Amanda Perelli and Sydney Bradley
“It’s really bizarre to me that everyone’s gone to this place in their mind that content has to be so curated,” Bruening told us. “So curated that you can’t show what you’re cooking for dinner, because that’s not cool enough.”
Frustrated with the state of the platform, Bruening launched the “Make Instagram Instagram Again” crusade in 2022. Using her handle, Illumitati, the campaign pushed back against the platform’s changes that prioritized algorithmically suggested videos over a chronological feed of accounts you follow. Thousands of users, and even some celebrities like Kylie Jenner, got on board. Soon enough, Instagram scaled back its aggressive recommendations push.
At the core of Bruening’s frustration was a sea change that had swept across Instagram: Instead of everyday photos from regular people, the platform had become a curated platform where even seemingly authentic content was meticulously planned.
The fatigue average people feel when it comes to posting on Instagram has pushed more users toward private posting and closed groups. Features like Close Friends (a private list of people who have access to your content) and the rise of group chats give people a safer place to share memes, gossip with friends, and even meet new people. It’s less pressure — they won’t mind if I didn’t blur out the pimple on my forehead — but this side of Instagram hardly fulfills the original free-flowing promise of social media.
«There’s this very weird, unspoken social standard of what’s allowed on Instagram,» Bruening said. «I know that for my age group, it’s like you give up on it entirely, and then you just post only to your Close Friends or alternate accounts. There’s this sublayer of Instagram that’s much more true to what the app once was, but it is just not viewable to the general public.»
Bruening isn’t alone. Despite the efforts of big incumbents and buzzy new apps, the old ways of posting are gone, and people don’t want to go back. Even Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, admitted that users have moved on to direct messages, closed communities, and group chats. Regularly posting content is now largely confined to content creators and influencers, while non-creators are moving toward sharing bits of their lives behind private accounts.
As more people have been confronted with the consequences of constant sharing, social media has become less social and more media — a constellation of entertainment platforms where users consume content but rarely, if ever, create their own. Influencers, marketers, average users, and even social-media executives agree: Social media, as we once knew it, is dead.
Social media to social media
No app better defines the changing nature of social media than Instagram. The app started as a digital scrapbook — a place to keep up with real-world connections, close friends, and family. While other networks had more users (Facebook) or generated more news (Twitter), Instagram seemed to define the ideal form of this era of social media. Instagram became a verb, an aesthetic, and a generational signifier.
«You sort of end up in this world that is beautiful and you are following your friends and following your family,» Jeffrey Gerson, a former Instagram product-marketing manager, told us about the early days of the app. «How often do you get the chance to see the world through your second cousin’s eyes?»
But as Instagram grew up, things began to change. Sarah Frier, a Bloomberg tech reporter and editor and the author of «No Filter,» which chronicles the history of Instagram, wrote that users learned curation from the introduction of photo filters. After filters and editing tools came hashtags, an explore tab, and the option to privately save people’s photos. What was once an enjoyable pastime became a minefield of considerations: What should I say in the caption? Are emojis still cool? Is it better to just stay mysterious and let the images speak for themselves? This running list of questions made the posting process overwhelming, robbing Instagram of its early magic.
As posting became higher stakes, new features also pushed users away from the original mission: Instagram began prioritizing video, then livestreaming, and then shopping. Each change muddled the purpose of Instagram even further. Everyday people were still posting to the platform, but more and more of the content became professionalized. Bloggers brought their audience, editing skills, and expensive cameras to the platform. Influencers started to snag brand deals, and fashion bloggers made the platform into a career. Instagram encouraged the rise of influencers with programs that helped creators understand best practices, gave them technical support, and set up discreet payment programs.
Seguir leyendo: Business Insider