The following is a dramatic reenactment of what took place Monday, March 28 after a rumor started that Tuesday, March 29 would be The Day of the Instagram Update.
If you didn’t look at Instagram all day, good for you and here’s the gist: On March 15, Instagram announced that it was changing its algorithm so that your feed would no longer appear in chronological order. They intend to instead show you stuff that they believe you care about most based off who your best friends are and the types of posts you already interact with/respond to. How does it know? The same way you know that your upcoming Bumble date has a sister — not a girlfriend! — who studied abroad in Thailand five years ago. By stalking.*
*Unconfirmed by Instagram corporate/didn’t ask.
Then, on March 28 (or possibly March 27), a rumor began. The Instagram update was coming.
March 29 would be the day of doom, where one could no longer consume memes in an orderly fashion. Meanwhile, meme-posters (or just regular users trying to get double-digit likes on selfies) started realizing that they better get on the campaign trail to stay relevant. Enter an onslaught of pleads to “turn on notifications” (so that you don’t miss a single post!).
Everyone started seeing everyone do it so they started doing it, too. This is called mass hysteria.
You are freaking out, man.
Instagram even confirmed that nothing was happening.
We’re listening and we assure you nothing is changing with your feed right now. We promise to let you know when changes roll out broadly.
— Instagram (@instagram) March 28, 2016
I suppose it’s the “yet” that still has everyone freaking the hell out. This is the social media equivalent of a potential snowstorm threat that sends people rushing to supermarkets to hoard cans of tuna and bottled water despite blue skies and no clouds.
Remember the last time the Stalk Market crashed? Everyone — even those with botty Ponzi Schemes — recovered. But yesterday’s flip out has shed further light on the fact that “likes” have moved past their status as our social currency; “likes” have become our sustenance. Online validation has become our food.
For brands, the concept that an algorithm could mess with feeding hour is scary: What if people can’t see my content? How am I supposed to connect with my audience/get eyes on site/continue to send out our message? You guys, we have considered this, too.
For personal accounts, it triggers popularity contest PTSD. Posting a photo with high potential for no one to see (let alone like) is worse than no one showing up to your birthday party. At least the excuse there is that no one really goes on Facebook anymore, so it truly is possible they missed the notification.
…Ah-ha! Did anyone else just feel a sense of relief?
Yes, this new and as-of-yet-unimplemented algorithm could have detrimental effects on our various levels of vanity. Yes, it could hurt user engagement with brands.
But if it gets you off the hook for not “liking” your girlfriend’s roommate’s floral arrangement with the hashtag #springhassprung or your best friend’s new hair cut because you didn’t see it — well, to me that sounds like bliss.
Let’s not forget that part of the fun of Instagram is being a little bit sneaky.
No? Yes? Zzzzzzzz??? Comment below. No algorithm there.
Collage by Emily Zirimis.