Is Instagram over?

This is from The Atlantic (owned by Job’s widow):

Everyone’s Over Instagram – The Atlantic

Even just a couple of years ago, it would have been unheard-of for these 20-something New Yorkers to shrug off Instagram—a sanctimonious lifestyle choice people would have regretted starting a conversation about at that party they were headed to. But now it’s not so surprising at all. To scroll through Instagram today is to parse a series of sponsored posts from brands, recommended Reels from people you don’t follow, and the occasional picture from a friend that’s finally surfaced after being posted several days ago. It’s not what it used to be

The ownership matters. Apple has been on the offensive against Meta (in the name of privacy). They have set up their own “advertising business” in their App Store. I have never been big on social media (and never understood the idea of social validation). It’s a rat race. This gif below explains it completely:

That’s why, when Musk claims the signal to noise ratio is improving on Twitter. It’s hard to swallow the “tweet”. Literally. Many equated the exodus and layoffs from Twitter as the “end of the platform”, and I was surprised no one brought up the now infamous Elop’s memo on Nokia (burning platform).

What pains me the most is the indiscriminate hiring and firing that disrupts the individuals’ life (and not the “leadership”). Instagram started as a “photo-sharing” app and is now a cesspool of “Reels” and invites from unknown people. I am surprised they haven’t pushed the advertisements in WhatsApp, though they do have “Business API” helping companies “target individuals”. Possibly, users are well aware of the “risks of indiscriminate targeting” but choose to persist with it.

Network effects is an oft repeated trope. I take an opposite stand. Look at the technical merits of a platform. There must be a user-supported model, or else the generated data (“and connections”) are up for sale to advertisers. I use adblocking extensively to browse through the websites (and choose not to run any Google Analytics here). Twitter has not made “money” and remains a loss making “venture”. Why hasn’t anyone, then, questioned that it’s existing?

Coming back to Instagram:

“People who aren’t influencers only use [Instagram] to watch other people make big announcements,” Lee Tilghman, a former full-time Instagram influencer, told me over the phone. “My close friends who aren’t influencers, they haven’t posted in, like, two years.”

As is always the case, the ick came about quite suddenly—things were going great for Instagram, until they just weren’t. In 2014, the app hit 300 million monthly active users, surpassing Twitter for the first time. The Instagram Stories feature, a direct rip-off of Snapchat, was introduced in August 2016 and outpaced the original just one year later. But although Instagram now has 2 billion monthly users, it faces an existential problem: What happens when the 18-to-29-year-olds who are most likely to use the app, at least in America, age out or go elsewhere? Last year, The New York Times reported that Instagram was privately worried about attracting and retaining the new young users that would sustain its long-term growth—not to mention whose growing shopping potential is catnip to advertisers. TikTok is already more popular among young American teens. Plus, a series of algorithm changes—and some questionable attempts to copy features from other apps—have disenchanted many of the users who are sticking around.

I am not sure if Instagram is a “dying platform”, but has definitely become a mess. For the same reason, I find it odd that the medical community “embracing” TikTok, which is funded by the Chinese government, and vacuums the user data to ship it back to mainland China. Unless the “influencers” are being paid money to “recommend” it to other users.

I spoke to a senior colleague about Instagram, who claims much of her “clientele” (yup, that’s what they are called now) is being redirected from Instagram. However, this is unsustainable, as you may get a sudden boost, but you lose the “work-life balance” and any change in the algorithm will work to your detriment. It is best to grow everything “organically” and let things be the way they are. A surge of popularity is always at risk compared to “word-of-mouth”. The earlier they realise, the better.

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