first announced they were getting onboard with Snapchat’s famous content format. But as the numbers show, public opinion quickly shifted, and within just a year of being introduced, Instagram Stories acquired more Daily Active Users than even Snapchat.
Stories have seen a rapid rise since 2016. Facebook (including Messenger) and even Whatsapp followed suit, adding Stories to their repertoire of formats and the results speak for themselves. The Stories format on Instagram, Facebook+Messenger, and WhatsApp all have reached the impressive milestone of reaching 500 Million Daily Active Users – and counting.

Like all formats, time strengthens the content’s quality. Brands were first apprehensive about adding Stories to their strategy; it was seen as an intimate channel and finding ways to monetize was difficult. But with multiple updates and tons of great apps out there, Stories have risen to a whole new level.
Now that you’ve gotten a brief rundown Instagram Stories’ growth, we can get into the good stuff. Here’s a list of Instagram Stories apps that will help keep your audiences tapping forward:
1. Over
Over is an awesome Stories creation tool that has everything you need from backgrounds to professional-looking templates. With this app you no longer need to spend hours in Photoshop creating designs that will vanish within 24 hours.
It’s a great choice for brands who also want to keep within their guidelines. With this app you don’t have to let quality suffer and can easily upload company logos, fonts, and color palettes so that everything can look on brand without the hassle.

2. Mojo
Want to create video Stories? Then Mojo, a video editing Stories app, is for you. This app is truly a game changer.
Videos stand out on Instagram Stories because they are quick, engaging, and fun. But let’s be realistic: branded videos can be a lot of work. Luckily, you don’t have to stress too much because apps like Mojo make this a walk in the park.
You’ll have access to more than 100 video templates, all of which are 100% editable. There are also hundreds of different text variations to choose from, all of which are fully animated and customizable.
And the best part in Mojo is constantly innovating, coming out with new templates and text styles every month.

3. Socialbakers’ Content Hub
With one place to easily view all of your content and integration with Adobe Spark, Socialbakers’ new Content Hub is a one-stop shop to make your stories great. On top of designing them to stand out, you can seek inspiration for new ideas, schedule stories to post at the best possible time, and track their performance.

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4. Canva
Canva
is a Stories editing app that has it all. Whether you’re a beginner or a Photoshop master, you’ll be able to find some design gems that will make your life easier.
While many Stories apps focus on photo editing, Canva is unique because it offers many different features. Unlike other apps, Canva even offers the ability to create custom graphs in just minutes. The process is quick and painless. You can choose from their wide range of templates, select a diagram you want, input your data and wallah – you have a premium piece of content without even having to pester your design team.
Of course, that is just one of many features Canva offers. The app provides their users with beautifully designed templates, photos, and icons – all of which can be edited straight from the app.

5. Unfold
Just go to Unfold’s website and you’ll immediately be staring creativity in the face. This app is every photographer’s dream come true. If you are looking to showcase your brand’s photos in their best light then this is the perfect app.
You’ll have a wide selection of print-inspired editorials at your fingertips. Add a classic look and feel to your Stories with templates, frames, and ripped photo edges.

6. Impresso
Impresso is a great app for any social media marketer looking to create stunning Stories on the go without the hassle. Like other apps mentioned here, you’ll have access to quick templates. There is also a huge variety to choose from so you’re guaranteed to find something that matches your brand. You’re not only able to edit templates and text, but you’ll also have access to a photo and music library, which is a huge bonus!

7. Adobe Spark
Adobe Spark
has everything you need and MORE, which is why it’s not surprising that the app boasts a 4.9-star rating on Apple’s App store with over 82k reviews. While other apps offer hundreds of free templates, Adobe offers thousands. It’s also integrated into the Socialbakers’ Suite, where you can easily manage and schedule all of your Stories after making them look great.
You don’t need to be a designer to work with Adobe’s app. To change up a design you literally just keep tapping – it’s that easy. What’s even better is that you’ll have access to your work across devices. So if you start a design on your tablet and later want to finish it up on your mobile device, you can pick up where you left off.

There is a price tag attached to all of this convenience – but don’t worry, it’s affordable. You have the option of a monthly subscription for just $9.99 or an annual subscription for $99.99. And if you’re subscribed to Adobe Creative Cloud, Spark is already included.
8. Storeo
Tired of trying to navigate the shaky waters of Instagram Stories videos? Then Storeo is the perfect app for you.
Forget clunky videos that restart every 15 seconds. Storeo allows you to upload one seamless video to your Instagram Stories, cutting it into 15 second increments so you can say and do everything you want to without getting cut off or losing the attention of your audience.

