This article may contain the personal views and opinions of the author.
A few years ago, I decided to leave Facebook and move to Instagram as my primary social network. As it turns out, you can’t escape Facebook’s infectivity so easily, nor can Instagram itself, since Zuckerberg’s network bought it in 2012.
The reason I preferred Instagram is that unlike Facebook, it’s not full of unknown people where it drives you to keep in touch just because you can have a mutual friend of a friend. Moreover, the app itself was nowhere near as bloated as Facebook and its mandatory partner Messenger app. It was just photos and text, and only people my age share my interests. It also has simple communication, not a separate application. Nice! But…
Instagram is becoming less about sharing photos and more about reels and shopping
Of course, in recent years, it has become clear that Facebook is not just letting Instagram be Instagram, but starting to push its own “values” into it and swell it with a marketplace and more aggressive sponsored content. Everyone encourages brands to pay for campaigns and for you to buy things through their advertised messages.
But especially last year, Instagram got TikTok competitor’s reels feature, which Facebook now wants to push so hard for Instagram users, that the “Reels” button recently replaced the “Feed Message” button in the middle of the app’s navigation bar. Just so that users are tricked into clicking on it when they want to post something until they finally find that the changes were made quietly.
Encouraging users to look at reels and shopping, advertise messages, and create their own store has now apparently become a priority for Instagram in terms of the simple social perspective that once made it so great.
Until recently, the two highlighted buttons were previously ‘Send Feed’ and ‘Notifications’. It makes sense, right? Well, now they are ‘Reels’ and ‘Trade’. Apparently sending friends or keeping in touch with friends is no longer a task on Instagram.
We can argue that the Reels feature was inevitable at a time when short video content is so popular, but the way it was emphasized to prioritize Instagram’s original purpose wasn’t quite a nice way to treat users.
The privacy of the Instagram app is now as bad as Facebook Messenger
We looked at the most recently popular communications applications and categorized them according to privacy. That’s what we used for AppleA new “app privacy” section in the App Store designed to help users understand how much of their private information is in each app.
While Instagram wasn’t on our list because it’s far from the most popular apps people use to communicate, Facebook Messenger was, and it’s about as bad as you expected. Facebook takes and links to you private information such as your location, financial information, search history, browsing history, contact information and more.
And of course, when Instagram became a Facebook-owned company in 2012, the Instagram app has also “evolved” to take as much private information from you as possible. Here is the “app privacy” section of Instagram as it appears in the App Store:
In the beginning, Instagram was heavily funded by venture capitalists and investors, and it relied on simple image-based advertising. It was far from the shopping-driven privacy protection it has now come from under Facebook.
Where are we going from here?
What does the future of Instagram mean? Well, Facebook is trying to make Instagram a TikTok competitor really tough, but if we look at the App Store’s most popular free apps, TikTok is always close to the top 10, while Instagram is far away. So this doesn’t work so far, even if Facebook would force Reels for Instagram users by making “Reels” the new main button in the navigation bar.
Continuing this path, you may be attracting a small minority of young people who want to avoid TikTok while deporting existing Instagram users like me. Overall, Instagram may gradually lose its identity and its core users. Pushing the shopping angle even harder can also negatively impact Instagram’s core audience, even if it attracts a few customers here and here. Let’s acknowledge the fact that none of us go to Instagram to buy shoes.
Fast story time.
I’ve worked for a large music distribution service that I don’t name that tried to do too much. Although its parent company failed financially, it pushed the service to start streaming and organizing events, which was not its expertise. After all, the parent company went bankrupt, and the music distribution service returned to the basics – things where it was best and nothing else. And thanks to that, it survived financially, albeit hardly. Now Instagram is following a similar path that he is being horribly mismanaged to do more than it should, like Facebook. And while Facebook can act as an intruder for all stores, only time will tell how this will go on Instagram. But hopefully it also goes back to the basics, or at least facilitates new features and makes photo sharing the most important thing again.
What is your favorite social media app and how did it win you over? If it’s Instagram, how do you feel about its recent changes?