“Is Instagram really sucking right now?” It’s a question my sister first asked me a month ago, and it soon became a question all over the internet, ending up in the headlines this week when the issue came to our attention. Kylie Jenner’s own social media account. “KEEP INSTAGRAM INSTAGRAM,” the billionaire urged in an all-caps message on the app. “I just want to see cute pictures of my friends,” she added in the caption.
The app, which is almost completely empty, is consumed by videos, sponsored ads, and “tagged posts” by unheard of accounts. Although these are compiled by algorithms set for each user, the things that filter my feed are random: endless blonde women preparing vegan salads, mammals acting crazy, housing scandals I could never afford in cities I had never visited. Those who are looking to see the “beautiful pictures” of their friends are trying their best to go through this type of junk.
Of course, this change is by design, a push by Instagram to organize videos and make them more like its most popular competitor, TikTok. Jenner and her fellow critics are right: Instagram sucks right now.
But then again, Instagram has sucked before. For the first months of its existence, in 2010, it was called Burbn, and offered various confusing services: people could “log in” to certain places, and get points for being with other users, post photos. they themselves do so. It didn’t take long for the app developers to see that most people were just using Burbn to post photos, so they adapted to that (with some filters to make those photos look better) and changed the Its name is synonymous with “speed camera” and “telephone.” I created an account at the tail end of college, and my first post was a side view of a naughty gingerbread house that I decorated. I don’t understand how to change the shape (or make a gingerbread house, apparently) and I haven’t really bothered to try. It reads exactly the same. Although it is more than fair.
The old days were when Instagram was good: budgets were low, engagement was low. I posted pictures of my friends, my cats, and some of the most beautiful walks. I said mean things like “Miss you!” and “Cute!” in other such posts by my dear friends. Especially since Facebook has become home to multi-level marketing campaigns from my high school friends and political commentary from distant relatives, Instagram has become the social media app of choice among my group. He did what he was supposed to do: connect.
But if ever there was a world where a popular app could grow by doing one very simple thing, this isn’t it. It wasn’t long before Instagram was bought by Meta (aka Facebook) for a billion dollars. “Instagram” is a verb. Startups came in to help influencers monetize posts—normal people started selling clothes and jewelry to their friends, and then they followed suit. Then, the algorithm compensates for high cheekbones, flawless skin, and plump lips. The consequences of this are visceral: Instagram has become increasingly toxic, a place not only for selfies and memes, but also where people form relationships with celebrities and feel uncomfortable with their bodies. , consider ads for cheap face masks.
As for me, I started scrolling on the app long before it got too bad. My account is private and I only accept requests from people I know (or “know” as determined by the standards not set by this online world). I’m following some soccer companies to keep up with job postings, and some brands to keep up with sales (how do I know when to pull the trigger on J. Crew?). I have a personal trainer, because I do her workouts (and, OK, she has a cute baby). I have a small system that helps me stay calm and in control: I don’t keep the app on my phone screen, so I access it as a smart option when waiting for something. .
I’m not an internet savvy person at all, and I see value in social media, professionally and personally. But I know for myself, the social media we live in now is just fun in the smallest of ways. I had to stop following Emily Ratajkowski, for example, because hearing about her diamond belly and private beach vacations while I was standing in line at Walgreens to pick up acne medication wasn’t bad enough. my thoughts. This has nothing to do with @EmRata (who I know is just beautiful) and everything to do with me, but still. When I’m really depressed, it’s hard for me to make the effort to be happy for the people I really like.
Even this small amount of input—just a few minutes a week scrolling down the feed and tapping friends’ comments—is enough to know which of them is engaged and buying a home; who’s having a baby and who’s launching a book (and maybe having a baby and launching a book). I know to avoid browsing the app altogether unless I feel like hitting the heart button on their icon. There are many people like this. Selena Gomez is one of the most followed celebrities on Instagram—by definition, one of the most sought after—and for years it’s been said that the app’s popularity drove them all he said online: “I’m tired of seeing other people’s lives. After that decision, it’s still freedom.” (Apparently, he has a team that provides updates covering his grid).
Who owns the app, now? Kylie Jenner herself may be annoyed by the new user experience, but she has a much simpler reason for wanting the app to be “beautiful” photos. She and her sisters have been using the platform for a long time to sell their products and photos (which, of course, are other products). Their inability to manage the new short-form videos popularized by Instagram threatens their influence. But that influence can still get them what they want: In the days after Jenner’s announcement, the company’s stock dropped 3 percent.
In a non-verbal video, the head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, told the company to be “honest” with users. But the worst version of the app won before. This may be the time for users to cancel their loyalty to Instagram, instead.