At some point, however, I noticed a change. Instagram is slowly dying. A 2021 survey from financial services firm Piper Sandler found that only 22 percent of teenagers said Instagram was their favourite social media platform, coming in third after Snapchat and TikTok. Back in 2015, the same survey showed Instagram as the preferred social media app among teens, with 33 percent of participants claiming it as their favourite. In that time, the platform has undergone significant changes. Feel old yet?

Just a recap on the multiple changes in the past five years. In 2016, the platform introduced in-feed shopping and switched from a chronological feed to an algorithm. In 2017, the app introduced recommended posts. And in the years since, Instagram has become more about e-commerce and less about sharing photos with your friends. Today, our feeds are inundated with sponsored content and recommended posts — and a photo disappears as soon as you like it, making it hard to see what your friends are posting. The updates to Instagram are so unpopular that Instagram announced it is working on bringing back the option to have a chronological feed.

Authentic, in August 2020, and they’re planning to “double down” on the video product in 2022. Instagram wants to do everything; short-form video content, shopping, lived and Snapchat-inspired stories— but it’s losing sight of why young users liked it in the first place: It’s a destination to curate your own aesthetic and, therefore, your identity. The influx of photo dumps and the desperate attempts by Instagram to stay cool are the writing on the wall that the platform is on its way out as a social media platform for young people. It’s no longer a collage of lifestyle highlights and aesthetic inspo, but trying too hard to be the cool kid that does everything.

Furthemore, it is only the app features that have changed but the tone of the app, arguably influenced by TikTok. Three years ago the goal was a perfectly curated grid filtered to death. Now, photo dumps claiming users are “too cool and having too much fun to stop and take a perfect picture”.

At first, TikTokkers were encouraging their followers to post casually. The idea was well-intended. On the surface, it urges people to be more real on Instagram and to post photos from their daily life, but like anything on social media, it’s still a performance. In the past couple of weeks, TikTok users have started voicing their concerns about the trend. In one video, @cozyakili explains how posting casually on Instagram is more curated than people think. He likens casual Instagram to reality television because they are both hyperreal performances. Posting casual photo dumps on Instagram makes your life an aesthetic even more than before.

At this point, we are questioning when the time will come when we stop opening the app all together? Where are we to go? What effect will this have on photography with younger apps favouring video formats almost solely? Time will only tell.

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