Throughout 2022 I’ve had several dinner party conversations with Gen Z and millennials alike as to whether it is the end of Instagram’s era. I think rather than analyse Instagram’s declining popularity in a black or white ‘is it popular or not format’ it would be productive to consider how our relationship with social media has changed.
Five years ago – even three years ago – many of us took to social media to check out what our friends were doing. You’d be able to see what they got for Christmas morning gifts on their Story and what their outfit was for the Kendrick Lamar tour at the o2 on their Feed. Sure, you’d also get celebrities’ content but you’d only see the content of the select few who purposely followed.
Nowadays, however, we’ve noticed a switch. Even personally, I’ve noticed that I communicate with the friends I want to communicate with via Whatsapp and DM and instead my Feed is filled with inspirational pictures and content by content creators who fit my particular algorithm. So perhaps it’s best to consider that Instagram isn’t necessarily dying, it’s just that its format isn’t best adapted to the way our consumption of social media has changed.
TikTok better formulates this. The ‘For You’ Page delivers curated content from content curators tailored for you, the ‘Following’ Page clearly delivers content from people you specifically follow and then the Friends page brings you content from your friends. This also makes social media communication more enjoyable for those who don’t enjoy creating content. They can rely on reposting and DMs to stay active.
The past year has seen mass discount with Instagram’s attempts to keep up with how we use social media. Social media royalty Kylie Jenner expressed her discontent with it, sharing a story on Instagram that it should stop “trying to be TikTok” because she just wants to see photos of her friends. The last time she took aim at a social media company, it wiped AU$1.4bn off the value of Snapchat. Ouch.
Adam Mosseri, businessman and head of Instagram agreed that Instagram’s new feed sucked and its recommendations might be bad and then told us it wasn’t going to get better. Instagram no longer cares about photos.
So the changes suck, and Mosseri is letting us all know that Facebook doesn’t care that the changes suck. It’s just trying to squeeze as much growth-hacky engagement out of its legacy platforms as it can. High-quality photos — the original value proposition of Instagram — matter less than scammy ads. Seems like Instagram is, in some important sense, over.
What’s worse is that Instagram is desperate, and no one likes you when you’re desperate. The question is, mostly, where will we go? BeReal is more fun, but it loads slowly and can feel repetitive. Twitter isn’t really meant for candid visuals. Can someone just build a simple photo app that blends the candid with the curated and let us know where it is?