Instagram is going to change, and users have been angry. The social network will adopt a new interface in which the content is displayed in full screen and where the video is the protagonist. Video made by “content creators” and influencers, not your friends or family. Because social networks already have very little social. Its purpose now is not to connect people with their relatives, but to make them see as many advertisements as possible to earn more money.
To achieve this, Instagram has to increase the time each user spends on the platform. And the best way is to copy the strategy that TikTok uses so successfully: constant doses of dopamine encapsulated in short videos of curiosities, trips or silly things. Plus, it’s free. HBO Max, Disney + or Netflix hire directors, actors, screenwriters to develop their content offer, but Instagram uses its own users. These do not charge a single euro, their salary is likes and compliments. The most popular can make a living from it when they become human billboards. Branded handbags, a wonderful lipstick or a much-needed protein shake to get in shape start to appear in her photos.
This lifestyle is highly coveted today, and children no longer want to be bullfighters or astronauts; they want to be “influencers”.
Instagram wants to be TikTok, because it is more profitable
But this short video can be squeezed more, and that is why Instagram will imitate the TikTok interface. Many users have publicly expressed their discomfort, because they liked the application as it was. Some of them with a large number of followers, like the Kardashians.
Adam Mosseri, CEO of the social network, said earlier this week that, whether they like it or not, the redesign will roll out to all users sooner or later. He admits that it still needs a lot of tweaking, but that the course is already set: Instagram is no longer a social network for photos or friends, but an application for consuming short videos, which is what makes money. And last Thursday, Mosseri said changes to the test will be stalled because of bad usage data, saying it needs to “fail from time to time, otherwise they wouldn’t be acting ambitiously.” This cable pickup is just a pause to improve the execution of a plan that is not going to change.
The plan cannot change. Gradually, over these ten years, Instagram has gone from being a service to connect friends and photographers to being a kind of television in which you zap by sliding your finger up. It goes from connecting people to connecting “content creators” with users. Fulanito is no longer the one from the bar, now he is Menganito, content creator. Language is important, because Facebook no longer talks about friends and family, but about creators and consumers. Creators who work for free, of course.
When I started Instagram many years ago, I didn’t do it for the purpose of creating content for Zuckerberg’s social network to increase its metrics. Neither me nor anyone, I guess. But we have been falling into the trap in exchange for a little virtual case or the need to promote our business in the hope of earning money offline. Because if you’re not on social media you don’t exist, or so they say.
Using AI to curate content defeats the original purpose of social media
Because more worrying than the interface is the selection system that the company has been adopting lately to increase its metrics. The control that each user has to see the content that he has explicitly chosen to see is increasingly limited. The content of friends is increasingly hidden, and it is almost reduced to the Stories that they copied from Snapchat. Everything else is littered with recommendations for accounts that “might interest you.”
Those who follow Schwarzenegger will see motivational gym videos, and those who follow Hamilton will see them from Formula 1. And as you watch more or less time depending on the content, Instagram’s artificial intelligence will show you more related content. The result is that you end up, without realizing it, wasting a lot of time every day doing zapping between channels you’ve never chosen to watch. If TV is the dumb box… What are Instagram or Tiktok?
In this week’s shareholder call, Mark Zuckerberg said that about 15% of the content you don’t follow that appears on your Instagram is selected by its artificial intelligence. By the end of next year that content will double. It is a public declaration that they are no longer a platform that connects people, they are a means of communication. This is important, because Facebook’s excuse for its inaction in moderating certain content was based on the fact that they were only acting as a platform. Now that they openly admit that they will serve the content through algorithms, they will run out of the few arguments left in their defense.
Artificial intelligence will not recommend the best content, but the one that it thinks is more suitable for you to comment on something, like it or not change to the next video. With so little attention time on the part of the user, what works best are the videos that make you angry, outraged, lie or, in the best of cases, they make you crack a smile. Instagram wants you to stick around as long as possible, and see as many ads as possible.
Facebook’s mission is no longer to connect the world, but to zombify it. All hooked. Looking at the screen; slipping; giving like; and, of course, consuming advertising. It’s like watching TV, but the remote is controlled by an algorithm and on top of that the presenter doesn’t get paid.