Instagram is Facebook now
Users are saying a recent algorithm update has officially ruined the app.
Embedded is your essential guide to what’s good on the internet, from Kate Lindsay and Nick Catucci.🧩
My kingdom for a chronological Instagram—Kate
For all its ups and downs, Instagram has been my most consistent social media relationship. I first started using the app in earnest my final year of college, and look back wistfully at how I artfully chronicled my life for the subsequent six years, weaving together pictures of concerts and coffee shops with mirror selfies and delicious meals into an effortless pointillist tableau of my 20s. I still post on the app occasionally, but basically left a little over a month ago in favor of a personal newsletter, where I feel less pressure to be constantly documenting my consciousness. It appears I got out just in time, because sometime last week, the app became completely unrecognizable.
Instagram’s push of their TikTok-like feature Reels has been increasing in intensity ever since its launch, but even though Reels have started appearing unprompted on my feed, that’s not actually what bothers me. At least the Reels are from people who I follow, so I’m still consuming content I actually opted into. It’s a different algorithm update that’s converted my feed from “pleasing mix of content from friends and aesthetic creators” into “jarring, inconsistent grab bag of content I follow and wildly misplaced content Instagram erroneously thinks I’ll enjoy.”
Here’s an example:
Because I like and follow a contestant from the latest season of Love Island, Instagram decided to interrupt my feed with a picture from a UK retailer called B&M (whose top trending product is currently a gin bottle shaped like a high heel). The post it recommends is a blocky, boomer-esque text meme about a man named “Jeff Snowball” that I’d like to see fact checked. It is, put plainly, ugly and out-of-place and I don’t want it on my feed.
Not all of the suggested posts are that bad, but they do appear every eight or so images—not including the handful of sponsored posts that show up in between. I’m getting almost as much content that I didn’t choose to see as content I did, and that is not Instagram. That’s Facebook.
Instagram and Facebook are of course both part of the same company, Meta, and so I guess it was inevitable that this day would come. As Casey Lewis of After School recently told me, “I feel like [how] when I was just out of college I had to be on Facebook because that's sort of where people's birthdays were, Instagram is sort of that for [Gen Z], where they don't really want to.” And Instagram knows this. Which is I guess why I’m confused that they’ve opted for the same strategy that made Facebook a boomer breeding ground.
Mostly, it’s weird to recognize that my time on Instagram is coming to an end, and that what I’m looking at now will be an internet artifact I stumble upon years from now. Or worse, never recover at all.