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From its beginnings as a small photo-sharing platform, Instagram has not only broadened its horizons as a platform, but it has also surpassed 500 million active users daily, according to Earthweb. In response to Instagram’s remarkable growth, Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, has made massive changes to the platform’s algorithm and moderation. These changes have left creators upset and the community in disarray. Photographer and model Tati Bruening started a movement called “Make Instagram Instagram Again” where she received attention from megastars like Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner. This article will be covering events that led to backlash, petitions, and even a protest called the “Instarrection.”
Foreshadowing of the Movement
A culmination of things started the make Instagram Instagram again movement, but the dissatisfaction between Instagram creators and the company has been long-term. The company behind Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp is Meta, formerly known as Facebook, owned by Mark Zuckerberg.
According to Vox, in 2015, Facebook foreshadowed the changes that would soon come to Instagram: Facebook wanted to focus on becoming a video platform. Since Meta also owned Instagram, these things were bound to happen on Instagram too.
When TikTok surged in popularity in 2019 and 2020, this was Instagram’s chance to push for videos on the platform. In order to gain popularity, Instagram wanted to be a part of the video-sharing trend that TikTok revived after Vine shut down in October of 2016 (TikTok was released a month before Vine died). In August 2020, Instagram hopped on the hype train and announced Instagram Reels, a new tab on Instagram for short clips.
Reels were brought with mixed reviews, many claiming that the platform was mimicking TikTok. Rebecca Jennings, a Senior Correspondent at VOX, called Reels a “rather shameless TikTok copycat” that’s just like every other video-sharing platform and keeps getting shoved in users’ faces. In February, Meta stated that Reels were seeing success, but Jennings questioned whether it was because users are engaging with Reels on their own free will or if they’re being forced to see them.
These changes to the algorithm made it difficult to use Instagram for its original (and authentic) purpose: posting photos. The forced transition to videos upset the community because growing as a creator became increasingly difficult. Instagram’s preexisting algorithm forced creators to fight for a spot on a user’s Feed, and if creators were unwilling to conform to these unwanted changes, their reach would be reduced to nothing. Likewise, users were unable to see content from their favorite creators, making their Feeds not feel like their own.
The new Instagram update really understood what I was looking for:
– none of my friends’ content
– reposted TikToks from meme accounts I do not follow
– 100x more ads
– everything played at full volume against my will
— Meg Watson (@msmegwatson) July 14, 2022
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The Big Boom
With all this pent-up frustration, the community’s breaking point was inevitable. This is where Tati’s post comes in.
Tati’s petition has accumulated over 300k signatures, less than 200k away from the petition’s goal of 500k. The petition hopes for changes in Feeds like chronological timelines (which is now a feature), an algorithm that favors photos over videos (aka, not be TikTok), and a platform that listens to the community and serves them.
Shortly after Tati’s post went viral, protestors rallied outside of Instagram’s office in New York City on July 23rd. According to BuzzFeed news, Ana, the user behind Instagram’s satirical @neoliberalhell, said that “we want to survive as creators and influencers. Having the income that I make through having my platform is what keeps me afloat and gives me the potential to be an autonomous artist who isn’t stuck in corporate hell.” Other protestors have stated that Instagram’s moderation policy needs to be reworked as it promotes hate and censors marginalized groups.
Anjelica, the user behind the meme account @hornymermaid and Instarrection’s co-organizer, also expressed her frustrations over Instagram. Anjelica has made 10 accounts over the years, but in 2021, she was banned for sexual solicitation after posting a clothed picture of herself. Her caption read “link in bio” followed by links to her other profiles, including her OnlyFans page. Anjelica’s account was unbanned after discussing the matter with Instagram, but she still demands that the platform actively communicates with users.
Anjelica also recognized the hardship of being a woman on social media: “Revealing your face as a woman online will get you so much hate. Angry incels will mass report all our stuff, then it gets taken down or suppressed by the algorithm.”
A Meta spokesperson responded that Instagram’s goal is to be transparent and make rules and policies clear and concise. The spokesperson also encouraged accounts to appeal bans “when they think something’s not right.” While many spokespeople and even Adam Mosseri myself stated that niche creators are pivotal to Instagram’s community, Anjelica believes that Instagram only supports mainstream creators.
“Mass reporting needs to be investigated thoroughly with account deletion as a last resort.” — Anjelica (@hornymermaid69)
This is a huge point for many of the creators here today who post political and provocative memes
— kelsey weekman (@kelsaywhat) July 23, 2022
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Adam Mosseri Responds
In the heat of the movement, Adam Mosseri responded to the backlash with a video on Twitter. Mosseri states that Instagram would continue to support photos as they’re “a part of our heritage” but he also believes that the platform will shift over to video whether or not Instagram does anything about it.
Mosseri says he’s noticed a trend of users engaging with videos over photos, but it’s unclear if the barrage of videos on Feeds is the cause of the shift. Regardless, many creators have expressed concerns over Reels because many of them tend to be recycled clips on TikTok, and that doesn’t promote original content on the platform at all.
Later in the video, Mosseri discusses a new feature called Recommendations. He states that recommendations are posts in your Feed from accounts you don’t follow but the algorithm believes you might be interested in. If you don’t like something that’s recommended to you, you can X out the post or silence recommended posts on your Feed for a month. Mosseri believes that Recommendations are the best way “to help creators reach more people.”
👋🏼 There’s a lot happening on Instagram right now.
I wanted to address a few things we’re working on to make Instagram a better experience.
Please let me know what you think 👇🏼 pic.twitter.com/x1If5qrCyS
— Adam Mosseri (@mosseri) July 26, 2022
To no surprise, Mosseri’s post didn’t please the community at all. Being told nicely that Instagram will continue to push videos has been the breaking point for many creators, hence why the Make Instagram Instagram Again is more prominent than ever.
John Cullen (@nellucnhoj), a popular Webcomic artist, responded by saying, “My posts now reach a tiny percentage of my followers, resulting in not just a massive reduction in my likes, views, etc., but also a huge loss in followers” due to Instagram’s shift to videos. Chriss Teigen (@chrissyteigen), a popular model with nearly 40 million followers, had one of her Twitter posts go viral in response to Mosseri’s post.
we don’t wanna make videos Adam lol
— chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) July 26, 2022
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The gist is that creators are unhappy. Very unhappy. Smaller creators feel forced to conform to Instagram’s new norm of posting videos even if they could do that on any other video-sharing platform. The algorithm makes Feeds cluttered with content that users didn’t ask for, from recycled TikToks to unwanted ads that never seem to go away no matter how many times you tell Instagram to stop. Recommendations flood user’s Feeds and prevents them from seeing their favorite creators.
Most importantly, creators feel like Instagram just isn’t Instagram anymore – it feels generic and unoriginal. Everything that makes other platforms special is implemented on Instagram in a way that takes away the original premise of the platform and turns it into a site that limits creativity. Creators feel trapped, unable to post what they want in fear that the algorithm will limit their reach and inhibit their growth. There needs to be massive change and outreach from Instagram’s community if Meta wants to encourage creators to use their platform.