Too many influencers, not enough eyeballs: Will boredom kill Instagram?


When did Instagram become so boring? Apple’s photo-sharing app, once Facebook’s eyes, has rejected allegations of toxicity for years. But boredom is a painful new problem. This shift poses a threat to Instagram’s profitability, and the market valuation of its owners is close to $1 trillion.

It is difficult to know whether Instagram has changed or its users have just grown up. After all, the millennials who made Instagram a phenomenon are entering middle age. Uploading a selfie requires time and effort, and they no longer need to waste it. Even feel embarrassed. My own feed is rapidly decreasing. Friends’ posts are disappearing, replaced by brand events. Influencer, An online celebrity created to promote things to followers, has taken over the application.

The pandemic seems to have accelerated existing trends. Bragging is the motivation for most Instagram posts, but not satisfied with the cancellation of holidays and restaurant closures. Max Read, former editor-in-chief of Gawker, wrote last year that the app became “Disturbingly boring“In a blocked state. Actress Gal Gadot tried to inspire the crowd by uploading an Instagram video of her famous friend singing Imagine It did manage to unite the public, but only for everyone involved in the video. The existential question of what performance social media is used for becomes difficult to answer.

The decline in Instagram’s appeal is reflected in the time people spend there. In the UK, in September last year, young people aged 18-24 spent 10 and a half minutes looking at it every day. According to a report by Ofcom, this is a drop from last year’s 15 minutes or more. The same group spent more than half an hour watching TikTok and more than an hour on YouTube.

Over time, every social media platform will give power to competitors. But over the years, Instagram has defined this industry. Launched in 2010 by Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom, its main selling point is its photo filters. Suddenly, anyone with a smartphone can use the perfect image. The app is also known for positivity: it provides a refuge for sniping and controversy on Facebook and Twitter. By the summer of 2018, it had more than 1 billion monthly active users, which made Facebook’s acquisition of $1 billion six years ago look like a bargain. According to reports, its success was so comprehensive that it caused dissatisfaction within Facebook. wired magazine.

However, over time, Instagram’s artificial perfection is distorted into something that may be more harmful. It is notorious for encouraging users to feel inadequate. Mark Zuckerberg likes to say that connection is the core of all Facebook products, but the real driving force is attention. Instagram users turned on their cameras and uploaded an unprecedented number of self-portraits.The ubiquity of filtered selfies has led to an increase in plastic surgery operations in pursuit of the so-called Instagram face.

In retrospect, 2018 may be the climax of the application.In the same year, the founder of Instagram Leave facebook, Unable to agree on its future. Facebook took this opportunity to add more videos and shopping links to the app, all of which are focused on monetization. Instagram’s minimalist design has been replaced by a grab bag that looks more like Facebook’s own application. It has not provided updates on the number of users for three years, which shows that growth has been slowing down.

At the same time, a backlash against the perfection that the app peddles has been brewing. The short video app TikTok has a trend of showing a seemingly artistic photo uploaded to Instagram, and then revealing the true story behind it. The seemingly random image was tried 20 times. The water in the lake is polluted. The private jet never leaves the airport. It turns out that nowhere else in the world actually has a better, more special, and more colorful time than you.

Perhaps the cracks began to appear in January 2019, when a photo of an egg surpassed Kylie Jenner and became the most popular Instagram post. The activity is a deliberate prank by the user. In the same year, TikTok took off in the United States, full of irreverent jokes and a group of young creators. So far, Instagram’s Reels equivalent has not diminished TikTok’s success.

Instagram must hope that its user base is large enough to avoid the irrelevance of MySpace style. Facebook has shown that even if its cultural influence is diminishing, it is good at getting more revenue from the same user base. User growth in the United States and Canada has stagnated, but Facebook’s average revenue per user increased by nearly one-fifth last year. It will need to use Instagram again to perform the same trick. Otherwise, user boredom will begin to touch the bottom line of the company.

elaine.moore@ft.com





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