9. A Design Kit
This one is for all the designers out there. A Design Kit is an awesome app that’s known for its colorful designs and realistic brushes. There are a variety of different textures to choose from so your Stories will never be boring. Add beautiful text to spice up your Stories and wow your followers.

10. Inshot
Inshot
gives you the ability to perform a variety of different creative tasks from editing videos to adding funky stickers that will make your Stories stand out above the rest.
With this app you can confidently edit videos straight from your phone with advanced features that allow you to adjust the speed, merge clips, cut out the middle part, and even split up the video.
Inshot also lets you sharpen your sound game, with the ability to add your own music, select tunes from a library, and easily insert voice overs. It’s a great way to transform your Instagram Stories into interactive content your audience will want to respond to.
And stickers – did we mention stickers?! Enjoy choosing from unique stickers that will make your Instagram Stories fun and dynamic.

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The Takeaway
Instagram Stories have added a breath of fresh air to social media. The format has exploded across platforms, which proves there is a demand for this type of in-the-moment content. Instagram Stories are so much fun to create, and it becomes even more exciting when you’re able to keep it fresh using different techniques.
Don’t limit yourself to features that are available on Instagram. Expand your creativity and test out a variety of different tools that will keep your content fresh – without wasting hours of valuable time.

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Haptik develops Virtual Assistant for Kotak Life: Kaya- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

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Kotak Mahindra Life Insurance Company (Kotak Life) today announced the launch of its voice assistant KAYA – AI-driven conversational assistance to get instant solutions. Kotak Life At Your Assistance (KAYA) has been developed by Kotak Life and Haptik – a conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform developers. KAYA provides 24X7 assistance and easy instant solutions to consumers thereby enhancing customer experience by resolving queries about premium payment, policy renewals, policy statements, policy information and bonus/fund value.
Presently, Kotak Life’s customer service department handles a huge number of customer queries on a day-to-day basis. KAYA’s integration into customer service department significantly reduces human dependency and call waiting time, and importantly, ensures queries do not go unattended.
Kirti Patil, Chief Technology Officer, Kotak Mahindra Life Insurance Co. Ltd. said, “KAYA is a major milestone in Kotak Life’s digitalization journey. KAYA has reduced the wait time for our customers by as much as four times, and has reduced human dependence to resolve a large number of routine queries. With its self-learning architecture, KAYA can connect to various sections of the support team for a smooth customer experience.”
KAYA, with a comprehensive understanding of the complex processes, is self-learning and is also equipped with advanced agent chat solution, where complex queries outside its scope are seamlessly transferred to Kotak Life’s customer support teams. Quite a few processes were re-imagined and re-designed to provide simplicity for customers.
Kartik Poddar, Business Head, Haptik said, “Conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI) is really transforming the customer support function by providing real-time, accurate and emphatic resolution at scale. We are delighted by KAYA’s immediate impact as she resolves large number of queries while offering a consistent experience to each caller. Together, we will keep evolving the virtual assistant KAYA as she becomes the epicenter of customer engagement at Kotak Life.”
Users can start conversations with KAYA on Kotak Life’s website.

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Virtual digital assistants aren’t yet ready to save your life – Blog – 10 minute

Facepalm: Researchers from the University of Alberta recently compared the responses of the four leading virtual digital assistants – Alexa, Google Assistant, Cortana and Siri – when asked basic first aid and life support questions. The results may surprise you.
The team asked each of the assistants 123 questions spanning 39 first aid topics, arranging questions and statements with syntaxes like “How can I tell if …” or “I’m having a …” and providing three rephrasing attempts. Responses were rated based on whether or not the assistant recognized the query and against existing first aid guidelines.
Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant were able to recognize queries 98 percent and 92 percent of the time, respectively. Conversely, Cortana only understood what it was being asked of 19 percent of the time and Siri only got it right 23 percent of the time.

As for the quality of recommendations issued, the Google Assistant had a recognized acuity of 62 percent versus just 35 percent for Alexa. The overall low quality responses from Cortana and Siri “prohibited their analysis,” researchers said. Siri only appropriately referred to emergency response systems 12 percent of the time, the study found.
In other words, it’ll probably be a few years still before most are comfortable trusting virtual digital assistants with first aid tasks.
On a positive note, Amazon reached out after the results were published in hopes of improving its results.
Masthead credit: John Brecher, Washington Post. First Aid by stockcreations.

