Originally launched in 2010, Instagram was created for photo and video sharing, allowing its users to present a curated (and distorted) version of their lives. Essentially, it was born as the next big social media after Facebook had begun its decline, as Instagram managed to succeed in ways the Blue App couldn’t (and more). With its sleek and minimalistic design, and the fun and beautifying filters, the new platform was able to capture the younger generation, and thus take over the world. From the rise of the so-called “Instagram models” and other influencers, the app has been able to leave a mark on the current cultural and societal landscape. It has helped shape our beauty standards, for better or for worse (especially for worse), as well as connecting people from all around the globe. It’s more than just an app – it’s a cultural powerhouse. Unfortunately, after eleven years since its first appearance in our App Stores, Instagram is slowly dying… actually, it might already be dead.
I don’t know about you, but I still remember when I first opened the Instagram app. It was eight years ago, I was sitting on my bedroom floor with a friend and in a moment of youthful bravado, we had decided to forgo our parents’ “no social media” rule and download the thrilling popular app. It’s been almost a decade and a lot has changed – for me and for Instagram. Though, one of us has changed for the worst, and it’s safe to say it is not me. All great empires fall at some point, and rumor has it that Instagram’s decline already has begun.
‘Instagram is dying’ – what does that mean?
Many people hear this phrase and think it means that Instagram as a company or product is failing miserably, and is one inconvenience away from going belly up. Let’s get one thing straight – that is NOT what it means. The platform is definitely still growing, it still has tons of active users (over 1B), and it is still making a shitload of money – in a nutshell, Instagram is doing just fine on the surface. But even though numbers don’t lie, neither do I.
Instagram may still be experiencing growth in the number of its active users – however, it’s been a very slow growth since 2019, and has even dropped to single digits. I may not know much about the stock market, but even I understand that “slow growth” for a company that once held the world in a tight grip, is a codeword for “losing money”. Since the platform’s future is not looking exactly rosy, investors are beginning to look elsewhere, and leaving Instagram behind to go down on its own.
But why is that?
The algorithm is making things hard for… everyone
For starters, Instagram’s algorithm has been pissing off a lot of people for a while – both the Average Joes of Instagram, and its Influencers.
If you are part of the first category, the algorithm screws you over as it makes your experience on the app messy and disorganized. Thanks to a recent update, the posts you see on your timeline are not in chronological order (!), but you only see posts based on how popular they are. Thus, you don’t even get to see everything uploaded by the people you follow. Then, Instagram’s explore page is extremely lackluster, and is more often than not filled with TikTok’s reuploads and knockoffs.
But as Instagram is now prioritizing popular uploads, and due to the lack of a reshare feature, smaller creators find themselves at a disadvantage.
From an Instagram Influencer’s perspective, this algorithm is even more maddening. Since only the most popular posts are boosted, smaller creators are having a tougher time reaching new audiences, building a following and promoting their own posts. It’s incredibly frustrating, since plenty of people rely on Instagram and advertising through the platform as their source of revenue, and they are now seeing their levels of engagement drop dramatically.
Instagram’s whole appeal for influencers was that it made it possible for anyone to get popular and go viral on the network. If people liked your posts, it didn’t matter if you were a celebrity, or had 10M followers or just a few hundreds – anyone could have a shot at becoming an influencer. But as Instagram is now prioritizing popular uploads, and due to the lack of a reshare feature, smaller creators find themselves at a disadvantage. Hence, more and more people are growing annoyed and frustrated with the social network, and are attempting to find solace in the arms of other platforms (namely, TikTok and Twitter).
They tried too much too fast
Instagram’s core purpose has always been about sharing photos and videos, and that proved to be a successful business idea since the app’s very beginning. However, quickly after the platform’s launch, a new competitor came along, and gave Instagram a run for its money – Snapchat.
If you’re not familiar with this social media (and let’s be fair – who isn’t), its main concept is snapping photos and videos, which vanish after 24 hours. (Un)surprisingly, the platform received massive success, as users really seemed to dig the whole “disappearing posts” idea. In an attempt to remain ahead of the game, Instagram tried to buy Snapchat, but their offer was rejected. So, they decided to just copy the competition, and out popped “Instagram Stories” (i.e., the exact same thing as Snapchat). Their plan worked wonders, as Instagram managed to trump superior after the introduction of Stories, and was once again back at the top of the social media podium. But here’s where things went sideways.
Instagram tried to do too much too fast, prioritizing speed of product delivery over quality, and weakened themselves while trying to diversify their content.
Seeing how well their escamotage worked, Instagram started copying… everyone. YouTube became IGTV, Facebook Marketplace became Instagram Marketplace, the Twitter Explore Page became the Instagram Explore Page, and TikTok became Reels. Unfortunately, the strategy didn’t quite work out this time around.
Trying to keep up with the competition, Instagram became too cluttered, and lost its simple raison d’être – sharing pictures. Plus, all the copies are merely bootleg versions of the original features – they’re messy, not well-organized, and constitute an afterthought for most people, as they use Instagram merely to repost content they have already uploaded on other media. Users still prefer YouTube and TikTok over IGTV and Reels, and… well, nobody uses Instagram Marketplace.
Instagram tried to do too much too fast, prioritizing speed of product delivery over quality, and weakened themselves while trying to diversify their content. They lost sight of their own strengths, and entered the path to failure all by themselves.
Gen Z doesn’t care
A major obstacle Instagram has had to face in recent times has been capturing the attention of those under 18, aka Generation Z and Generation Alpha. Despite once being the no. 1 app amongst young audiences, users aged 13-17 on the platform now reach a mere 3.7%.
Why? Well, first of all Gen Z/Alpha is known to be a more skeptical generation in regards to social media – they crave anonymity, safety from online bullying and hate speech, and definitely hate ads. Ergo, why would they choose a platform that is known to spy on its users, and is a playground for advertisers?
On top of that, most people would agree that Instagram has become quite boring. It doesn’t offer the witty jokes or interesting threads you can find on Twitter, nor the fun or useful videos you can stumble upon on TikTok. All it has are overly-curated feeds of influencers that just do not fit in with the young generation, who is more geared towards spontaneity and playful candidness.
Plus, as Instagram is still going strong among older generations (Millennials and Baby Boomers), more and more young people are steering away from it. After all, no one wants to be on the same social network as their mom or their uncle! That’s the same thing that happened to Facebook, which – albeit managing to keep it financially afloat – has been more detrimental than good, as it has made it fade into irrelevance.
An eulogy for Instagram is already in the drafts
So, does this mean that Instagram is dead and gone? Well, I would hold onto my funeral robes if I were you…
The platform’s glory days might be over, but given the outstanding number of active users – and the way it once held the entire world in a chokehold – it’s likely never going to completely disappear. But chances are it will stick around in the same way Blockbuster has – it may still be here, but it’s nothing more than a ghost in a shell. Instagram is already showing signs of not being able to keep up with the competition (i.e., TikTok), and has lost its status as the innovator of social media. Hence, it might not be tomorrow, or next week, or even next year, but Instagram’s name has already been written in the Death Note. Truth be told – each time I open the app, I already feel like I’m standing in a graveyard.
Edited by Carolina Alves