It is quite fascinating to follow the last few weeks' development around Instagram. First of all, the idea that Instagram supposedly attributed value to society, but perhaps most; the nonsense being created by users.
Instagram started 2010. By the end of day one, they had some 20,000 users, mostly young girls. Since then Instagram has served as a kind of firebox for what can only be labelled as an extremely successful player in social media.
That was the idea for a few years, as Instagram fine-combed the internet for on users. And they did well. All of a sudden, most everyone you know was on Instagram. More importantly, people liked Instagram, where they could easily publish pictures and small videos and share them with everything and everyone. Especially since everything was presented in the order it was posted. No algorithm! The only downside was Instagram not allowing users to post links in posts. But hey, we learned to live with that, too.
However, there was and still is a point to that non-existing possibility to link outside Instagram. Instagram doesn't want you to leave.
For a while, Instagram was almost a self-playing piano for those who had latched on early. Swedish photographer Christoffer Collin, known as @wisslaren on Instagram, is one of those happy few who can live the right life; getting paid to travel the globe taking amazing pictures and posting them on Insta. Why? Because his images generated likes and thus were exposed on Instagram's epicentre - the magnifying glass tab - after which they created more likes and, well, fertilised themselves so to say. Well deserved, I should add, as Collin is a very, very talented and consistent photographer. So it rolled. All this, while most users posted selfies and lunches and did not care about the Instagram business model.
However, behind the scenes, Instagram sure was.
So, a few years ago, in the fall of 2015, a few years after Facebook purchased the service, the opportunity to advertise on Instagram was released. After that, the chance to create a company account. Then, the ability to switch between up to five accounts in the app. Then, a warning that Instagram was to introduce an algorithm that would show "what was most interesting" for you. Then came the advertisements. Finally, a call to all content creators on Instagram to label sponsorships for what they were - sponsorships.
This was when people maybe should have started thinking. Perhaps on the idea that Instagram was better at "showing what is most interesting to you" than your actual you. I call bullshit, because there is no AI in the world that can decide better than me what I'm interested in.
Either way, people freaked out, and for a few weeks, Instagram filled up with posts from users asking their followers not to forget them by turning on announcements. So people did. After all, we tend to do as we are told. Then, nothing happened.
Then, like six months ago, the whispers came to everyone with a business account - I have one, @johnguthedphotography - that "this post does 95% better than recent posts, why not spend $ 15 on marketing it? ".
Do you see where this is going?
Now people are going crazy, talking about "instageddon" and "shadowbans" and whatnot, assuming that the service as we know it is over, effectively exposing that deeply human self-awareness (or lack thereof) that not everyone is super interested in what you have just published. Bullshit, that too.
However, you whisper to yourself, why did this happen? It's easy.
Instagram - and Facebook - wants to make money. Which is not unreasonable. However, what is unreasonable is people being upset that their flows are not theirs to manage any longer. Look at it like this - Instagram has just begun capitalising on seven years of investments, by categorising the user-generated accounts to make their content stand out between the sponsored posts. Or, let's put it this way, did you think Instagram was for you, and not the advertisers?
So what are we doing now?
What we always have done. We either put up with and adapt to the changes until the next firebox pops up and tricks us into their network, using the same model; Invest in users first, capitalise on them later.
I, for one, have moved focus to EyeEm, where I have far more followers than on Instagram, closer to 21.000 , all of which are into in photography. Not what I ate for lunch, or what "best friend" I ate it with. And I'm probably never going to see ads there. Which is nice.