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The Sims at 20: two decades of life, love and reorganising the kitchen | Games – Blog – 10 minute

Like many girls of my generation, I first played The Sims at a sleepover. It was at my friend Hannah’s house; three 11-year-olds huddled in front of her dad’s bulky old computer monitor at midnight, gazing into a miniature house populated by tiny people going about their inexplicably compelling daily business. We took turns sending them to work, changing the wallpaper, and ordering them to put dirty dishes in the dishwasher instead of leaving them to gather flies. We bought them a little telly, a nice couch, a blender, paging covetously through the game’s furniture catalogue. With a thrill, we discovered we could make Sims “smooch” (though we were disappointed to learn that they couldn’t actually bone down – that wouldn’t happen until The Sims 2). Before we knew it, it was 3am.
Almost everyone has played The Sims. With four main instalments, countless add-ons and spin-offs, and more than 200m sales worldwide, equalled perhaps only by Tetris in its universality. One thing creator Will Wright realised very early on was that the game was appealing to a large female audience. Whereas in the past “a large female audience” meant maybe 5% of the user base, with The Sims, women were the majority. A friend’s mother played so much Sims that she forgot to clean the actual house for weeks.

Creator Will Wright … the project started as an architectural simulation, until the development team realised testers were having more fun manipulating the onscreen people. Photograph: Ryan Anson/AFP/Getty Images
Mortifyingly, some teen pals and I used The Sims 2 to insert ourselves into elaborate Harry Potter and Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanfiction. A university classmate created the cast of Friends, and used them to play out a drama that was definitely better than the final season of the show. My own personal obsession with The Sims was so all-consuming that when The Sims 3 arrived in 2009, I had to cut myself off in case I failed my degree. One of my lecturers, spotting The Sims open on my laptop in class, admitted to the worryingly common virtual crime of drowning his Sims in their own pool by deleting the ladders.

The Sims is more than a dolls’ house for the digital generation. There is no racial prejudice, no gender pay gap

Part of the appeal of video games is control – not just the act of controlling a character’s actions, but the greater control of understanding a set of rules and systems and bending them to your will. The Sims is so enormously compelling because it offers the fantasy of control over life itself, including all the things that are so maddeningly unpredictable in the real world – relationships, careers, family, house renovations. The rules of The Sims essentially state that if you work hard and do everything you’re supposed to do – get a job, buy a house, progress through the ranks to earn more money and buy more stuff – happiness will follow. It’s a beguiling capitalist fantasy – and even if things aren’t going well, you can always type in the “motherlode” cheat code to shower yourself in riches.
In the 20 years since the original Sims arrived to distract us all from homework and housework (with virtual homework and housework), the series has evolved and expanded, its underlying artificial intelligence code becoming ever more sophisticated. Where originally Sims were miniature automatons, later they developed personalities, aspirations and foibles alongside their basic needs for food, money and toilet facilities. They even developed free will: from The Sims 2 onwards you could flip a switch and the simulation would play out without your input, the Sims making decisions about whom to hook up with and how long to spend in the bath, according to their own virtual whims.

Part dolls house, part reality TV show … The Sims simulates relationships between housemates, families and lovers. Photograph: EA Games
Some of my favourite times with The Sims have come when the little people are operating independently of me, sometimes so uncannily that it freaked me out. Once, as a teen, I created a replica of my real-life home to see what would happen, and it generated such an accurate facsimile of our family dynamic – dad yelling at my slobby brother to get off the couch, me arguing with my mum in the kitchen, me writing furiously in a diary late into the night – that I started to wonder if we weren’t all in a video game all of the time. And I wasn’t even a fan of the Simulation Hypothesis. Or high.
New games have sent Sims off to college, seen them celebrate birthdays and engagements and new year parties, introduced pets and tiny houses and mermaids. And have you seen what Sims fans are doing nowadays? A vast, dedicated community of crafters has made hundreds of thousands of new things to adorn Sim dwellings. Some make an actual living building perfect houses or directing Sims soap operas on YouTube. And of course, they’ve made countless explicit sex mods.

