Facebook wants you to friend the random people you follow on Instagram

Friends or followers?
Friends or followers?
Image: Reuters/Mark Makela
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If you’re on both Facebook and Instagram, chances are you don’t follow the exact same people on both platforms. Usually, Facebook friends are people you actually know, whereas your Instagram feed is a mix of friends and of strangers that you find interesting. Facebook wants to change that, in what appears to be part of a strategy to link the two platforms more closely.

For years, Instagram has been suggesting that you follow your Facebook friends on the platform. Now Facebook is reversing that, suggesting that users friend the people they follow on Instagram, as Bloomberg’s Sarah Frier noted on Twitter.

“We’re always looking for ways to help people connect with friends on Facebook. This feature allows people who have linked their Facebook and Instagram accounts to find their friends from the Instagram community, on Facebook,” a spokesperson for the company told Quartz in a statement. “People can continue to manage their experience and hide unwanted suggestions at any time.”

Facebook said the feature was launched last month.

According to reports from 2015, this has happened before—just not as explicitly. Facebook would suggest friending people users followed on Instagram through the cryptic “People you may know” feature.

But this time Facebook decided not to be shy about it. Following the recent departure of the founders of Instagram from Facebook, which bought the photo sharing app in 2012, it emerged that Facebook had been planning a closer integration of the two services. Insiders suggested that a rivalry was at play, with Facebook plagued by scandals and losing younger users, while Instagram thrived in comparison.

Facebook looks like its trying to capitalize on Instagram’s cool, by banking on the fact that these days, making connections on Instagram is more exciting to many users. It’s more fun, more engaging, especially for the younger cohort. Merging the two communities could expand users’ Facebook friend groups and entice them to spend more time on the Facebook. The problem with that is twofold. These connections are more exciting because they are on Instagram, and stay there. And, crucially, friends and followers are not the same.