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As ‘Instagram panic’ took over the world this weekend, Bethan Jones explores what changes are being proposed, the backlash, and if we should even care anyway.  

If you were like me, spending Easter weekend with family and friends capturing the perfect ‘Instagrammable’ moment, you’ll be aware of the world entering a state of panic over the upcoming changes to the social media app.

Aside from overdosing on chocolate, the Easter weekend also saw thousands of Instagram users begging their followers to turn on their notifications, as Instagram proposed changes to how our news feeds will be ordered. Following in the footsteps of Facebook and Twitter, Instagram will soon be employing an algorithm that moves posts that it thinks you want to see to the top of your feed, rather than simply ordering them chronologically.

Queue worldwide panic, and our news feeds filled with Instagram users asking us to turn on their notifications.

For avid Instagram users, this means they will receive a notification every time their favourite celebrity, vlogger, blogger, style icon, colleague, friend and so on, uploads a new post. Annoying? Yes, we think so too.

So, why the change? Well, according to Instagram, the current timeline order could leave users missing out “on the posts you might care most about”. Although what we care most about changes from person to person, Instagram has stated that “people miss on average 70% of their feeds”. So the algorithm is soon to be ordered based on the likelihood that you’ll be interested in the post.

Instagram is pretty good at guessing what people want to see, as can be seen by clicking on the ‘explore’ section. But aside from manually turning on notifications, it’s unclear how Instagram will specifically filter the posts in your news feed, for you.

What is clear is that we’re all creatures of habit, as thousands of Instagram users – some very high profile – spoke out about the changes negatively.

In reality, it’s not all bad though. For brands, this could be a great opportunity to have your followers subscribed to your posts, seeing more of your content and messages than ever before (especially if we’re only seeing 70% of the posts on our feed!).

It’s easy to understand why brands might be worried about the changes though, as so many pay out hundreds even thousands of pounds to influencers to promote a product on their page. Changes to the news feed could very easily affect how many people the post will reach, potentially affecting how much money advertisers can ask for. On the other hand if the algorithm categorises the most popular posts of the hundreds of influencers so many of us follow – the likes of Zoella and Tanya Burr with millions of followers – it’s unlikely these posts will end up at the bottom of our timeline fast.

Needless to say, the desperate efforts of Instagram users to get their followers to turn on notifications were in vain, as Instagram announced that the changes won’t be put into effort for some months to come as they trial the idea and listen to feedback.

By implementing the changes to the social media site, aren’t Instagram removing the instantaneousness of the images that is the basis of its success?  And by picking the posts they believe we’d most like to see, aren’t we becoming subject to a news feed that is chosen for us by Instagram, and therefore not true to our own ‘user experience’?

 

Whatever the case, it’s hard to imagine Instagram’s 300m users dropping significantly any time soon.