My hypothesis: social networks create a virtual world where we can construct the identity we hoped to construct. However as these networks age, mistakes in that identity come more often and suddenly that identity isn't so pristine. You can extrapolate this to anything that is on the internet and social from a simple forum to facebook.
Now recent attempts are "hey, let's just delete stuff and that will model reality a bit better" but it doesn't. You've just changed the rules to an alternate virtual world, not necessarily made the virtual reality.
My conclusion is therefore in order for you to experience life as reality you should stop trying to rely on a virtual copy to emulate those same experiences.
When my friends get on their phones and computers and are so intent and focus on their digital identity, they can't experience what is real. The conversation is boring. The conversation exists in a digital virtual world that I'm not part of because I (now) refuse to export all of my time and experiences to that virtual world.
I was lucky to learn these lessons as a child as the internet had just taken off and I (being a teenager) took advantage of everything it had to offer from online gaming to working internationally with others around the world. When meeting in real life, however, things felt a bit strange. It was like two strangers that were previously friends had finally had a real-world interaction. The awkwardness now became how to do we reconcile are real-world-selves with the virtual-selves we've known. The sad truth was that we couldn't easily. The internet allowed us to only focus on what we found important and ignore the rest of reality. I feel that more and more people are falling into this trap and it will be a rude awakening for them when they are much older.
So is there a desire for such virtual worlds? Obviously yes. But the real question we should be asking ourselves is should we continuously be trying to feed that desire?
This is a cool side project and I hate to do a serious critique of it...but since the OP decided to go the pithy Medium essay route, I'll take it he's sincere about thinking these this through. Here's my critique: the world doesn't need a constant stream of the ordinary. Ignoring the damage of enviousness, many FB users suffer from just spending too much time being interested in other people's lives...and that's just the highlights. What mental appetite or capacity do we have to consume all the mundane moments too?
That said, it is worth experimenting with the dates and/or ways of saving certain images of yourself for posterity.
Every one dies.
What I express on IG is no more or less authentic than what I express here or on Quora or at a quiet meal with friends. They all express a sometimes-idealized aspect of myself. The goal is not a quest for "real identity." The idea itself is incoherent.
We edit ourselves "offline," too. The "self" we present to our co-workers is different than the "self" we present to our family, friends, or lovers. Do you think people "edit" themselves more or less on Facebook or Instagram than they do when they're, say, at a job interview or on a first date?
And, sure, how we present ourselves online may not be the "most accurate representation of what really goes on," but is this more or less editing than you hiding your professional struggles from your closest friends because they act and talk as if you're more successful than you really are? Consider, for example, a husband and father who is close to losing his job. "Hey Sam, how's work going?" "Hey honey, how was work today?" "Hey daddy, do you love your job? Will you be the boss one day? I think you'd make a great boss."
And this isn't even to talk about the stories we tell ourselves about our own lives. We delude ourselves in a million ways, big and small, every day. This is normal and necessary.
I don't think it's about "more" or "less" editing, as if we decide what percentage of ourselves to reveal to other people or as if there's some indivisible, Platonic "identity" that I possess. It's more like an actor putting on a show. It depends on the actor, the play, the stage, and the audience. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in X-Men is no more or less authentic than Hugh Jackman as Curly in Oklahoma!. Maybe the part of him in Wolverine isn't brought out anywhere else in his life, in which case there's a way in which Hugh Jackman as Wolverine is both more and less authentic than Hugh Jackman as his everyday self (whatever that means).
I don't think it's that "we're caught trying to one up each other talking about our offline lives on these social networks." We do that offline plenty. What online social networks do provide is a discrete and, until now, unparalleled measure of control over how I express myself. I can invent a whole new self on Instagram if I want and I can delete it when I'm done with it. I can't do that with my friends, at least not without risking my friendship or becoming known as "that guy who reinvents himself all the time." This opens up whole new fields of expression and play.
For example, in your product your photos expire. Yes, this lowers the "cost to my identity." One consequence of this might be that folks reveal more of their "authentic self," whatever that means. Another consequence might be that they ham it up in ways they'd consider inappropriate in a more permanent or serious context. Another consequence might be that people turn it into a game where, because you know every photo has an expiration date, you try to see how much attention you can get in that timeframe. This will naturally lead to crazier, more extreme, and more controversial forms of expression.
This isn't a product critique, BTW. I think what you're doing is interesting, but I think you're fooling yourself if you believe that somehow folks will be more "authentic" on your service, in part because I think the idea of the "authentic self" is a bit of a fiction. If folks find that your service lets them express part of themselves that they couldn't before or were afraid to before, that's great! If you get a critical density of people doing that you have a successful social network! But I think "authenticity" isn't the axis along which those expressions will fall.
I actually think if you over-focus on "authenticity" you run the risk of making bad product decisions. What happens if folks start using your service to do things you consider inauthentic? Do you ban them? Do you try to curtail the behavior through product design and other feedback mechanisms? If you do, you run the risk of squashing the kinds of activity that can lead to a robust network. Those unexpected expressions are exactly what a community or tribe building a sense of identity look like, even if you disagree with that conception of identity or consider it inauthentic.
Or I aspire to be Miley Cyrus's twerk photographer.