End of a chronological era for Instagram

Copy of Custom – Untitled Design

Ten sentences, five paragraphs – that’s all it’s taken for Instagram to roundly piss off its community with the news that a curated, algorithm-controlled newsfeed is imminent.

The few lines of doom were posted on Instagram’s blog on Tuesday and have sparked quite a reaction already, with petitions against the change, lots of blog posts like this one and lots of negative comments across social media.

In a way, I’m not surprised this move has come – Instagram is, after all, owned by Facebook and Facebook’s algorithm is all-seeing, all-consuming and all-content-serving.

However, I am deeply disappointed and saddened by this move – anyone who has seen some of my previous posts or heard me speak at conferences will know that I love Instagram, but the introduction of these ‘moments you care about’ could pose a real challenge to my relationship with the photo-sharing platform.

The thing I love most about Instagram is the community – whether that’s the online and offline friends I’ve made, the instameets I’ve attended or the fact Instagram has, until now, remained one of the few networks where all posts are equal and all have an equal chance of being seen.

With a chronological timeline you can see everything from the people you follow, all content gets the same weighting and you can be confident that you’ve seen everything.

I loved how Instagram stood firm with its chronological timeline while all around them were losing theirs – it was another reason that Instagram was different, another reason that Instagram was special.

Why, oh why is there such a rush for our social networks to copy each other? When I’m giving social media training, I always advise people to get to their networks, understand their nuances and differences and use them properly. At this rate, we’re heading towards one anonymous space (probably with a blue logo) where an algorithm decides what we want to see – not very ‘social’, for social media, is it?

Instagram’s blog claims they are doing this to show us the moments they believe we will care about the most. Well, how about this…I care about everything that every account I follow posts. The current timeline allows me to stay up to date with all of them, something this algorithm is likely to destroy.

I’ve also not seen a single word of praise for this change, but no sign that Instagram will back down – for a network whose beauty is in its sense of community – and who, by the power of their own hashtag, is all about putting #communityfirst – they are coming across as cold and not part of their own family…everywhere you look following this news the message is clear – Instagram, we don’t want this.

In the penultimate sentence of this crushing post, Instagram does state it will ‘listen to [our] feedback along the way’. While this could seem like an opportunity for the community to take a stand and stop this happening, I have my doubts. Read that last part again – ‘along the way’ – Instagram hasn’t just programmed the sat-nav to drive them to Algorithm-ville…they’re already on their way there doing 70 on the motorway.

I also worry about what will come next once Instagram is done with this change. Will we have to pay to boost our posts? Will there be even more adverts in my stream, even though they are absolutely not the ‘moments I care about most’?

Ten sentences, five paragraphs – a shockingly quick way to signal the death of something wonderful.

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