The Web Witch's Blog

Instagram killed creativity with the removal of recent hashtags

Instagram had been testing out removing the ability to see recent posts under hash tags for about a year. They thought removing access to recent posts under hash tags and only bubbling up top content would help people discover more content better suited to them. As product manager, I call bs and I believe their data to move ahead with this decision was wrong.

Th head of Instagram, was recorded in a live video saying that the recent hashtags view was a vector for spam and abuse and it was removed for the safety of users. Sacrificing one of the most useful tools in the app for discovering new content to combat spam seems like a cop-out. "We don't know how to solve this problem so we'll just remove it." The solutions most beneficial to your users may not be the most straightforward and easiest. You need to balance that with ensuring you're building a product people love. So how has this update killed creativity?

The update that killed creativity and drives homogeneity #

I can no longer find smaller accounts using niche hashtags. I enjoyed looking for accounts in style niches that aren't remnants of the big blogging era. This content isn't being served up to me. I follow some hashtags, but I never see posts from them anymore in my feed.

Small creators and artists now need to vie for a spot in the extremely limited top posts showed under a hashtag. They start copying what big accounts are doing. Same style, same vibe, same trend. Sometimes it might work and if you posted a reel, it gets picked up.

And now an environment is created where up and coming unique voices are forced into a pattern of content to keep their account relevant. We end up with thousands of reels following the same pattern. We end up with people focusing on hacks to increase reel views and then sharing those hacks as reels.

Instagram killed discoverability and insists the change was to serve more relevant and recent content into our feeds. Maybe I would believe that if my explore page didn't serve up the same content from 6 months ago. I seem to get a mix of "posted 5 days ago" and "posted 6 months ago"...and the amount of accounts with under 10,000 followers showing up in that explore page is much less than those with over 10,000 followers.

I don't judge anyone using the tips and tricks to get their content shown more. It just sucks it's to a point where thousands of creators feel like they have to hack the system to do so. They have to create content that conforms to a pattern that worked for other people, and might work for them but no guarantee, so just throw another reel on the pile that looks like everyone else's.

Pessimistically, I believe the app promotes homogeneity, based on the reel formulas I see creators using. They are all the same, and it's not the fault of creators. It's the fault of the product itself.

More often that not it's the fault of the need for unlimited growth, whether it's news users or monthly recurring revenue. I suspect some poor product manager is doing what they have to do to drive more people to pay to play.

Not everyone wants to pay though. One of the reasons we might post to social media is to share with the world, in hopes of finding like-minded people, not necessarily to sell anything. How do we find those like-minded people if we only see what an app forces us to see instead of discovering it organically?

Unfortunately Instagram isn't the only one suffering from this. Twitter is awash with tweet formulas that have been become synonymous with grift and little value, but the formula brings in high engagement.

Rinse. Repeat. And the cycle goes on and on.

Edit: After posting this, I came across a blog post from Olu, titled "Bump, boost" about mass social media and engagement. Definitely worth a read! Check out their blog post here

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