Once upon a time there was a social media app where you could share pretty or interesting pictures and talk to other people about their pictures. You could add sparkly heart bokeh filters and funky frames. You could follow people whose pictures you liked and see what they’d just posted whenever you opened up the app. It was exciting, and fresh, and fun.
In case this app doesn’t sound familiar to you, you may not have been on Instagram very long (or not at all, in which case this post may not be very interesting to you…) However, IF it’s made you sigh and feel all wistful about how Instagram used to be, then it’s probably taken you back to a more carefree time when we used to actually enjoy the social media platform.
Those were the days – before algorithms. Before shadowbans. Before the strategic placement of hashtags. Before bots. Before sponsored posts. Before incessant follow/unfollows. In other words, the days when Instagram used to be fun – because I’m sure many of you would agree:
Instagram really isn’t much fun anymore, is it…?!
In the last week or so the whole “why the hell is Instagram trying to ruin Instagram for us” came to an ever-more irritating head when I realised exactly what shadowbans were and how they are actually being used to suppress my visibility and that of many other bloggers’ who are also trying to work hard to gain a following as well as enjoying the platform. I did a proper test with a blogging colleague to see if what was being said was true, but first, this:
A break in the algorithm?
Around a week ago I went onto Instagram and noticed my feed looked totally different. There were NONE of the usual accounts I see – instead, I saw accounts I used to follow ages and ages ago, or ones I knew I liked but had never seen in my feed before. The feed was fresh, exciting and totally varied.
I checked the accounts and it seemed they were all ones I was following, but they’d not appeared in ages, or never (not since hitting the “follow” button).
Now I don’t know about you, but if you’re an Instagram fan like me, then I’m sure you can imagine my delight – I went into a total Instagram frenzy, liking and commenting and scrolling and liking and scrolling… Honestly, I haven’t had that much fun on a social media platform in ages. (I am FULLY aware that there are many, MANY more fun things in life to get up to than being on social media, but for now I will describe it as fun…!)
So I have NO explanation as to what happened, but I also noticed that the posts were very roughly in chronological order. If you’re not aware of how the algorithms work, Instagram chooses what posts to show you, and in what order, based on algorithms. Posts that are currently “doing well” will show up nearer the top of your feed, so as you scroll through the posts the times they were posted could go in this order: 5 hours ago, 2 hours ago, 11 minutes ago, 3 hours ago, 7 hours ago, 37 minutes ago, and so on.
In other words, NOT chronological. You don’t see the most recent first, then the next most recent, then the next. My feed has been the same small group of accounts for ages now – since the algorithms were introduced last year, in fact. And to tell you the truth it is BORING. Yes, I see lots of accounts I love to see (if I follow you and comment and like your posts, please don’t think I am saying your feed is boring!), but I also want to see more of a variety – I am following 1,600 accounts, for goodness sake. Sometimes it feels like I’m only following about 30 (at a push).
So you can see why I was excited – I basically just took full advantage of seeing so many “new” accounts and a variety of posts (images) I was seeing and spent a LONG time on the app.
It didn’t however, last… back to normal within a day or so, I can’t remember. It was just weird.
Why Instagram’s no fun
This is the thing: Instagram had to get savvy in terms of the way it was being used (and abused). It “had” to earn money because of the millions of people now using it: Wikipedia says it has 375 million ACTIVE users. That’s a lot of users to make money from, so I get it, I really do.
However, what’s been put into place – the many things that have been put into place – are absolutely killing the joy that is looking at pretty pictures. If all it is is a strategic platform for influencers to make money and push their wares and brands to make money and push their wares, can there really be any room for those who want to enjoy it for what it is – a place to share nice pictures?
A few days ago I wrote down all the things that annoy me about Instagram, and they did make me wonder why on earth I even use the damn thing anymore. They were:
- You don’t see very few of the accounts you follow in your feed
- You often go to follow a beautiful account and then realise you’re already following – you’ve NEVER seen them in your feed
- How on earth do you work out a way to get them all to show up in your feed (no one seems to know)
- Why on earth have they started shadowbans for people who are trying to be seen (like me) when there are still accounts that buy and sell likes and followers
- Why can’t Instagram see accounts that do the follow/unfollow thing and suspend them, rather than making US block them
- Why do you get shadowbanned for repeating hashtags from one post to the next
- Why do you now get shadowbanned for adding hashtags to the first comment rather than the caption (we did it because we were told hashtags in the caption looked spammy)
And so it goes on.
There are so many things that annoy me (and my fellow bloggers) about Instagram – it seems that every day there is something new and we’re saying “Oh god, NOW what…”.
We tested the shadowban in the week (if you want to see if you’re being affected, try this shadowban checker) – and IF what they say is true, then you really do have to walk on eggshells to stop Instagram making you invisible to those that don’t follow you.
So I’ve not gone into the details of how to get round all the obstacles here/now, but I will start writing a post with the best tips for beating the algorithm, avoiding the shadowban, getting more likes and followers…
Bringing the joy back
…What I CAN’T do, however, is find a way to bring the joy back for you if all of that seems too much to think about and bother with (and to be honest I don’t blame you if that’s how you feel about it). If you’re like me and have to do it as part of your business – blogging or otherwise – then it’s unfortunately a necessary evil. Not one person I’ve spoken to about the nightmare that Instagram is becoming actually LIKES the algorithm – everyone wants it back the old way.
So who is the algorithm for? Brands? Super bloggers? It certainly isn’t for mid-size bloggers, and it certainly isn’t for the average Instagram user, and that’s a shame – because THEY are a blogger’s and a brand’s biggest “customer”.
Sort it out, Instagram, for %@?*’s sake.
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New random thumbnails!!
After trialling random thumbnails – where the thumbnails change order every time you refresh the page – on Monday’s #iwillwearwhatilike link up, I’ve decided to do it here too… It seems it was a big hit with everyone! See if you don’t link up STRAIGHT away, don’t fret… You could be in the top line many times to many people even if you link up a day or two later!