What Makes Instagram's 'Recommended' Posts So Awful?

Image: AP
Image: AP

Social feeds are getting cluttered with posts no one asked for, and unfortunately, Instagram is following suit. No one I’ve spoken to about Instagram’s recently announced feature of “recommended” posts from complete strangers appearing in feeds is excited about the change. Admittedly, that group of people is a relatively small sample size, composed largely of other tech journalists. I don’t love it. But I can’t quite put my finger on why.

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On the hierarchy of nuisance posts, I’d put Instagram’s recommendations below Twitter’s “in case you missed it” notifications (oh my god, please stop) and Facebook’s incessant need to tell me when events are being attended by people I’ve met once or twice, but slightly above promoted posts from advertisers. As far as anyone knows, Instagram won’t be pushing notifications about these posts you didn’t ask for but also won’t provide an option to turn them off.

Part of that may be influenced by how I use Instagram. Unlike Twitter, my Instagram feed is composed almost entirely of close friends. While, in theory, anyone would enthusiastically opt into broadening their social and intellectual horizons, I can’t imagine a version of Instagram where the meals, vacations, and observations of people I’ve known for years is enhanced by content from people I don’t know at all. And all in some half-assed attempt to increase the “stickiness” (see: addictive potential) of Instagram to, one assumes, appease advertisers.

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Keep in mind, Instagram already had a method for finding new things easily on its explore page, although this change suggests not enough people were using it.

There’s also the consideration that this is yet another change straying further from Instagram’s original mission. The first, and most personally onerous, was the abandonment of a chronological timeline. Seeing a friend, for instance, at a restaurant I’d been to recently might spur on a text message recommendation for an appetizer. Seeing that same photo three days later does no one any good. (I feel the same way about the ‘stories’ feature, which exists entirely so Facebook could plagiarize wholesale compete with the success of Snapchat. Feel free to disagree. I hear people like it.)

And then there’s the unspoken creepiness. Who are these people whose posts I’m seeing? Did they opt into this new feed scheme? Will my photos, likewise, be visible to people I neither follow nor want to follow?

There are good ways to recommend out-of-network content—Tumblr is a good example—but for my money, this isn’t it. Then again, I’ve been known to be distrustful, pessimistic, and a general crank about most things.

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So let’s hear from you, dear reader—are you jazzed to see a more diversified Instagram, or is this as obnoxious as I’m making it out to seem? And in either case, why?

Senior reporter. Tech + labor /// bgmwrites@gmail.com Keybase: keybase.io/bryangm Securedrop: http://gmg7jl25ony5g7ws.onion/

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DISCUSSION

numberthirteen
numberthirteen

I absolutely despise the fact that there’s not just an option to view Instagram, Facebook, et al, in simple chronological order for those who wish to.

I understand the thinking behind the changes - making sure you don’t miss your favourite celebrity’s vitally-important photo of their duckface in a mirror for the 40th time that week - but for those of us who use it to keep up with friends, it’s an absolute pain in the ass.

Even worse is the lie of Facebook’s “most recent” feed - which means anything but. Not to mention the amount of times I’ve seen a friend’s post, but then my feed auto-refreshes and the post is gone, and I can’t find it in my feed again without specifically going to their page.

Something so simple shouldn’t be so arduous. I miss the old “in exact posting order” format of LiveJournal!