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Homesocial mediaInstagram knows you don't like its changes and tests, but it doesn't...

Instagram knows you don’t like its changes and tests, but it doesn’t care

Now this public identity crisis is bleeding into its user base.

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On Tuesday, Instagram head Adam Mosseri appeared in full damage control mode. Facing the camera and wearing a bright-yellow sweater, he attempted to quash a growing revolt from some of Instagram’s most prominent users.

Less than 24 hours earlier, Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian and other high-profile influencers shared a black-and-white graphic declaring: “Make Instagram Instagram again. (Stop trying to be TikTok I just want to see cute photos of my friends.) Sincerely, everyone.”

The original post, created by a 21-year-old Instagram influencer named Tatiana Bruening, amassed more than 1.9 million likes as at Wednesday morning.

In a video posted to his Instagram account, Mosseri acknowledged that the app was in transition, but clarified that some things users might encounter, such as a full-screen feed, were just tests.

“There’s a lot going on on Instagram right now,” he said.

“We’re experimenting with a number of different changes to the app and so we’re hearing a lot of concerns from all of you.”

But the quick succession of new features and tests has left even its most loyal users wondering if even Instagram knows what Instagram is for.

“Instagram has become overcrowded with so many different types of content happening at the same time,” Bruening said.

“Everyone has been feeling the same thing at the same time but a lot of people have been too afraid to say anything.”

A Change.org petition started by Bruening seeks to undo many changes to the app, including bringing back a chronological timeline, prioritising photo posts, removing the Reels video tool and downplaying algorithmic discovery. As at Wednesday it had more than 180 000 signatures.

Although Instagram – which boasted roughly 1 billion monthly active users in 2021 – still exceeds TikTok’s base, it faces an increasing threat as use of the short-form video app has skyrocketed.

In 2020, TikTok became the most-downloaded app in the world and its young user base began spending more time on it than Instagram and Facebook. Instagram parent company Meta’s earnings report, set to be released this week, will show whether TikTok has eaten into its market share.

Instagram declined to comment further than what Mosseri said in his video.

The backlash against Instagram has spilled into the offline world. Last Saturday, several dozen content creators picketed outside the company’s New York headquarters to protest its community guidelines – which they say are too restrictive – and changes that make discovering new accounts difficult.

“I think the reason I and so many other people care about this so much is that we want so badly to be tech Utopianists,” said Ana, a 24-year-old content creator who organised the protest and declined to give her surname, citing privacy concerns.

She read out a list of demands before she and two other meme account administrators temporarily handcuffed themselves to Instagram’s office doors in an act of protest.

“We demand that artists, creators, and activists who monetise via this app are protected and have real support systems with real moderators to help users,” she shouted. “We need to make the platform work for the people who keep it alive.”

But users are notoriously fickle, and complaints often don’t align with their behaviour. While some Instagram users claim that they want to see more photo-based posts in their feed, Mosseri said users were posting less of this content, choosing instead to share pictures to their Stories or through direct messages.

And none of the changes endorsed by Bruening were likely to restore Instagram to what it once was, experts on the platform said.

“I guarantee that every single person who liked and shared that post about bringing Instagram back to what it was, would..

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