Instagram recently announced it would make changes to its algorithm to show users posts they “care about most” first (although have since backtracked until further notice). In this opinion piece, digital content writer for Optus Lucy Soares-Smith tells us how she really feels about the proposal.
In the famous words of Bert Lance, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That’s the sentiment echoed by two of Instagram’s darlings, Kendall and Kylie Jenner, after the photo-sharing app announced it was to begin rolling out a new algorithmic feed.
Instead of photos appearing in a chronological order, Instagram would push the posts it thinks you want to see most to the top of your feed, based on what you’ve liked or commented on in the past.
Last week, the social network was forced to backtrack after receiving considerable backlash and published a tweet saying they wouldn’t be rolling out any changes just yet. If you ask me, that’s a smart move because the algorithm would suck and this is why.
My old boss is terrified that robots are going to take over the world and kill us all. Should he be worried? Maybe. Robots and computers have learnt how to walk, talk and even speak like humans but the simple fact remains, they cannot *think* like humans (yet).
With this in mind, how can an app truly tell what I want to see on my Instagram feed based just on past photos I’ve liked or commented on? I follow plenty of people whose photos I enjoy looking at but rarely double tap or leave a comment. Does that mean I don’t want to see them? No.
Likewise, there are the cringe-worthy couply photos my friends put up that I feel I have to like, for fear of looking mean or unsupportive. Do I want to see a post-coital bedroom selfie from my mate? Umm not really. Have I liked this type of photo in the past? Yes.
So riddle me this Instagram, how can you really tell what photos I want to see at the top of my feed? You can’t – because you’re an app.
On the date the algorithm was supposed to drop, my Insta feed was a flurry with anxious pleas from celebs, brands and bloggers begging followers to turn on their notifications in order to continue seeing their content.
People were worried that Instagram would become like Facebook, where organic reach is nil and the only way your content will be seen is if you pay for it to be.
I guess enforcing an algorithm is Instagram’s way of monetising the platform and ensuring big brands now pay for the free marketing they’ve been enjoying up until now. All this does however, is force out mid-level content creators like bloggers, vloggers and photographers who create beautiful content but can’t afford to pay for it to be seen.
Facebook has proved that monetising social media doesn’t make for better content and that algorithms just don’t work.
By enforcing a similar system, Instagram would completely lose its “insta” appeal and go the way of the dinosaur (that’s Facebook FYI); filled with annoying, irrelevant ads and posts from people I was “friends” with in middle school and whose status I maybe liked once (when drunk) but now they keep appearing in my feed.
Finally, there’s simply no need for an algorithm on Instagram because the follow button already allows me to choose what I want to see. If I like an account, I follow it. If I decide later on that I’m not that interested in their content any more, I unfollow.
I don’t need to turn on a hundred push notifications because I’ve already chosen what content I want to see by following that person’s account. And while we’re on the subject of push notifications – I don’t even have them on for my own photos, let alone turning them on for every Tom, Dick and Harry Styles I follow.
For now it seems Instagram is listening to the masses so we’re not going to see that algorithmic feed just yet. I’m hopeful they understand that chronology is the last cornerstone of the little guy but I won’t hold my breath and believe things will stay that way forever.
Lucy Soares-Smith (@lucy_vss) is a self-confessed Instagram addict and digital content writer at @Optus.