Instagram has lost its way

December 1, 2020 — by Shaan Sridhar
Photo by Shaan Sridhar

Instagram has copied features from Snapchat, TikTok, and Facebook.

The app popular for photo-based social media has copied features from other apps, ruining itself.

Instagram now has become a place of ripoff TikToks mixed in an abyss of shallow social justice posts, with a couple photos of friends sprinkled on top. It wasn’t always like this.

Over the years, Instagram has polluted its platform by copying features from others and trying to be an app it is not. It’s time for Instagram to reverse these additions and return to the photo-based social media app it once was.

I downloaded Instagram four years ago when I was in sixth grade. The app was appealing to me because, unlike other social media apps, it seemed much more intimate and real. Where apps like Twitter and Reddit prided themselves on news and jokes, Instagram was a place to be with just your friends.

Instagram was a personal social media app. It was a community of your friends, family and their lives; in other words, it was what Facebook wanted to be. You could meet genuine new friends, verified through their photos and mutuals.

But as Instagram grew, it began to introduce new features and copy trademark parts of its competitors. Instagram first introduced Stories in 2016, a complete ripoff of Snapchat’s stories. Recently, it introduced Reels, a ripoff of TikTok; Shop, a feature that gives users the ability to buy low-quality products directly from the app; and IGTV and Live, two video-sharing features from their sister app Facebook.

These features have changed Instagram from an intimate social media platform into a cluttered mess.

Stories allowed Instagram users to create temporary posts that last for 24 hours, fueling the shallow activist posts we see today. The feature has been abused by so-called social justice warriors who create a flurry of stories that users have to click through every day.

When Instagram tried to outduel TikTok with Reels, it failed. This was because it lacks TikTok’s full-screen design and its algorithm falls far short of the original. As a result, short videos from friends (which usually aren’t very good) flood users’ feeds instead of TikTok’s perfectly tailored videos from diverse sources.

Instagram also added e-commerce directly into the app, similar to how Facebook lets users buy products in-app. Instagram Shop was touted as an easier way for users to interact with businesses, but, in reality, it migrates Facebook’s existing problems to Instagram. 

Shop opens Instagram to thousands of low-quality products manufactured overseas. The products are often faulty and not as described. Many users, like my mother, consistently fall for this trap. The only results Instagram sees from Shop are a decrease in consumers’ trust and a reduction in the app’s quality.  

These three features — Stories, Reels and Shop — have each contributed to the downfall of Instagram. If Instagram, which Facebook purchased in 2012 for $1 billion, wants to return to the intimate app it used to be, these copycat features should be removed.

Now, just because these new features have helped destroy Instagram, that doesn’t mean Instagram developers are purely incapable of improving their app.

Two new features — IGTV and Live — have overall benefited the app. IGTV allowed users to upload long-form videos, making way for more complex content to be added to Instagram. Live allowed users to stream live videos to their followers, which furthered the intimate purpose of Instagram by allowing a more personal and real-time connection.

Instagram used to be one of my favorite apps. Now, I steadfastly avoid it. The soul of Instagram has been rotting because of bad decisions, but there’s still time to heal the problem. All the app has to do is to return to the features that originally made it popular.