The Sims Mobile … the 2018 release allowed players to take the game with them everywhere, creating stories with other players while on the go. Photograph: Electronic Arts
The Sims is more than a dolls’ house for the digital generation. In many respects it is a post-literate utopia, powered by love and money. There is no racial prejudice, no gender pay gap. Gay marriage arrived in The Sims years before it did in real life. And as its simulation has become ever more clever, it has let players experiment not simply with home decor and fashions, but with human nature and motivation. Players have used The Sims to explore everything from their own gender identity, to complicated family dynamics, to what would happen if you put all the Greek gods in a house and made them have sex.
I sometimes wonder what The Sims would be like if it were closer to how real life actually worked – if it saddled you with crippling university debt, made you pay extortionate rent on a tiny flat instead of letting you build your dream home, had you chasing after people who’ll never love you back and working for years without earning the promotion you deserve. But a more realistic Sims would be depressing to play, because really, the point of The Sims is to make life’s everyday trials, labours and rituals seem fun and full of possibilities. Has a video game ever had a more valuable and worthwhile aim?

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Infinite scroll: life under Instagram | Technology- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

I had reached the point of diminishing returns. I wanted to quit Twitter, but my fingers were as if possessed, typing command+n, tw, enter at any lull in the workday, letting autofill take care of the rest. Like an old woman who finds herself at a familiar bus stop in her nightgown, I would blink at the new window and wonder how I got there and where I had intended to go. More than once I asked a friend to change my password and lock me out of my account. Weeks would go by without incident, sometimes months, but then a protest would break out, or my hometown would be on fire, and the old media was too slow with the news. I would go through the password retrieval process, log on, catch up, lose my mind and repeat the process.
Finally, in July 2018, I thought: I’m going to have a heart attack if I stay on here.
I changed my password to thisisamassivewasteoftimeandnotthepurposeofyourlifeonearth.
I had always liked pictures.
I told a friend that I was banishing myself to Instagram, the only social media platform that did not haunt me, get under my skin and cause me to feel shortness of breath and numbness in my fingers. I had a theory that everyone was haunted by at least one of them, and which one depended on your insecurities, the type of people who gathered there, and the style of communication its interface allowed.
I surveyed new acquaintances: “When you think: ‘Social media is terrible,’ which are you thinking of most?” For some the answer was Facebook – people with serious exes, political ambitions, a Trump-supporting family or high school rivals. For me, and for others overwhelmed by the hyper-acceleration of news commentary, it was Twitter.
Instagram felt innocent by comparison. No one I knew cared about it or made a living on it. The people who confessed a troubled relationship with the platform were visual artists, which I was not; fearful of missing out, which was not my flavour of social anxiety; or influencers concerned with a standard of perfection that was not my standard, and so I felt immune. For the most part, Instagram people preached positivity and contentment, and reminded themselves and their followers that the aesthetic harmony attainable in images was fleeting, not sustainable as a way of life. Instagram people did not seem mean or clever. They were earnest and sincere. They drank green smoothies and went on hikes, sought personal bests, good health, peace of mind and oneness with the universe. They believed every day was a beautiful day to be alive. Leaving Twitter for Instagram was like moving to Los Angeles, only cheaper. I knew people who had gone west to convalesce and to retire from public life. Maybe Instagram would be like that for me?

By this time I had already been on Instagram for six years – long enough to have developed misgivings about it – but the platform was such a reprieve from the moment’s psychic turmoil that I didn’t dwell on them. To do so would be like spending your holiday researching the detrimental effects of tourism: a wise, just and morally superior choice, but objectively not the point.
If I was operating under a willful innocence, it helped that I had started in 2012 with a rule: only follow people you know. Even back then, I felt as if I was being hosed daily with unwanted opinions, ideas, emotions and headlines on Facebook and Twitter, and the idea that I could start afresh with a limited intake made me feel safe. My Instagram account was not private – anyone could follow me – but I kept a tight door on my feed. There was no share, retweet or reblog feature on Instagram; people would have to go out of their way to show me things by people I didn’t follow, and most didn’t bother. The network was limited. Nothing I didn’t want to see would appear in the timeline. The environment was still and sane.
How did I choose what to post? If I was walking down the street in company and stopped to say: “Sorry, I just have to take a picture of this,” usually that was sufficient. A random, inchoate force was at work – the snap reflex of humour or taste.
Posting was its own separate pleasure. I would eventually come to post for attention, like everyone else – but early on, when nobody liked my pictures, I still found it gratifying to post. The satisfaction of self-publishing is difficult to describe. To press a button and see your own excrescence appear in the preordained format, minted, can feel like a kind of magic. It can make you feel like you count. But what people saw from me was less important to my mental health than what I saw of them. Hence the rule to only follow people I knew. For two years, that was a clean, easy test. But in time, I began to relax my definition of an acquaintance. Soon I was looking at a lot of people I had never met and never intended to.

