Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Too Many Influencers, Not Enough Eyes: Will Boredom Kill Instagram?

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When did Instagram get so boring? Once the apple of Facebook’s eye, the photo-sharing app has spent years rejecting allegations of toxicity. But boredom is a painful new problem. The change poses a threat to Instagram’s money-making ability just as its owner’s market valuation is approaching a trillion dollars.

It is difficult to know if Instagram has changed or its users have simply grown. The millennials who made Instagram a phenomenon are creeping into middle age, after all. Uploading selfies takes time and effort that you no longer have to spend. It can even be embarrassing. My own diet is fading fast. Friends’ posts are disappearing, replaced by brand campaigns. Influencers, a race of online celebrities created to whip things at followers, have taken over the app.

The pandemic appears to have accelerated an existing trend. Showing off, the motivation behind most Instagram posts, didn’t sit well with canceled vacations and closed restaurants. Max Read, Gawker’s former editor-in-chief, wrote last year that he left Instagram in early 2020 after the app became “hauntingly boring“Locked. Actress Gal Gadot’s embarrassing attempt to cheer up the masses by uploading an Instagram video of her famous friends singing Imagine managed to unite the public, but only against everyone involved in the video. The existential question of what performative social networks are for became difficult to answer.

The declining appeal of Instagram is reflected in the time people spend there. In the UK, 18-24 year olds spent 10 and a half minutes looking at it every day last September. This was down from more than 15 minutes the previous year, according to an Ofcom report. The same group spent more than half an hour watching TikToks and more than an hour on YouTube.

Each social media platform cedes power to its rivals over time. But for years, Instagram has defined the sector. Launched in 2010 by Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom, its main attraction was its photographic filters. Suddenly, flawless images were available to anyone with a smartphone. The app also earned a reputation for being positive – it provided a haven from criticism and argument on Facebook and Twitter. By the summer of 2018, it had more than a billion monthly active users, so buying Facebook for $ 1 billion six years earlier seemed like a bargain. Its success was so wide that it sparked internal resentment on Facebook, according to Cabling magazine.

However, over time, the manufactured perfection of Instagram morphed into something that could be more damaging. He became known for fostering feelings of inadequacy in his users. Mark Zuckerberg likes to say that connection is the heart of all Facebook products, but the real drive is attention. Instagram users focused on their cameras and uploaded an unprecedented number of selfies. The ubiquity of leaked selfies sparked a surge in plastic surgery procedures in pursuit of the call Instagram face.

In hindsight, 2018 may have been the highlight of the app. That same year, the founders of Instagram left Facebook, unable to agree on its future. Facebook took the opportunity to saturate the app with more videos and shopping links, all with a view to monetization. Instagram’s minimalist design has been replaced by a goodie bag that looks more like the Facebook app itself. It hasn’t provided an update on the number of users in three years, suggesting that growth has slowed.

Meanwhile, a backlash has been brewing to the app selling perfection. There is a trend in short video app TikTok to display a seemingly naive photo uploaded to Instagram and then reveal the real story behind it. The seemingly casual image took 20 tries. The lake water was polluted. The private jet never left the airport. It turns out that the rest of the world, in fact, is not having a better, more special, and more color-saturated time than you.

Perhaps the cracks started showing in January 2019, when a photo of an egg surpassed Kylie Jenner as the most liked Instagram post. The campaign was a deliberate prank on the part of users. That same year, TikTok took off in the US, full of irreverent jokes and a younger cohort of creators. The reel equivalent of Instagram has so far failed to make a dent in the success of TikTok.

Instagram should expect its user base to be large enough to avoid the irrelevance of the MySpace style. Facebook has shown that it is adept at extracting more revenue from the same group of users even as its cultural impact diminishes. User growth in the US and Canada has stalled, but Facebook’s average revenue per user increased by nearly a fifth last year. You will have to do the same trick again with Instagram. Otherwise, the boredom of the user will begin to affect the results of the company.

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