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Essentials Week spotlights unexpected items that make our daily lives just a little bit better.

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During some of my toughest mental health days over the past two years I found comfort in an unexpected place: Instagram.

While social truyền thông media is often considered more harmful than helpful to lớn people"s self-esteem, sense of security, & overall well-being, I wasn"t chasing likes or seeking solace in my Instagram feed or other people"s Stories. I started using the platform"s Close Friends feature — which launched in 2018 — more frequently, and I found that sharing Stories with a carefully curated group of people felt safer và more fruitful than posting updates to all of my followers.

For anyone unfamiliar with the Close Friends feature, it lets you mô tả Stories with a select group of users instead of with every random account, casual acquaintance, family member, và colleague who follows you. The feature won"t alert people if you showroom or omit them from your Close Friends list, but those who"ve made the cut will know they"re viewing a Close Friend Story when they see a green ring around a user"s profile photo and Instagram Story, or a green sticker in the upper right hand corner of an individual Story.

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I posted my first regular Instagram Story in 2018, và primarily used the feature to share idyllic snapshots from my daily Manhattan commute, photos of iced coffee taken with Portrait Mode, videos of friends that were too goofy lớn make the feed, & other aesthetically gorgeous content intrinsic lớn the platform. It wasn"t until 2020 — when I was struggling lớn navigate crushing COVID-19 anxiety, the nationwide response lớn George Floyd"s murder, & the looming presidential election — that I regularly started using Close Friends. Và in 2021, the feature helped me work through unfathomable tragedies lượt thích the Capitol riot and mass shootings, along with the căng thẳng of anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers, & the discovery of new COVID-19 variants.

The feature created a safe space where I could express my beliefs and concerns without fear of judgment or repercussions. I initially used Close Friends to mô tả serious, reflective commentary on the state of the world, but I grew so comfortable with the added layer of privacy that I began sharing everything from TV show recommendations và physical therapy updates to lớn Chipwich glamour shots & scenes from my daily walks with the limited group of followers, too.

Today, I almost exclusively use Close Friends when posting Stories. The essential feature helps me feel less exposed, more relaxed, and không tính tiền to be my truest self online. I"m convinced it"s the key khổng lồ enhancing your Instagram experience.

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The pivot to lớn Close Friends

When the 2020 news cycle started regularly weighing me down with grief, worry, & heartache I changed the way I used social truyền thông entirely. I could no longer summon the emotional energy needed to lớn curate peppy tweets or Stories, so I stopped posting altogether for a while. I wanted khổng lồ use social truyền thông to nội dung my raw emotions, fears, và pain with others — for the sake of my own mental health and to let my friends know they weren"t alone in their struggles — but I didn"t want lớn broadcast those intimacies to lớn all of Twitter or my 500 Instagram followers, và potentially anyone who spots my public Instagram.

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I get the occasional follow or Story view from a stranger. It"s mostly harmless, but this year I realized that while I"m comfortable publicly posting khổng lồ my feed, I don"t want all of my followers seeing the private life snippets I share in Stories. (No matter how boring they may be.) I took several steps to make my Instagram Stories more secure, and I started being more mindful when posting. Now, before I upload a Story I stop and consider whether it"s better suited for the eyes of all my followers or my danh sách of 60 Close Friends (give or take a few depending on the content). More often than not, the Close Friends menu wins. While I"m not necessarily "close friends" with every person on the list, I value each of them & trust that if they saw me in crisis they wouldn’t text Gossip Girl. In addition khổng lồ my best friends, the các mục includes dozens of former colleagues và pals from college. I don"t necessarily speak lớn or hang out with them on a regular basis, but I still cherish them and want to lớn keep them updated on my life.

I don"t shy away from publicly posting celebrity content, sharing articles I"ve written, or wishing people a happy birthday on Stories, but when I need lớn vent, give the occasional crush update, chia sẻ an embarrassing story, or provide an unfiltered look at my life I smash the Close Friends button without hesitation.

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Everyone uses Close Friends differently, but when I put a call out on Twitter asking fans of the feature to chia sẻ why they lượt thích it, several common themes popped up. Some utilize the feature lớn share content with a single user (such as a best friend or a crush), while others curate a Close Friends danh mục to "soft launch" relationships, or keep content that features their significant other private. Many parents take advantage of the private feature when sharing photos of their children online. And one of the most popular reasons people use Close Friends is khổng lồ hide certain Stories from the overly watchful eyes of judgmental family members or bosses.

The feature lets people establish solid, personalized boundaries on Instagram, so if you"re not already taking advantage of Close Friends, I highly suggest you give it a shot.

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Close Friends, assemble

Wondering how to lớn create and post a Close Friends story? Follow these four simple steps:

Click the three lines in the upper righthand corner of your Instagram profile.

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Select "Close Friends."

There, you can browse a danh mục of all of your followers (or tìm kiếm for specific people by name) và choose which users khổng lồ add.

Next time you create a Story & want to nội dung it with the select group simply tap the "Close Friends" option at the bottom of your screen & voila!