Back in July, Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian shared a graphic on their Instagram Stories with the phrase “Make Instagram Instagram Again.” This post is indicative of a larger movement: users complaining that the app is trying too hard to emulate TikTok. With Instagram heavily pushing one of their newest features, Reels, pictures are getting lost in the shuffle. As you can imagine, due to the massive influence these women have, the post took off. Kylie and Kim gave a voice to what most users were already thinking. The reason we’re primarily on Instagram is to post and see pictures. If we wanted to post and see short form videos, we would go on TikTok. Personally, I’ve never been interested in TikTok, so I find it aggravating that I’m stuck with that type of content anyway. Instagram is trying too hard to become every other app, merely diluting their best and most prominent feature.
Instagram head Adam Mosseri ended up posting a response video to the backlash. In it, he explains how social media content is evolving, and Instagram needs to evolve along with it; short form videos, apparently, are the future of the industry. Mosseri also states that the app will be focusing on their video content: Reels are receiving a “natural” evolution of user engagement, and Instagram needs to lean into the shift. Essentially, Instagram is doubling down on their choice.
To put it lightly, this response did not go over well. James Charles actually commented on the video, the influencer claiming that “[t]he reason there’s so much growth for video is because we are being FORCED to post video. The performance of our photos has tanked more than 90% so creators are switching to video not because they want to, but because we’re being told that it’s the only chance to grow.” The way Mosseri phrases it, the shift to video is inevitable on Instagram’s part, but what’s disheartening is that’s not true. Instagram is making the choice to prioritize Reels on users’ feeds. That choice creates a domino effect: forcing creators to post Reels in order to get engagement. For many creators, their work doesn’t translate well to video. Many artists, who rely on Instagram to make a living, are having trouble reaching an audience: including illustrators, designers, and photographers.
Yes, photographers are having trouble reaching users on Instagram, a photo app.
Instagram stealing ideas from other apps is not new. I’ve been on the app since 2013, so as you can imagine, I’ve seen it go through a lot of changes. Remember when Vine was popular? Instagram decided to add a feature where users can post 15-second videos. Instagram Stories have become a popular part of their app, but it was a directly stolen concept from Snapchat. Speaking of Snapchat, Instagram copied the former’s primary feature, where users can send disappearing pictures. There was also the short-lived IGTV, which was essentially YouTube. And the company’s newest stolen idea blatantly copies BeReal: not only adding a dual camera feature, but implementing “Candid Challenges.”
As an Instagram user, I’m frustrated. I used to love going on the app, but now, it feels draining. In short, I think Instagram is a little boring, and the worst part is it doesn’t have to be. I used to chalk that boredom up to being a longtime user (at this point, it’s been almost a decade), but now I believe it’s because Instagram is an entirely different app. I go on the platform to see what my friends are doing, not to be bombarded with videos from influencers. I can’t blame Instagram entirely for the shift: at the end of the day, it’s a company, and a company’s primary focus is to make money. I just wouldn’t be surprised if this user dissatisfaction becomes a more permanent trend, resulting in the app becoming culturally irrelevant. I’m not sure if Instagram will ever disappear altogether, having too much of a hold on internet culture, but it could have the same fate as Facebook, where it rarely expands outside of a specific demographic.
It would be a satisfying bit of irony: a social media company stealing others’ features to drive business forward, but that choice eventually causes them to lose business.