Genres of Instagram I came to recognise after this door opened were: archival photography, astrology meme, travel photography, cooking/baking, fitness/exercise, political meme, celebrity superfan, street fashion, makeup/drag, time-lapse photography, architecture/design, tactile or “satisfying”, cross-platform meme (eg, screenshots from Twitter), female influencer, historical, inspirational, animal rescue, literary, home decor, viral dance, gymnastic/acrobatic, ceramic, houseplant care, illustration and softcore pornography.
Some trends were easier to decipher than others. For a period of six months, I noticed a number of Americans visiting Portugal and posting pictures of painted tiles. Why did the tiles look so good there? I overthought it for a while and then realised Instagram was already tiles. Why all the houseplants? Because we spend too much time indoors and they photograph well.
Each night I lay in my bed beside my boyfriend with one eye closed against the pillow and with the other, wheeled down Instagram’s infinite scroll. Each morning, I woke up to my phone alarm and rolled over to tap it off and, if I had time, looked at Instagram while still half-asleep. I easily spent an hour on it a day – in bed, on the subway or at my desk during lunch. Compared with the hours I spent elsewhere on the internet, it felt like nothing.

Illustration: Guardian Design
What would I see? A fitness personality lunging across the sand. An adopted cat squirming in a paper bag. A Frank Lloyd Wright building. A sourdough loaf. A friend coming out as nonbinary. A mirror selfie. A handstand tutorial. Gallery opening. Nightclub candid. Outfit of the day. Medal from the Brooklyn half-marathon. New floating shelves. A screenshot of an article titled: “A 140-year-old tortoise wearing her 5-day-old son as a hat.” Protest. Crashing waves. Gabrielle Union’s baby. Wedding kiss. Friend’s young mother at the peak of her beauty for Mother’s Day. Ina Garten in a witch’s hat. Detail of a Bruegel painting. Brown egg in a white void, posted to @world_record_egg [verified blue checkmark], with the caption, “Let’s set a world record together and get the most liked post on Instagram, beating the current world record held by Kylie Jenner (18 million)! We got this [hands up emoji].” By the time I saw it, the egg had 53,764,664 likes. The comments read:
“What does the egg mean?”
“That’s a trick question.”
“The egg doesn’t mean anything.”
World records are meaningless in a culture defined by historical amnesia and the relentless invention of categories, I thought, and double tapped to like the egg.

The closest I came to experiencing an Instagram subculture was through following fitness accounts between 2016 and 2018. I was in my late 20s and had rediscovered a passion for exercise. I belonged to a gym but needed things to do, something better than running or cycling. Instagram was a fount of ideas. It was there that I discovered a world of people, mostly women, who worked out all day and were paid in tights and crop tops by athleisure brands to do so.
The independent sponsored athletes made oceans of content. Many of them were YouTubers who had crossed over to Instagram, and a surprising number were from Australia or the UK. They were also young. I watched more than one video in which a nervous, tearful twentysomething confessed that she was dropping out of uni because her heart wasn’t in it any more; what she really wanted, she said, was to make content full-time. Most wore makeup or false eyelashes as they squatted twice their body weight and pushed sleds across the floor. All wanted to build their glutes [peach emoji] and to strengthen their posterior chains. All demonstrated a monomaniacal commitment to exercise and set their videos to royalty-free electronic music with chopped chipmunk vocals. On the morning of 9 November 2016, even the Americans were still squatting, doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT), breaking personal records, without interruption.
From time to time they cracked. “I look nice and smug in this photo,” said a popular woman powerlifter I liked, “but I’m considering making a YouTube video about my recent nervous breakdown/identity crisis.” Through her, I learned about the mechanics of Facetune, a photo-editing app that allows you to smooth cellulite, shrink waistlines, whiten sclera and disappear acne with little technical skill. I knew about the app from trans women I followed who used it to soften jawlines and erase Adam’s apples, a sort of spot-treatment for dysphoria that brought their likeness closer to the ideal. Their offhand references to Facetune suggested that image manipulation wasn’t empowerment, just something you could control when your health insurance didn’t cover facial feminisation surgery. The athletes, less forthright about their body-image issues, were cagier about their usage.

