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Trending: What's New on Instagram, and Why We're Worried About It

By David Schonauer   Monday July 2, 2018


Instagram has been introducing new features.

No news there: The platform seems to roll out new things every week. Let is review some of the more recent developments:

In May, the platform launched a new feature allowing users to share other people’s photos in their own stories. And of course it’s easy to do: “If you’re browsing through your feed and see a photo that you’d like to share, simply tap the paper airplane ‘Send’ button found below it,” noted PetaPixel. You’ll then find a new option for using the post to create a story.

On the other hand, in June Instagram decided to ditch a plan to tell people when others screenshot their Stories, much to the relief of stalkers everywhere, noted The Verge.

In an effort to expand its ever-widening sphere of social influence, Instagram recently announced the launch of a standalone app enabling users to post hour-long videos. The app, called Instagram TV — IGTV for short — features full-screen, vertical video, reported DP Review, and will have creator-based channels.

“It’s clear that Instagram is attempting to capitalize on the disaffection of many YouTubers, who are increasingly put off by Google’s new and parsimonious monetization policy,”  noted PDN. In other words, added DIY Photography, Instagram as we know it may be changing.

Does that worry you? We ask, because lately we’ve been detecting a growing angst about how Instagram is affecting culture, our environment, and our minds.

For instance, in May Instagram also launched a feature that tells you how much time you’re spending using the app. "Understanding how time online impacts people is important, and it’s the responsibility of all companies to be honest about this,” Tweeted Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom. Noted TechCrunch, “It sounds like Instagram is willing to endure a potential reduction in usage and ad views to be serve the mental health of its community.”

And, noted PetaPixel, to reduce user FOMO, Instagram recently began testing an “All Caught Up” message that lets you know if you’ve seen everything “new” from people you follow. “The feature is part of a movement (called “time well spent“) among social media services to help users keep track of time in order to promote wellness,” noted PP.
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In related news, TechCrunch  posted a report on how Instagram ranks your photos — a mystery that has provoked no small degree of paranoia among the app’s users. This unease picked up steam in 2016, when Instagram abandoned its chronological feed in favor of an algorithm that ranks posts for you. Interestingly enough, TechCrunch learned that the old chronological feed was making users miss 50 percent of their friends’ posts.

Popular Mechanics  also recently picked up on the sense that Instagram is due for a fall. While Facebook (which owns Instagram) has been picking its way through scandals over privacy and its negative effects on democracy, and while Twitter and YouTube take heat for becoming the go-to platforms for hate groups, Instagram has stayed benignly above the noxious social-media fray, noted PM.

But the worry is there. At Medium, writer Kate Imbach penned a recent essay titled “Why Instagram Makes You, Me and Selena Gomez Feel Bad.”

Imbach pointed to an interview in which Gomez, one of the app’s most popular personalities, said, “I have a complex relationship with Instagram, to say the least… it empowers me in that way because it’s my words and my voice and my truth. The only thing that worries me is how much value people our age place on social media…in a lot of ways it’s given young people, myself included, a false representation of what’s important.”

Several photo websites recently spotlighted a video from landscape photographer Mark Denney, who is concerned that “Instagram hikers” are harming the environment — and, by the way, that the app’s usefulness for pro photographers has decreased.


(Likewise, agreed Business Insider, “Instagram is changing the way people travel — and not for the better.” People “plan stops along their trips to the places with the most Instagram buzz,” thereby reshaping how they experience new places, noted BI.)

Instagram, and social media in general, are driving us to distraction, diverting our attention from the real world, declared James Williams,  author of Stand Out of Our Light: Freedom and Resistance in the Attention Economy, in a recent essay at The Guardian.

Last December, after facing withering criticism over the spread of fake news, Facebook itself questioned whether social media was driving people apart rather than bringing them together, while promising that the app would strive to be “a place for meaningful interactions with your friends and family.”

Have we reached a social-media tipping point?

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