Does anyone else feel like the natural order of the world has been flipped upside down? I do, and I know why. It's because Instagram switched its feed from photos appearing in chronological order to photos being sorted by an algorithm. You may have noticed the change roll out in the past few days, and you may have noticed how it is totally messing with your head. This is the first major change to Instagram since Facebook bought it for $US1 billion ($1.3 billion) in 2012, and they really screwed it up. The algorithmic feed on Facebook makes sense. It works there, because social norms on Facebook essentially force you to be friends with people who post dumb shit that you really don't want to see. This is where the algorithm comes in, and works! But on Instagram, I have a carefully curated feed. I want to see everything posted by everyone I follow. In order.
"You may be surprised to learn that people miss on average 70 per cent of their feeds," Instagram said in a blog announcing the change in March. "This means you often don't see the posts you might care about most." Trust me: I wasn't missing any posts before, but I definitely am now.
Part of Instagram's beauty was its chronological feed. I could easily see what my friends were up to right now. Hanging out at the pool? Sick. Saw a good dog? Awesome. Just hiked up a mountain? Let me see that view.
As I scrolled down my feed, everything made sense. The next photo I saw was posted before the one I was currently looking at. The chronological feed provided the necessary context to understand how each photo was related to another. Checking Instagram on my lunch break used to be a refreshing and rewarding experience, but it's now turned into something that makes me want to rip my hair out and toss my phone at the wall. "It makes me feel like I'm being cheated from my feed," a friend told me. Cheated indeed.
Instead of turning my brain off and consuming cool pictures posted by people I like, my brain involuntary tries to sort each photo chronologically. Why did a picture of today's sunrise appear in my feed before a picture of today's sunset? This makes no sense! Instagram has been the best social network for so long, and then someone in the Bay Area decided they needed to fiddle with it by adding an algorithm. The one thing I could rely on for a quick rush of dopamine has now turned into a frustrating and trying experience.
At the very least, Instagram should provide an option to switch out of the algorithm hellscape, and back to what we all know and love, and what God intended: The chronological feed.