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In the powerlifter’s video about Facetune, she said she felt hypocritical for editing her photos while championing body acceptance and strength-building for women. If she couldn’t walk the walk, at least she would talk about it. She was not the only one. Such confessional double-consciousness was everywhere on #fitstagram. Women posted before-and-after photos 60 seconds apart to demonstrate the powerful effects of posing. Before: a slumping, bloated person with her tailbone tucked. After: a composed physique model with a popped heel and a perfect ass. But no matter how much consciousness-raising they did, they were still under the spell of the image and strove to live up to it.
I wish I could say I watched this all from a cool, critical distance. In truth, I spent too much time at the gym and worried about my forward head position – an affliction common to people who spend too much time on their phones. My Explore page, which drives users via algorithm toward content similar to what they’ve seen or liked, became a mosaic of increasingly extreme exercisers. Looking at competitive bodybuilders, I caught myself thinking they didn’t look all that weird. This is how dysmorphia works, I thought; the algorithm only encourages it, nudging you towards extremity. And yet it cut both ways: the more body-positive accounts I looked at as a counterweight, the more the Explore page fed me body-positive imagery. All images train the eye, and consistent exposure to fat bodies rewires the brain just as much as consistent exposure to thin ones. It brought to mind a moment in Pumping Iron, the 70s bodybuilding documentary, in which a young Arnold Schwarzenegger attempts to explain the mindset of the subculture.
“I mean, obviously a lot of people look at you and they think it’s kind of strange, what you’re doing,” he says. “But those are the people who don’t know much about it … As soon as you find out what the whole thing is about, then it’s just like another thing.”
Everything on Instagram was like that. Once you found out about it, it was just another thing.

We think we know, but do we really know the full extent of manipulation on this platform, the psychological complexity and the degree of social engineering involved? Yes and no. As of this writing, Instagram has an estimated value of more than $100bn (£77bn), 100 times what Facebook bought it for in 2012. It is a data-collection business and a media-selling business. Third-party indexing tools glean data from what is posted and sell it in the form of brand analytics – or as information for governments, security and surveillance firms, and corporations. Images posted to Instagram are used by Facebook to help train its proprietary image-recognition software. And, of course, Facebook-owned Instagram tracks your movements across the internet, and hints that it is stalking you in ways both subtle and not.
Occasionally someone or something lifts the veil. In July 2019, Instagram crashed, and for a brief period users had the unusual experience of scrolling through their feeds and seeing, in the place of images, image-recognition metadata as blue text in pale gray squares. The text read:
“Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, text”
“Image may contain: 1 person, close up”
“Image may contain: night, sky and outdoor”
“Image may contain: 1 or more people, people sitting, shoes and indoor”
I imagined sentient robots thumbing through photos. This is how they would see us: in Terminator vision.
When Instagram introduced advertisements in 2013, it suddenly seemed as if every fifth image in my feed was an ad. Then I counted – every third or fourth post was an ad. With time, they grew uncannily specific. An ad for a bar cart from a furniture startup, on which stood a selection of magazines, including n+1 – the magazine I work for – next to a speckled philodendron. An ad for a minimalist women’s clothing brand based in San Francisco, modelled by the younger sister of a poet I had recently met. I was being reached by Facebook Ads Manager through detailed targeting, which I knew existed: users who like Bon Appétit, live in Brooklyn, between the ages of 18 and 35, should see this ad. But this was being stalked on another level. By the end of 2019, I half expected to see my own likeness in an ad served just to me – me in minimalist clothing, reading n+1, beside a bar cart.
What were other people seeing? I realised I had no idea. Whereas I once watched TV ads with interest – especially those geared toward men during the American football games my boyfriend watched, the car commercials and beer commercials and pharmaceutical commercials for hair loss and erectile dysfunction – on Instagram I saw only myself. It was easier to see ideology at work on other people, and at least those TV ads gave me a sense of what strings of the American male psyche advertisers were choosing to pull. Now, I was alone with my ads, in a filter bubble of one.

