As long as Instagram exists, people to have complained about the. Hating Instagram – and to an even greater extent its sister site, Facebook – is one of the few opinions that a majority of the internet seems to share, but the volume has skyrocketed in recent weeks. Last Thursday, Instagram head Adam Mosseri addressed the criticism in a video that, of course, made it even more.
The most recent controversy comes from Instagram’s parent company Meta (formerly called Facebook) and its tendency to copy the features of emerging social media platforms. Right now, Instagram’s biggest competitor is TikTok, which offers users a never-ending feed of personalized trending short-form video and whose popularity has skyrocketed just as Facebook begins to decline. In an effort to replicate the success, several of the latest Instagram and Facebook updates prioritized “recommended” videos (i.e. from random users on the platform as opposed to someone you already follow), among other things making people very stressed. touched. “The new Instagram update really understood what I was looking for: none of my friends’ content, TikToks reposted from meme accounts I don’t follow, 100x more ads, everything played at full volume against my will,” summarized one viral tweet.
The furore reached a fever pitch when a message by photographer Tati Bruening went viral, demanding, “Make Instagram Instagram Again” and “stop trying to be TikTok, I just want to see cute pictures of my friends. Best regards, everyone.” The post, which now has over 2 million likes, was re-shared by some of Instagram’s most powerful users, Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner.
At the same time, dozens of meme makers held a gathering outside Meta’s New York headquarters on July 23 in what they called an ‘Instarrection’. While the event didn’t focus on the new updates and instead protested Instagram’s vague, inconsistent moderation practices, which often lead to accounts being deleted for unclear reasons, it reflects a growing sense among Instagram users that Instagram is getting worse. .
In all respects, the shareholders of Meta agree. Earlier this year, Meta announced that users spend less time on his platforms and that it expected revenue growth to slow, causing its shares fall 26 percent, lost $232 billion, becoming the steepest one-day drop for a single stock in US history. The mood, on Instagram and at headquarters, is bleak: CEO Mark Zuckerberg has limited spending at the company this summer, while pressure employees to “work with increased intensity” and threaten to cut low achievers. “There are probably a lot of people at the company who shouldn’t be here,” he told staff.
Being angry on Instagram is like being angry at the president: expressing your frustrations about it is both a cathartic and logical response to a seemingly insurmountable problem, the problem of too much power in the hands of too few people. In 2019, I wrote about how Instagram, within a decade of its existence, broke our brains, trained us to see each other as trademarks, and split ourselves in half. In 2021, I wrote about how visual-first social platforms can make as many changes as they want in response to the knowledge that their products hurt users’ self-esteem but will never solve the problem they’ve created. Back in 2022, I wrote about how Instagram’s incessant fixation on video is degrading content on the site while dramatically increasing the workload needed to succeed on the platform. Instagram has made dangerous misinformation cute and beautiful destinations unbearable; it lied, repeatedlyand yet people feel they have nowhere else to go.
Last week, Instagram gave in somewhat to the growing chorus of criticism. In an interview with tech reporter Casey Newton, Mosseri said the app would phase out one of the recent redesigns it had tested, while also temporarily showing users fewer “recommended” videos in the feed. Still, the changes aren’t permanent: By the end of 2023, Zuckerberg said the number of “recommended” posts on Instagram will more than double. Mosseri attributes this change to a shift in what news feeds are for. “In a world where more of the content from friends has moved from feed to stories and DMs, I think that feed will become more public in nature,” he said.
For the average Instagram user, the kind who would never describe themselves as a “creator”, despite the growing number of people who do, this won’t come as good news. As one venture capitalist put it: in conversation with the Washington Post“There is a war going on between people who want Instagram to be more like Snapchat and people who want it to be more TikTok. Right now the former group is bigger and louder.”
The problem is, Instagram doesn’t actually care as much about that group as it does about the other: instead, Instagram sees the best way to build a loyal, extraordinarily active user base as dangling the prospect of becoming famous from them. Video is then only a means to achieve that goal. “I think one of the most important things is that we help new talent find an audience,” Mosseri added. “If we want to be a place where people move culture forward, to help realize the promise of the Internet, which is to put power in the hands of more people, I think we need to get better at that.”
Oddly enough, some of the hottest new social apps of late — BeReal, NGL, and Locket — have nothing to do with fame at all. On BeReal, users see candid photos of mutual contacts, while Locket allows them to share photos directly on each other’s home screens. NGL, meanwhile, is a Q&A app that became a popular game on Instagram Stories in June, where people with access to a link could ask the poster anonymous questions. None of them promise the total digitization of the social circle that Facebook and Instagram do, nor do they offer the possibility of virality.
Instagram has meanwhile decided that it should be everything for everyone. While Meta is pivotal to the . continues so-called “metaverse”, a largely theoretical vision in which bitmojis have meetings (?), it wants to be even more. What remains is whether US antitrust laws will actually be enforced to prevent Meta from adopting the same monopolistic practices there, and to what extent Meta can continue to expand its vast, unprecedented authority over the Internet. In all likelihood, no matter how crazy everyone is on Facebook and Instagram right now, it will only get worse.
This column was first published in the Goods Newsletter. Register here so you don’t miss the next one, and receive exclusive newsletters.