One minute in the comment section on any social media platform will alert you to the fact that the internet is a hostile place. Perhaps more importantly, that it is impossible to reach a general consensus on anything online. We're resigned to the fact that no one will ever unite the internet (maybe because it was built to be divisive?). Not ever. But if a subject existed with the sheer power to do so, our bets are on the contempt that surrounds Instagram's godforsaken algorithm.
For years we've begged and pleaded for Instagram to bring back the chronological feed. To return to the days when who we followed dictated what appeared on our screens. When endless scrolling was hampered by the fact that no one had posted anything in the last five minutes and that we would just have to wait it out. Take us back. Before Instagram could lead you, or other teenagers deliberately toward content known to promote eating disorders. When it didn't reward violence or outrage. In fact, it's this information revealed by the Facebook whistleblower that has been the catalyst for a slew of new changes to be put in place by Instagram. And much to our surprise, it looks like one of them involves getting our beloved chronological feed back, if we so choose.
The key word here is choose. Which is perhaps the most surprising of them all. We have a choice? It's a fairly foreign concept on social media. But yes, following a US Senate hearing, head of Instagram Adam Mosseri revealed that the platform has plans to reintroduce the chronological feed in 2022.
On Twitter, Instagram confirmed the news with a statement that read:
“We want people to have meaningful control over their experience. We’ve been experimenting with Favorites, a way for you to decide whose posts you want to see higher up, and we’re working on another option to see posts from people you follow in chronological order."
"We want to be clear that we’re creating new options — providing people with more choices so they can decide what works best for them — not switching everyone back to a chronological feed. You can expect more on this early next year!”
Options? On Instagram? We don't know her. But soon, it seems we will. Below, we've outlined what we can expect from these changes and what this means for the Metaverse more broadly.
How does the algorithm currently work?
That dear folks, is the million dollar question. But since 2016 when Instagram tossed out the chronological feed, "the algorithm" has decided what content we're exposed to. It's important to note that there are actually a few different algorithms at play on Instagram, each collecting data around how we've interacted with previous posts and basing what it serves us on this information. It looks at everything from how long we spend on a post, if we comment, like, save or share, what we search for etc. But a large issue with this method is that it's not transparent, and as the Facebook Whistleblower told US Congress, it has the capability of being deliberately harmful to users. But if you've spent any time on Instagram, this is not new to you.
What changes will be made?
In an attempt to satisfy US Congress, so far the platform has said it will bring the chronological feed back early in 2022, making it an optional feature for users. On top of this, Instagram also introduced a new feature called 'Take a Break' on Tuesday, which basically alerts the user to stop using the app after a certain period, in a similar vein to Netflix's "Are you still watching" pop up. At the moment, this is all that Mosseri has proposed, not including those outlined in the Twitter statement. But we're expecting more changes to be announced in 2022. Until then, watch this space for more information.