Meanwhile, Instagram was leaving its trace on the physical world. People in search of ’grammable content were mobbing restaurants, public lands and private neighbourhoods in greater numbers, causing their stewards to think differently about design and crowd control. I read an article about Rue Crémieux in Paris, where residents of pastel-painted houses were begging for a gate so tourists would stop taking photos in front of them. “It’s become hell,” the vice-president of the street association told a local news website. “On weekends, we get 200 people outside our windows. Our dinner table is right by the window and people are just outside taking pictures.”
An article on NPR suggested Instagram was driving more visitors to national parks in pursuit of the perfect image. In 2018, the article reported: “A California woman fell to her death at Pictured Rocks Tempemail Lakeshore in Michigan while trying to take a selfie.” At Yellowstone in 2015, a woman “was gored by a bison while attempting to get a selfie with the animal”. Park officials created a voluntary pledge for visitors that included the phrase: “No picture is worth hurting yourself, others, or the park.”
Land preservation was also a concern. An anonymous curmudgeon started the Instagram account @publiclandshateyou to shame Instagram tourists for their thoughtless treatment of nature reserves and wilderness areas. In spring 2019, Miley Cyrus posted a photo of herself hanging from aJoshua tree, an endangered plant known for its delicate root system. The Mojave Desert Land Trust begged her to take it down.
By then it was obvious that Instagram was changing the built environment, too. Cafes, bars and themed fun houses called “museums” were being constructed and designed to appear on the grid. Art museums realised that programming exhibitions with built-in selfie opportunities increased “user-generated content”, or UGC, which, in turn, led to free, “organic” promotion.
New storefronts and restaurants were likewise optimised for the image. Considerations such as comfort, accessibility and acoustics were secondary to visual appeal. It was as if the landscape itself had dysmorphia, altering its physical appearance to fit an arbitrary standard that undermined its primary function. But maybe I had it backwards. Maybe the point of a physical space was no longer to shelter physical people. Maybe a shopfront was a marketing tool for a direct-to-consumer internet startup, the way a website was once a marketing tool for a bricks-and-mortar outlet. Glossier. Everlane. Warby Parker. The Sill. Walking into such places felt like walking into an app. They always looked smaller in person, like famous actors who are shorter in real life.

By the autumn of 2019, I came to understand Instagram dwellers as broken people – my people. If I was getting depressed, so was everyone else. The algorithm’s hall-of-mirrors effect seemed to be at work again: more and more people were posting about staying in, struggling with their mental health and finding a community of fellow sufferers on the platform. But it wasn’t just me and my algorithm. Other people were growing disenchanted and reclusive, and the media seemed to confirm the trend. Tavi Gevinson, the American writer and the co-founder of Rookie, published a New York magazine cover story chronicling her ambivalence about growing up on Instagram. The Atlantic claimed The New Instagram It Girl Spends All Her Time Alone and described how influencers were staging more selfies at home to appear relatable to their followers. Home-delivery services, loungewear brands and weighted-blanket manufacturers were all well poised to capitalise.
Then I encountered the Agoraphobic Traveller. At a live storytelling event I attended, the MC cued the lights for a message from the sponsor. The stage lights dimmed and a four-minute video told the story of Jacqui, a fortysomething woman with a thick New Zealand accent who had started having severe panic attacks in her 20s. “Eventually I was diagnosed with agoraphobia,” she said in voiceover as the camera caught her face through a windowpane. For a while, she struggled to travel far from home. “It’s not living life. It’s not a life, when you’re just constantly not in a good place.”
Then she hit a turning point. Jacqui was looking at Google Street View one day when she thought to take screenshots of vistas or tableaux she liked. “I’ve always loved photography,” she said. “This gave me the opportunity to be a photographer but without having that anxious feeling. I think that I’ve taken around 27,000 screenshots,” she told the camera.

Illustration: Guardian Design
Jacqui created an Instagram account, @streetview.portraits, to share the screenshots she took. In the video, the camera showed Jacqui looking at one of her Instagram posts, a washed-out image of two camels in the desert, scrolling over the comments. “Now I feel more connected to the world than I ever have before,” she said.
With help from Google, Jacqui travelled to New York for an exhibition of her photos in Soho called The Agoraphobic Traveller. The video showed Jacqui in a cab, Jacqui on the plane. The camera trailed her arriving at the gallery, her shoulders hiked and hands in her pockets. Inside, she smiled and relaxed. “If you’re struggling and you’re keeping it to yourself … it definitely doesn’t help,” she said. “Please don’t give up, know that it can get better and it does get better.”
I was happy for Jacqui, but the video disturbed me deeply. I found it pernicious and thought about it for days. The message was benign – technology connects you to the world. But I couldn’t shake the subtext: that if Google and Instagram had an ideal user, it might be a creative person who could not – would not – leave her home.

