If you’ve scrolled Instagram in recent days you may have seen users sharing a black and white graphic with a simple demand: “make Instagram Instagram again”.
The post by user Illumitati, whose real name is Tati Bruening, has been liked and shared tens of thousands of times, including by Kylie Jenner, and has sparked a Change.org petition that has received more than 110,000 signatures.
Here’s why it’s resonated with Instagram users around the world who are desperate for the app to change.
What’s changed on Instagram?
In its most recent update, Instagram has become increasingly focused on video content, and less about photos.
Noticeable changes include the app’s dimensions blowing out — everything is now stretched to the very edge of the screen, and has replaced continuous scrolling with snap scrolling.
Users have also commented that their feeds are now littered with advertising, and the app has become more like TikTok, which is Instagram’s main competitor.
Instagram’s algorithm — or the way it determines which content to serve up to users — is also under fire.
All these changes come back to what Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram said in a video last week: “It’s no secret that we’ve been trying to make Instagram do better by video while still doing right by photos long term.”
Why are videos so important to Instagram now?
Put simply: TikTok. The short-form mobile video app is Instagram’s main competitor, with around a billion users around the world.
Instagram first launched Reels back in August 2020 in direct response to TikTok’s surge in popularity, around the same time the United States and other countries considered banning it due to privacy concerns.
Instagram has been consistently promoting Reels since it was introduced, and its algorithm tends to favour them — although Ms Bruening’s petition points out that the Reels that perform the best on Instagram are often videos that have previously gone viral on TikTok.
So just how important are videos to Instagram? So much so that Mr Mosseri announced last week that Reels will be the only video format on Instagram.
“We want Instagram to be simple and easy to use, so all videos moving forward on Instagram are going to be Reels,” Mr Mosseri said.
Instagram has a history of updating its features
Although Instagram has set its sights on competing with TikTok, it’s not the first time Instagram has drastically changed its user experience to remain competitive with other popular social media platforms.
Instagram was first prompted to introduce video to the app back in 2013 because it was threatened by Vine, a now-defunct social media platform that allowed users to create and share six-second videos.
Instagram Stories were introduced four years later in direct response to Snapchat’s growing popularity, before rolling out longer-form videos in the form of IGTV in June 2018 to compete with YouTube.
Now with TikTok’s surge in popularity, it’s hardly surprising that Instagram has shifted its attention to short-form videos, and finding a way to make them top of mind for users in an increasingly competitive social media space.
Why are people upset about an app?
Those users who agree with Ms Bruening’s petition say it’s because it has fundamentally changed what the app is.
Instagram’s initial MO was as a way to share photos with friends, but Ms Bruening’s petition says users don’t need the app to become over complicated.
“The beauty of Instagram was that it was INSTAntaneous. Back in the dawn of the app we were all living in the moment, seeing our best moments in real time,” the petition reads.
Those who have signed the petition also say they don’t want Instagram to become TikTok, and want its algorithm to return to favouring photos instead.
Ms Bruening’s petition also asks Instagram to listen to the creators on the app and what best serves them.
“It feels wrong to switch the algorithm on creators that have made a living and contributed to the community, forcing them to change their entire content direction and lifestyle [to serve a new algorithm],” it says.
The Kylie Jenner effect
The youngest of the Kardashian-Jenner family and third most followed user on Instagram has also shared her frustrations with the changes on the social media app.
Ms Jenner shared Illumitati’s post on her story to her 360 million followers with the caption, “pleaseeeeee”.
It’s not the first time Ms Jenner has used her social media following to voice her frustrations with a platform.
In 2018, Ms Jenner tweeted about her issues with Snapchat, which faced significant backlash at the time for its redesign.
At the time, her Snapchat account was one of the most viewed on the platform, but when she tweeted that she hardly used it, more than $US1 billion ($1.4 billion) was wiped off its stock market value.
Since Ms Jenner shared the post criticising Instagram, Meta’s share price has remained relatively flat.
Will this petition actually do anything?
Even though Ms Bruening’s petition is growing in popularity, it’s not the first time Instagram has been petitioned to make changes to its user experience.
Back in 2016, Instagram controversially removed its chronological feed in favour of adopting an algorithm similar to Facebook that determined the order of posts based on whether users would be interested, their relationship with the poster, and the timeliness of the post.
The decision was met with uproar at the time it was announced, and a Change.org petition reached 340,000 signatures, but Instagram didn’t reinstate the chronological feed.
But that isn’t to say there isn’t power in petitions — Snapchat reversed its 2018 update that Kylie Jenner tweeted about after it received over 1.2 million calls to change.
Whether this petition has a different outcome remains to be seen.