Sunday, April 21, 2024

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Instagram won’t ever be Instagram again

Because it wants to be TikTok.

It’s hard to remember the last time a trend took off on Facebook or Instagram. This summer’s hits—Pink Sauce, “jiggle jiggle,” and “s/he’s a 10”—all came from Gen Z upstart TikTok. And Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has obviously noticed that Gen Z isn’t interested, leaving it with an audience of elder millennials, Gen Xers, and even boomers.

Cornered by competition, Meta has made a noticeable and irritating shift to video; Instagram has become a congested feed of suggested content and Reels, which were designed to look like TikTok but lack the platform’s uncanny ability to direct the conversation.

Users are increasingly fed up with scrolling through strangers’ body transformation pics and gender reveal videos pushed by Instagram’s algorithms—including two Instagram VIPs. Both Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner shared the same post on their Instagram stories: “MAKE INSTAGRAM INSTAGRAM AGAIN,” it read, followed by “(stop trying to be tiktok i [sic] just want to see photos of my friends.) SINCERELY, EVERYONE.”

It’s no surprise that the message criticizing Instagram for moving away from photos to video is coming from two sisters who’ve built their empire on a foundation of selfies.

Meta can’t ignore that anymore. The day after Jenner’s post (btw, she’s the second-most followed person on Instagram), Instagram head Adam Mosseri sat down and gave an update on the app. He acknowledged that he’s heard “a lot of concerns” and admitted that Instagram might not be doing a great job with recommendations. But he doubled down on the pivot to video.

“I do believe that more and more of Instagram is going to become video over time,” Mosseri said in the video on his Instagram account, where he speaks directly to a camera that zooms in and out several times, reminiscent of—you guessed it—TikTok.

It seems people are going to get a second helping of the force-fed content they hate. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Wednesday that about 15% of content someone sees on their Facebook feed and “a little more than that of their Instagram feed” comes from accounts put there by AI recommendations. “We expect these numbers to more than double by the end of next year,” he said.

But on Thursday, Mosseri slightly altered course, saying Instagram will temporarily cut back on recommended posts in users’ feeds while it reviews the app’s tools for suggesting content.

Instagram’s chronological feed of photos is going the way of Valencia-filtered posts: a thing of the past. It might not only be too late for Instagram to become TikTok, but too late for it to become Instagram again, too.

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