Modern voyeurism has precedents, even the multiple-window kind. In Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, LB “Jeff” Jefferies is a housebound magazine photographer laid up with a broken leg and “nothing to do but look out the window”. Across the courtyard is a dollhouse of parallel lives that he can watch unfold from his wheelchair. There’s the blond “bikini bombshell” – “Miss Torso”, he calls her – who stretches and twirls in her underwear while she butters her breakfast toast; Mr Thorwald, the costume jewellery salesman, who tends a flower garden and a sick, unhappy wife; “Miss Lonelyhearts,” a single woman who pantomimes a candlelit dinner for two before she drinks and cries herself to sleep; and other nameless neighbours who are less intriguing but still worth watching.
The view from Jeff’s rear window calls to mind Henry James’s “house of fiction”, which “has not one window but a million”. It also recalls the view from Instagram. As Durga Chew-Bose writes in an essay on the film: “Jeff sits and stares out his window like we sit and scroll, and double tap.” He spins stories about his neighbours, like we do “about strangers … based on their Instagram accounts.” The ethical implications were fraught then as now. “We’ve become a race of Peeping Toms,” says Stella, the insurance company nurse who checks in on Jeff and admonishes him. “What people ought to do is get outside their own house and look in for a change. Yes, sir. How’s that for a bit of homespun philosophy?”
The entangled dynamics of who sees whom and who knows they’re being seen have always been present. Where Instagram seems truly new – beyond the introduction of machine learning and commercial surveillance to the mix – is in the strange instability of the viewer’s position as a subject. A voyeur knows what kind of viewer he is, but looking at Instagram, you are not always a voyeur. Neither are you always a witness, nor any other single kind of watcher. Your implied identity slips with each stroke of the thumb.
If you are me, scrolling through Instagram, you are the confidant being whispered to by a face shot from under the chin. You are the recipient of a holiday card from a family in matching turtlenecks. You are the magazine subscriber flipping through editorials. You are the woman standing in front of the screen miming the aerobic movements of your instructor. You are the mother, adult height, looking down at her child. You are the lunch companion peering across the table. You are the customer browsing for deals. You are the scholar sifting through archives. You are the fan admiring Beyoncé. You are the mirror, reflecting the image of the photographer. You are the photographer, seeing through her eyes. You are the phone.
Or you are the voyeur at the window, trying to get a closer look – in which case the villain who enters your private space, not through the window, but through the front door, is the ads.

A week into writing this essay, I began to see ads about it on Instagram. The bar cart came back, this time with different magazines on the shelf. So did the “life-transforming, plant-rich super meals delivered to your door”, a remnant from my fitness moment, and the forward-head-position posture corrector, a piece of plastic you stick to your spine that buzzes whenever you slouch. I was served an ad for a New York Times article about facial-recognition technology, and an ad for the Wall Street Journal featuring an illustration of a teen girl in bed looking despondent in bed; a phone on the bedside table showed two girls smiling and surrounded by hearts. The caption read: “Young Americans have become unwitting guinea pigs in today’s huge, unplanned experiment with social media, and teenage girls are bearing much of the brunt.”
The US government has been slow to respond to the scope of this experiment. The EU has been more aggressive. In response to pressure from regulators, Facebook is now more transparent about data. For the first time, I can see the names of companies who have uploaded my information to the platform: Predictive Media Analytics LLC, Nielsen, LiveRamp, Acxiom, Adara, Oracle Data Cloud, Wunderman Data Products, SocialCode, TowerData. The company has also given users some measure of control over ad settings.
Following the directions in an article I found online, I switched Ads based on data from other partners – meaning data about websites I had visited or purchases I had made on my credit card – to Not allowed. I switched Ads based on your activity on Facebook Company Products that you see elsewhere, which I didn’t understand, to Not allowed. I switched Ads that include your social actions, meaning ads telling friends I liked certain products, to be shown to No One. Overnight, my Instagram ads became delightfully random.
But my life as a generic nontarget, a recipient of ads for Amazon influencers, corny T-shirts and trashy iPhone games, was short lived. I simply spent too much time on Instagram for it not to relearn what it knew before I wiped the slate. I wish I could wipe it again.
The speed of machine learning is startling, often creepy. It is hard to tell what is creepier: the feeling that someone is somewhere out there, following your every step, or the fact that no one is, just the tracking device you carry with you in your pocket. I still give Instagram an hour a day, for the intermittent pleasure it brings. A built-in timer reminds me when my time is up.
Late at night in bed, I get an ad for a meditation app meant to aid with sleep. It’s midnight and I’m browsing Instagram stories.
Addicted to Instagram? says the ad.
Below is a poll with two options: Yes and How’d you know.
I tap my answer and the poll reveals its results – 49% clicked How’d you know.
• This is an edited version of a longer article originally published by nplusonemag
• Follow the Long Read on Twitter at @gdnlongread, and sign up to the long read weekly email here.

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