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Why Instagram’s pivot to video is making everyone so mad

With its strong pivot to video, it should be obvious by now what direction Instagram (and its parent company Meta) is taking with its platform. But is it the right direction?

The immediate backlash to Instagram head Adam Mosseri’s recent explainer video seems to indicate that users of these apps don’t approve of the recent changes to their beloved photo and video sharing app. It’s clear that they don’t want IG to turn into a TikTok clone.

In fact, in the replies to Mosseri’s tweeted video were overwhelmingly negative responses, a resounding please stop this.

enough. i love instagram because it’s instagram, not a generic social app that tries to be a third rate version of whatever 13-year-olds are using at the moment. please do not lose sight of why people use the app. i know a lot of people are working hard, but this is embarrassing.

— matt (@mattxiv) July 26, 2022

But right now, Instagram and Meta are clearly committed to competing with TikTok. The Verge reported in June that an internal memo showed that Facebook plans to essentially revamp Facebook to better compete with the wildly popular short-form video app. And then more recently, less than a week ago, Instagram announced a number of TikTok-adjacent changes to its platform, signaling more of a pivot to video that many users have been vocal against.

Mosseri’s video did say that IG would “continue to support photos,” but his saying so did little to quell concerns that Instagram’s newest features were taking the app in a direction that its users seemingly largely do not approve of. And they’re not just upset about the push for video content. Not being able to see more of their friends’ posts is another issue of concern:

I guess for me it’s not just that I suck at making videos. It’s that I don’t see my actual friend’s posts and they don’t see mine, and I see the same people over and over and over then the feed goes “you’re all caught up!”

— chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) July 26, 2022

Another concern IG users have? Being “bombarded” with videos from people they don’t know and Suggested Posts. IG users don’t seem to want recommended posts in their feeds either:

Yeh. I don’t need recommendations, that’s what the Explore page is for. Leave our feeds alone already!

— Migs 📸 (@_Miggles) July 27, 2022

But Instagram continues to push forward with this pivot to video (and its unwanted feed recommendations), even though many of its own users are loudly unhappy about it. So the question remains: Is competing with TikTok worth disregarding the backlash from IG’s current users?

If those reply tweets — some of which were from celebrities and other blue-check Twitter accounts — are any indication, then it’s hard to see how. This might be one battle IG shouldn’t fight. When numerous IG users are taking to other platforms like Twitter to let you know that your recent moves aren’t working, it might be time to listen to them.

Instead of worrying so much about what TikTok is doing, Instagram might be better positioned for success if they just focused on their own niche and on what makes its app special. And that’s photos, in all their varied splendor: selfies, thirst traps, Notes apologies, vacation photo dumps, food photos, and cute animal pics. IG is a digital scrapbook for hot girl summers, cozy girl autumns, and photos of all the big and small life moments before, during, and after those seasons. That’s always what it’s been.

Trying to mimic TikTok’s unique success probably won’t work.

Twitter is for drama and gossip and dunking on bad takes. TikTok is for chaos and viral trends. Pinterest is a vision board for the ideal lives we want to be living. And Instagram is best for casually catching up with our loved ones’ lives and mindlessly scrolling through beautiful photos of food, fashion, travel, and cute animals.

Sometimes successfully competing with others in a crowded landscape means figuring out what makes you unique and carving out your own lane and just being the best at that one unique thing. In this case, trying to mimic TikTok’s unique success as a way to assert dominance over all other social media apps probably won’t earn the longevity and success Instagram and Meta ultimately want. Instead, it’s likely to further alienate Instagram’s current users, largely because this push to be more like TikTok fundamentally misunderstands how people use social media.

People who use social media aren’t necessarily looking for one app to do it all. They often have different purposes in mind for each platform they use.

Just let Instagram be Instagram and TikTok can just be TikTok. There’s room for both on our phones.

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