Nearly 18 months later, Instagram’s twist on private sharing has arrived in the market. It looks much different than it did in 2017. Now called “close friends,” the feature will be limited to Stories. Since it has been scaled back from its earlier incarnation, close friends could still reshape the social dynamics on Instagram.
Here is the way to use the new Instagram feature, open up the Stories camera and take a photo or video. A new green circle with a white star will be visible. Tap it. The close friends’ list will pop up to add people to your inner circle. Instagram gives you a suggestion of your friends based on the people you interact with most. Also, you can use a search box to finish your list. In testing, people were able to add around two dozen people.
When your list is finished, you’ll be able to share the captured shot with your close friends by tapping the green circle whenever you capture a photo or video for Stories. (My product feedback: this button is tiny and it would benefit significantly from being enlarged.) Once you do, your close friends will see a green ring around your story in the tray at the top of the feed. It’s a visual signal that that particular friend has shared something more privately with you, and it should stand out from the standard pink-purple gradient rings.
Friends are never notified that you added them to, or you have removed them from your list. Unlike a Finstagram, people cannot request you to join your circle of close friends. If they’re on your list, they’ll see the green rings when you post to your close friends; if they’re not, they won’t. But you’ll still maintain “plausible deniability,” Stein says, as most people will simply assume you haven’t posted anything to your close friends’ group.
For Instagram to continue thriving, it has to carve out space for actual friends to stay in touch. Close friends is a welcome step in that direction.