We're so used to seeing things in particular ways that anything different just doesn't make sense to our brains. Culturally, we like to read things from left to right, and from top to bottom. Change that and our brains struggle to adjust.
On social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, we've also become accustomed to another reading wrinkle where the newest posts would be displayed first, and would follow down your timeline in chronological order. This ordering worked just fine for most everyone who used these services, or so we thought.
Turns out that, according to Facebook, we actually weren't seeing the posts that we wanted to see with a linear timeline. To that end, Facebook adjusted its algorithm to make sure that we saw the posts that Facebook wanted us to see first, which sure-as-shit seemed like a blatant attempt to push advertisement posts to the top of your timeline, or to take advantage of people's insecurities by giving them the option to pay to promote their personal posts to generate more views and, hopefully, 'Likes' (Facebook scrapped this feature in 2014).
Now Instagram is joining in on the fun, switching to an algorithm that shows "the moments you care about first." At least, that's what the headline on Instagram's announcement says. Read the copy and you'll see the real truth—"To improve your experience, your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most" (emphasis mine).
I'm going to assume that the people at Instagram saw the #RIPTwitter hashtag that popped up last month in response to Twitter switching their algorithm, so Instagram must either also believe in things like Flat Earth Theory, or they're not being completely genuine in telling users that the change is only to improve their own experience.
Instagram is saying that it won't hide any posts, so you'll still be able to see all of your content without having to hunt down individual users. Sure, Instagram isn't as time-sensitive as Twitter, but I believe that Instagram should "believe" that I'd much rather see the newest posts first, without interference from some crap post from three days ago that's only at the top of my feed because Instagram got a couple bucks out of the deal.
Just once, I wish some company would forego the "We're doing this for the benefit of our users" bullshit and be honest. Instagram is a business, and stands to make more money by using an algorithm to have certain posts reach a wider audience. There's nothing wrong with that! It's hard to believe that anybody—even the Flat Earth truthers—believe that Instagram is doing yeoman's work by showing users the content they will "care about the most."
The thing is, Instagram's timeline change probably won't matter in the long run. People may clamor now, but as long as there's still content on Instagram, there will be plenty of users who will create (or repost) more content. The cycle goes on. After looking over user initial feedback, Instagram may very well add a "View Most Recent" option like Facebook, or the ability to switch back to a chronological feed like Twitter.
Switching to this new timeline is probably a good business option for Instagram. I just hope we're not getting to a point where pissing off your user base is the best business option—because you can bet we'll see a whole lot more of it.
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