Why I Hate Instagram’s New Algorithm

Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
I try not to be one of those people who hates change for the sake of change. We grow, we evolve, we move on, and guess what? Our phones and apps do the same. So when Instagram announced — and subsequently rolled out — a new algorithm that would prioritize some posts over others, I was cautiously optimistic. Maybe it would make the experience better. I'd keep using the app, of course, and maybe I wouldn't even notice. Unfortunately, I was wrong. My day using Instagram used to go like this: I'd wake up, do my morning routine, and then hop on Instagram, scrolling through the app backwards in time until I hit the last post I'd seen the night before. I'd check it here and there during the day, same thing — always scrolling back until I landed on a post I'd already seen. Sometimes there might be only one or two new images. Other times there might be dozens and dozens to flick through. There was always a Zen in reaching the last photo, and knowing I had seen all there was to see in my feed.
Now, I try to do the same thing — but the sense of satisfaction I once felt upon reaching posts I had already viewed has been replaced with unease. As I scroll through my feed, I can see the timestamps: 16 minutes ago, 56 minutes ago, 2 hours ago, 6 hours ago, 5 hours ago, 2 hours ago, 3 hours ago, 7 hours ago, 2 hours ago. I've seen some of them before, but I can't help but wonder, If I keep scrolling, will I find something I haven't seen? Are there posts I'm missing altogether?! Instagram's new algorithm is supposed to show you the "best" photos first — the ones that are most liked, the ones that are trending. The ones from the people you interact with most, whether that's a friend IRL, or an influencer in another time zone. But most of the time, I can see no logic in why some of the photos are disordered. For two posts with less than 10 likes, why is the seven-hours-old post being shown before the two-hours-old one? I follow 266 accounts on Instagram. With the old chronological timeline, I never felt overwhelmed, and never felt like I was missing anything. Though this new algorithm is supposed to help you not miss out on things you'd want to see, I instead feel the opposite — that I am missing important, beautiful, or silly photos (whether that's true or not). Perhaps if I followed 400 or 500 accounts (as many of you may), I'd feel differently about the timeline. But for now — for me, at least — it seems completely unnecessary. And it's making me love one of my favorite apps a little bit less each time I open it. Editor's note: Refinery29 reached out to Instagram for clarification on how its new algorithm works, but have not yet received a response.

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