If we are to believe recent public opinion, the once-reigning social media platform is dead – or at least on its way there.
Its evolution from a simple photo-sharing platform to arguably the poster child of capitalism has been weighing on plenty of its users, with many of them finding that their experience on it has changed for the worse. Some cited the lack of engagement they were getting due to the new, hard-to-crack algorithm disheartening, while others simply said they missed when the platform was less about showing off and more about sharing whatever they wanted.
Most also pointed to the new addition of Reels to the app as a main catalyst for Instagram’s change, saying that it was clear Instagram had become greedy, wanting to encapsulate audiences of all forms of content. Instagram’s move to include Reels is one that was arguably made to counter the rising popularity of rival platform TikTok, whose entrance into the market pushed public attention squarely to the short form video format. This tactic isn’t new for Instagram at all – it had already once successfully wrested attention from social media Snapchat and its (then) novel idea of ‘disappearing messages’, repurposing the technology into their Stories function, which are now seen as a key part of Instagram culture.
The addition of Reels to the platform included more advanced video editing functions and the support of an additional media format – sounds. Meant to support the creation of Reels by serving as a building block on which videos could more easily be made. This supposedly small change has birthed a larger one within the platform and the way users behave on it – sounds have now become a big part of ‘trends’ in the Reels department, with many songs prompting the creation of certain types and formats of Reels – trends that dictate everything from the content of said Reel to even the editing style it employs.
Of all the sounds I’ve encountered thus far while trawling on Instagram, one particular one has stood out to me – a simple jingle consisting of a feminine voice singing “Everything is content, everything is content. Don’t forget to film it, don’t forget to film it.” On a similar note is the trend going around of creators posting a single picture in the form of a Reel, with text superimposed on the foreground saying – “People only pay attention to Reels these days, so here’s a picture in the form of a Reel.”
Though Instagram’s segue into the short form video market has seemed successful by all means, I can’t help agreeing with the view that it has actually been detrimental to its image as a whole. “Miss when Instagram was just pictures” has grown to be a relatively common public sentiment, but it’s clear that the true change it has undergone is much deeper than that.
Its move to support as many forms of media as possible, as well as their move towards commerce through the introduction of the Shopping function, places Instagram far away from their previous place as a simple photo-sharer into a thorny world filled with advertisements and unwelcome commercial messages, alienating their users into feeling that they can no longer relate with any of the content available on the platform. Though all the changes the platform underwent was supposed to make content more enjoyable for the consumer, promising variety as well as an easier way of finding people that shared niche interests through a sharper algorithm, Instagram has failed to deliver on their promises to their traditional user base, choosing instead to expand on the commercial side of things.
Of course, this is not news to anyone – but when will the next Instagram appear?