People are DM-ing more media to each other on Instagram than they’re posting publicly


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Instagram says that people are DM-ing more media to each other than they’re posting publicly. What’s driving this? And what does it say about us?

According to Instagram, people are sending more videos and images to one another on the platform than they’re posting. Why?

The Head of Instagram shared an interesting little fact in a recent podcast interview. Apparently, people are sending way, way more photos and videos via direct messages on Instagram, than they’re posting publicly on their Feed or their Stories:

Take out all the text. There are more photos and videos shared in DMs than there are shared in Stories— and there’s way more shared in Stories than there is in Feed. So just forget about the text for a second. Just the photos and videos, just the media, the rich media: it’s a bigger deal and growing faster in DMs than anywhere else.

Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri

This reveals a major shift in how people, especially younger ones, want to communicate on social media.

What’s driving it? And what does it mean the future of online interaction?


It feels like there are several reasons why people are sending more videos and images to one another than they’re posting.

For starters, oversharing is out. Ephemeral and/or 1 to 1 sharing is in. Whether they’re making their Instas private, moving all personal posts to a “finsta” (fake Insta), or just posting Stories to their “Close Friends” only, users today seem to be prioritizing communicating with smaller circles of people, as opposed to widespread public sharing.

Messaging 1 to 1 (or 1 to a few) feels casual, authentic, and non performative. Without the need to maintain a carefully curated public image, it's understandable that people would be drawn to this type of interaction.

At the same time, DMs obviously give users a lot more control over who sees their content. Because of this, users probably see DMs as a less toxic space for self-expression.


As users abandon their public timelines, it makes sense to question the performative culture that the last 15 years of social media has cultivated.

Could it be that public sharing, whether that means posing for pictures, or simply sharing moments, ideas, memes, jokes, videos, and news, simply doesn’t feel natural to many/most of us?



I’ve spent a bit of time thinking about the rise of DMs, and a few fundamental human needs seem to be at play in this shift:

The need for personal expression and identity flexibility. DMs allow users to present themselves in different ways, depending on who they’re messaging.

Zoom out: that’s totally normal. You speak differently to your grandmother than you do to your boss, or a date. DMs allow for this variance in subject matter and tone a lot more than a public Story or Feed does.

Then there’s the need for authentic human connection and real relationships. DMs provide a space for more vulnerable sharing, and bonding over past experiences, in jokes, or other memories. Being vulnerable with others is one of the best ways to connect, and that is just plain easier 1 to 1 than it is on Stories or Feed.

Finally, there’s our innate desire to control our privacy and spaces. Well, by sending media to individual recipients, DMs obviously give users a whole lot more agency over both their audience and their information than posting to everyone does.


Want to see where social media is going? Think about our core human needs. They typically drive behavior.

As our present platforms have morphed from connection tools to discovery and entertainment engines, look for new platforms to emerge that make messaging the primary experience, and public feeds secondary —inverting how many people think of and use social media today.


Ultimately, there’s just something very heartening about DMs being more popular than Stories or Feed.

It means that even now, in the midst of one of the fastest technological transformations in history, our underlying need/motivation to connect with other on a personal level, will never go away.




Now get ready for ads in your DMs.


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Written by Jon Kallus. Any feedback? Simply reply.

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