Instagram's Feed Tweaks Give You Back Some Control, but Experts Want More

It’s getting better, but it's not there yet

  • Instagram is giving people more tools to control what shows up in their feeds amid backlash surrounding the content they see.
  • The social network is testing letting people mark multiple posts as content they aren’t interested in and block posts with specific words in their captions and hashtags.
  • Experts believe Instagram needs to do more to appease long-time users.
Person holding an Apple iPhone X with Instagram profile on the screen

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Instagram has come under increasing pressure over the way it promotes content in the feeds of its users, but now it's rolling out two changes that it says will give people more control over the posts they see.

Instagram used to be a place where people would go to see photos from their friends, but it's changed over time, and parent company Meta has drawn criticism for that. Now, the company has announced plans to give people a way to regain control, letting them block some types of content from appearing in their feeds, but some experts worry it isn't going far enough.

"Users want to know that their feed is curated for them—a personalized experience based on who they follow, what they search for, and the settings they select," Sandra McLemore, president of marketing media firm Travel Marketing and Media, told Lifewire via email. Adding that Instagram must "find a way to value original content."

A Content Problem

Instagram, once the place people would go to see photos of their friends' lunches and what they got up to on vacation, has grown into something else in recent years. Some Instagram users complain the posts they see in their feed are little more than influencers "flexing," with the same things appearing time and again.

Instagram needs to go back to its roots of favoring picture-based content...

It’s an issue that speaks to McLemore’s point that Instagram should focus on surfacing fresh and original content at a time when some experts believe it’s doing the opposite by trying to turn itself into TikTok. The company recently backed out of plans to morph itself into a TikTok-like video feed following user unrest, but only temporarily. And experts already agree that there aren’t many alternatives to Instagram, even if people decide they’re ready to jump ship.

To its credit, Instagram’s new changes may have merit. Meta confirmed in a blog post that it’s testing the ability to mark multiple posts as uninteresting content. Previously, people had to mark posts individually, which became a time-consuming process that added friction. 

Another change gives people the opportunity to tell Instagram which posts they don’t want to see based on keywords used in captions and hashtags. Meta says it continues to prioritize posts that its algorithm thinks people will like but admits it doesn’t always get it right.

An Unlikely Fix

Meg Watson, a journalist at the Sydney Morning Herald, previously complained that the posts she sees in her Instagram feed include "100x more ads" and "none of my friends' content." It's an argument echoed by many, including world-famous actors.

"It's important to us that people feel good about the time they spend on Instagram, so we'll continue to work on ways to give people more control over what they see," Meta said in its press release, but experts aren't convinced it's going far enough in undoing its mistakes of the past.

"The straw that broke the camel's back was when Instagram switched up their main feed algorithm [...] showing less of your family and close friends," Luke Lintz, CEO of social media agency HighKey, told Lifewire via direct message. "Instagram needs to go back to its roots of favoring picture-based content and changing the main feed algorithm to what it was back in 2016."

What would getting back to its roots look like for Instagram? "Instagram needs to equally value photos and videos," McLemore added, saying that it has now become a "school popularity contest among influencers."

She believes that "people go to Facebook to be connected and Instagram to become inspired, but it seems like Instagram Reels are just a bunch of videos showing people how to do better" when posting videos, not photos, to the social network. Time will tell whether Instagram's new changes will help promote high-quality and original posts, but recent comments by Instagram chief Adam Mosseri that video is the future suggest this will not be the case.

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