It’s been six years since Instagram first removed the chronological feed in favor of an algorithmic one. That's six long years of missing your friends' posts, not seeing your favorite band's latest updates, and being bombarded with content from influencers you couldn’t care less about. So when the news arrived that Instagram would be returning to a chronological feed, I was probably a little more excited than I should’ve been.
When I first started using Instagram, it was merely a photo-sharing platform for square images. You could apply tacky (albeit kinda cool for the time) filters such as Nashville and Clarendon to make your images ‘pop’. Of course, like everything, Instagram has progressed and improved, but there are some features such as the chronological feed that never should have changed.
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One of the biggest downsides to the algorithmic feed is that it’s computer-generated. Now call me old-fashioned, but I would much rather decide for myself who to follow and what to like than having a computer dictate it to me. An algorithm, no matter how good it is, is only going to get it right so often. More times than not, I’ve scrolled past content that isn’t from someone I follow because I literally don’t care about which ex-Love Island contestant is launching a Boohoo collection or what protein powder I “should” be taking. So how on earth do these posts trickle into my feed?!
If suggested posts were slotted in-between reverse-chronological order posts I wouldn’t mind so much. But the fact is, I end up missing posts I actually want to see in favor of the posts that Instagram deems popular due to that account having lots of followers and the post getting lots of likes / shares / comments / saves.
Like so many people, I completely changed the way I used Instagram when I started shooting professionally. I began thinking about things like relevant hashtags, how my feed looked and what accounts I could tag to feature my work. Despite putting hours of time and a ton of effort into scheduling content, my engagement kept dropping because my followers weren’t seeing my posts.
Frustrated that my hard work was so invisible, I opened up the conversation with other photographers to find out if they felt the same – the answer was almost unanimously, yes. Almost everyone I spoke to has said that not only had their engagement had gone down, but they were seeing fewer posts from the people they follow. Sometimes it wasn’t until someone posted a story that I’d realize I hadn’t actually seen any content from them for a while. I’d go onto their page and, lo and behold, I’d discover weeks' worth of posts that hadn’t appeared on my feed.
As excited as I was to find out Instagram was returning to its roots, there is a caveat to this latest update; while there will be an option to view your feed in reverse-chronological order, it still won’t be the default – nor can you set it as such. Instead, you need to click on the Instagram icon in the top-left corner so that a drop-down menu pops up, select ‘Following’ and it’ll take you to a feed showing photos posted most recently.
Even though I’ve moaned about it, I do sometimes discover new accounts or find inspiration from someone I don’t follow due to the algorithmic feed. But that doesn’t make up for the times I’ve missed out on posts from friends, fellow photographers and inspiring creatives that I have chosen to follow.
The announcement about the chronological feed is welcome news and, while it might not be exactly as it was before, at least it’s a feature again. Perhaps the next update will make it a default option… a girl can dream.