Instagram isn’t backing down over its new update – soon it may not have a choice

·5-min read
Photo credit:                                      - Getty Images
Photo credit: - Getty Images

You know the world has gone incredibly meta when people are posting anti-Instagram activism on Instagram – which is owned by Meta. Yes, this week, users of our once-favourite social media app have been kicking off about an algorithm change that seems to indicate that good old Instagram is set to morph into TikTok before our very eyes. With no remorse.

One particular post protesting the changes, a simple graphic by user @illumitati that says: 'Make Instagram Instagram Again... (stop trying to be TikTok, I just want to see cute photos of my friends)’ has now been shared over two million times. It’s even been re-shared by the mother of all influencers, Kim Kardashian herself.

Why? Speaking plainly, the new update... sucks. If you've not experienced it yet (it’s currently only being trialled across some accounts) in a nutshell, it's all about really, really, really ramming video content down the user's throat. And you can't always switch the sound off, meaning you can quite quickly (and accidentally) become that annoying person on the bus, if you dare log in without headphones. Some users are also being subjected to a clunky full-screen experience where the caption covers half the image, and Stories are no longer as easily shown. Ick. But most frustrating of all? The majority of content served up is from people they don’t even follow.

Photos of your colleagues's adorable kitten? Your mate doing a classic 'holding a key in front of a new front door' shot? Your best friend's hen do? Yeah, good luck in trying to view those pics, because they've been pushed to the bottom of the algorithm's deep blue sea, never to resurface again. Unless you actively seek them out. Which is pretty sad for an app that claims to be all about community.

Though it's not uncommon for new updates on the likes of IG to initially be met with resistance (remember every Facebook update ever?), this time it feels different. Even if Mark Zuckerberg’s penchant for buying up rival apps and replicating the basic model is something we’ve seen many a time before (and who can blame him? It’s a canny business move).

But the thing is, try as Instagram might to follow TikTok’s lead – which isn’t shocking given it’s the biggest app to come our way and spread like wildfire in recent years – on this occasion, it's a step too far for many. By switching to video-first, all Instagram is doing is diluting the magic it was once famed for and offering up a second-rate version. One that nobody’s interested in. Where's the appeal in having two apps that do pretty much the exact same thing?

Photo credit: Oscar Wong - Getty Images
Photo credit: Oscar Wong - Getty Images

This particular update is indicative of a much wider problem we're currently facing too... which is that we're all very much under the thumb of the Silicon Valley tech overlords who are pressing our buttons, encouraging us to act like little dancing, reel-making monkeys if we want to remain relevant online. All this does is create a race to the bottom – a race for who can make the next identical-to-the-last funny dog video, viral dance or mad recipe. But what about those who want to use Instagram as a modern-day photo album, a way to keep up with friends – and the Kardashians of course – and have it stay that way?

As a generation of digital natives, we’ve grown accustomed to adapting to new apps, new tech, endless algorithm changes – remember MySpace? Vine? Post-night out Facebook photo dumps? But Instagram has – for the past decade – remained the space for beautiful imagery, thought provoking content (via captions) and somewhere with a more personal feel. A mix of our favourite hand-picked celebrities having their say, alongside friends sharing their lives and a few influencers we actively chose to be jealous of, or enjoy following for beauty tips.

Fast forward to the present day though, and it really does feel like Instagram has decided to put money-making and tech competition above their users. After all, for the numerous small businesses operating on Instagram, the algorithm switch-up will be a big blow, unless they hot step it to a video editing course.

After nearly two decades of trying to keep up with the latest demands of various internet bosses, at this point, I'm tired. I'm not saying all change is bad, the odd video appearing on my feed every now and then is grand, but it's all gotten too much. And the constant control they seem to have over us is draining. If ever there was a time we needed certainty in our lives, surely this is it?

Having seen the backlash the new video-first model is getting, Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri posted his own video (of course) to the platform saying that although they're still committed to the 'heritage' of the app and photos, that people are naturally more engaged with and likely to share videos these days – and that they’d continue to ‘support creators’. So far, no backing down then.

But with several big-name influencers (including beauty guru James Charles, who has 22.8 million followers on the app) quick to comment underneath that “Instagram is losing the competition and has lost its identity along the way” and that they’re only making videos to avoid being punished by the algorithm, they might be wise to listen.

After all, what is a social media site without any users?

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