The Algorithm Is Coming To Ruin Your Instagram Experience, But Only If You Let It

The algorithm that nobody wanted is maybe on its way!! Sometime in the near future Instagram will change its algorithm so that your feed will prioritize posts based on your behavior instead of in the reverse chronological order that we’ve all come to know and love.  As Brian Feldman at The Cut rightfully notes, this is no big deal: basically what you like to look at will show up in your feed, but the stuff that you don’t care for or just stick with out of habit more than anything else will fade into the background.

Your Instagram feed will now reportedly be more like your Facebook feed: a subtly curated stream of information that the algorithm thinks you’re into based on your behavior. For the casual social media user, content to observe and be stingy with the likes, your life will go on.  You’ll still get the same amount of posts, but there’s a chance you’ll miss out on some important stuff, too. Depending on how “important” you consider, say, the infrequently-updated-but-very-crucial fan account you follow for Rihanna’s outfits, this is either alarming or not a big deal at all. Go on a calculated liking spree if you must, to insure that your Instagram feed looks how you want it to look – like a pleasant hodgepodge of your friends, their friends and a couple of micro-famous Bernese Mountain dogs’ accounts that you follow for no reason other than you really, really want one.

News of this change spread like wildfire and though Instagram has already confirmed that the change is not happening today, the freakout is still happening.  And, if you’re a famous person, a semi-famous person or a person trying very hard to achieve fame via “flat lay” photography and lots of marble countertops, this is the worst news in the entire world. Instagram’s algorithm is coming for their sweet, sweet views, and every single person who cares about these sorts of metrics is losing their shit.

The above examples – all pulled from the #LetsStayTogether hashtag on Instagram, except for Kylie Jenner – are urging you to turn on post notifications(!) for their posts so that you might receive a push notification(!?!) every time they post. Your phone is likely full of push notifications, some intentional and some not, for a variety of apps that you’ve downloaded, forgotten about and haven’t had the heart to delete. Like your mother, who nags incessantly, or the one person at work who constantly slides into your mentions to ask you if you did that one thing, push notifications are anathema to everyone. Why bring more of them into your life?

The algorithm is a disappointing inevitability of the Way We Internet now, turning Instagram from a stroll through a pleasant yard sale of the curated detritus of other people’s lives to a highly-curated capital-E Experience, tailored specifically to what the machine thinks you might like. It’s nice to sit back and let other people do the work sometimes, but Instagram is a pleasant diversion from our staid pedestrian lives. We already have Facebook posturing to be the earnest know-it-all who smoothly anticipates your needs while getting it wrong most of the time. Leave Instagram alone!

Lest you panic immediately and start liking every single post that you’ve never actually liked but definitely still want to see, like your crush, your frenemy and the person who used to be your nemesis in college that you still keep tabs on because pettiness never goes out of style, relax. Feldman reminds us that “Instagram almost definitely tracks metrics like the amount of time you spend hovering over a post without actively doing anything, so for accounts you want to see but don’t want to like or comment on — hate follows and crushes, for example — just keep lingering, and Instagram will do the rest.”

Do you want your phone to look like the phone of a Famous?  Do you want to subject yourself to the endless tyranny of push notifications alerting you that ACupOfTeaAndLipstick, the fashion blogger you follow out of both fascination and fear, has posted another picture of her new sombré?  Then, by all means, follow that arrow. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.