Instagram Has A New Way To Virtually Pass The Time With Friends

by Caroline Burke
Courtesy of Instagram

Whether you're under a state-enforced order to stay at home, or just trying to social distance on your own, life might be a little quieter than you're used to. It's all the more reason to put your tech savvy to use and go out of your way to stay in touch with friends. The good news is that you now have another tool in your social distancing arsenal: Instagram's new Media Sharing feature lets people group video chat and look at the same feeds together.

If you want to start an Instagram Media Sharing sesh with your friends, all you have to do is begin a video chat via direct message, by clicking on the video recorder icon in the top right corner of your DM screen. Once you've got the video chat going, you or one of your friends can tap the photo icon on the bottom left of the video chat screen. From there, you'll be able to look at the same saved, liked, or Instagram-recommended posts together, as if you were all scrolling through the same feed on the same phone. Talk about an easy way to kill an hour, or two, or three.

In a March 24 press release, Instagram explained how the Media Sharing feature is one of several additions to the social media platform that encourage social distancing efforts around the world. The press release reads in part, "Since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency in January, we’ve taken steps to help people access accurate information, stay safe, and stay connected."

In addition to the Media Sharing feature, Instagram confirmed the addition of several other new initiatives. One such initiative is offering more educational resources in Instagram Search. Instagram explained, "People who search for information related to the coronavirus or COVID-19 on Instagram will start to see an educational message connecting them to resources from the World Health Organization and local health ministries."

Earlier in the week, Instagram also added a "Stay Home" sticker for people to use on their stories, along with an ongoing "Stay Home" Story. In a Tweet on March 21, Instagram explained the sticker's function: "If you use the [Stay Home] sticker, your photo or video will be added to a shared Instagram story where people can see how you're staying home and staying safe."

Instagram has since announced the rollout of more stickers like the "Stay Home" one, all of which have the goal of helping people "share accurate COVID-9 information in Stories." These include stickers for sharing how to wash your hands correctly, as well as stickers that explain how to appropriately distance yourself from others. They'll be available in the next few days, according to the platform.

Instagram isn't just offering new ways for people to access correct information, though. It's also working to remove misinformation.

In its March 24 press release, the company said in part,

"We’ll remove COVID-19 accounts from account recommendations, and we are working to remove some COVID-19 related content from Explore, unless posted by a credible health organization. We will also start to downrank content in feed and Stories that has been rated false by third-party-fact checkers."

The platform has already confirmed efforts to ban "misleading ads" and "temporarily [ban] advertisements and branded content that promote certain medical supplies," like face masks.

And if you want to help those communities that are impacted the most by the coronavirus pandemic, you can use the "Donation" sticker on your Instagram Story. From there, you'll be able to select from a number of relevant nonprofits to send people to, via your Story.