‘Make Instagram Instagram again’: The app’s evolution is causing users to question its future

Reuters 
Reuters 

Summary

  • The Meta-owned platform’s push to prioritize creators and video over friends and photos has changed the user experience. And many of those users aren’t happy.

Instagram users say they want their old app back.

Sitting in a hotel room on Friday, Tatiana Bruening opened her phone and tapped the Instagram icon.

Since the last time she had opened it, her Instagram feed had updated to a full-screen format: Each post filled the whole screen and videos played on a loop. Unlike before, she couldn’t see the photo or video that came next until she swiped to it.

Instead of posts from friends, Ms. Bruening said she was inundated with ads, as well as short-video “Reels" from people she doesn’t follow. She felt the changes rendered the app unrecognizable. In the moment, she made a text post that would soon go viral: “Make Instagram Instagram Again."

“I was just frustrated," Ms. Bruening said. “This is not the Instagram that we used to have. There’s something so strange about this."

Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner, who have 326 million and 361 million followers on the app, respectively, are among the countless users who reshared Ms. Bruening’s post urging the platform to “stop trying to be tiktok."

Ms. Bruening also made a petition to accompany the post. It has been signed by more than 165,000 people from more than 30 countries, according to Change.org.

Reels, which are TikTok-style looped videos posted on Instagram, were introduced in 2020 and have since taken over the app. Instagram head Adam Mosseri announced plans to give priority to these short videos back in June 2021 and reiterated the plan Tuesday in a video amid the backlash. The app began testing the new feed that displays photos and videos on a full screen a few months ago, which currently only appears to a limited number of users.

Instagram’s interface change is only part of the issue. The larger concern, the one that suggests this could last longer than previous social-media redesign grumbles, is that the friend-filled Instagram of old is being replaced by a TikTok clone full of strangers. (Our own Joanna Stern picked up on this trend several months ago.)

Mr. Mosseri said Instagram is focusing attention on entertainment and creators, and that friends are appearing more often now in Stories—short photo and video snippets found outside the main feed—and direct messages.

Though the app has shifted toward video, Mr. Mosseri assured users that photos aren’t going away, and it will try to keep content from friends at the top of the feed. “But we’re also going to need to evolve, because the world is changing quickly, and we’re going to have to change along with it," Mr. Mosseri said in his video.

A spokeswoman for Instagram and Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. said the app would continue to evolve. “We recognize that changes to the app can be an adjustment, and we want to take the time to make sure we get this right," she added.

Odds are, you don’t already have this new full-screen feed interface, but you might know someone with the update.

Chelsea Mack, a 25-year-old who lives in Montreal, received the update in June. She said the new format has changed her app habits: She used to scroll on the platform several times a day in 10-minute or longer increments. Now, she said, those scrolling breaks often last three minutes before the content from outside those she follows seems too intrusive.

And because the types of content in her feed are changing, she often hears from her friends who have also received the update that they didn’t see her posts. She thinks that Instagram’s pivot toward TikTok might leave open room for new competition among friend-focused photo-sharing apps, such as popular upstart BeReal.

Users who are part of the full-screen test can’t opt out of it. But they can choose a different feed to scroll through. In March, Instagram introduced the Following feed, which only shows posts from accounts the user follows, and the Favorites feed, which shows posts from the user’s selected favorite accounts.

“People use platforms for different reasons and this feels like Instagram is going to lose its reason for them to go there," said Jayne Charneski, marketing strategist and founder of Front Row Insights, a consumer research agency.

The problem could be traced to a generational shift, Ms. Charneski said. Millennials grew up posting curated photos, while the younger Generation Z was weaned on FaceTime video calls.

“They’re comfortable with casual unpolished video content, which is why TikTok came to be," Ms. Charneski said. “Now it’s almost like Instagram is forcing this Gen Z ethos on an older audience."

What you can do

If you are annoyed by the changes to Instagram’s feed, there are steps that might help.

The Following and Favorites feeds allow users to only see the content from the people they directly follow or from 50 accounts curated by the user. The Following tab will display content in chronological order, one facet of early Instagram that many users often say they miss.

If you aim to make your Following feed your primary feed on the app, consider going through who you follow. Alternatively, to get back to seeing photos with a small circle of close friends, you could add them to your Favorites feed.

Tap the Instagram logo in the top left corner of the app for a drop-down menu to switch to your Following or Favorites feed.

Another tip: If you don’t want to see suggested posts on your feed, you can hide them from your feed for 30 days by tapping the three dots next to the content.

 

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text

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