This post has been updated.
An upcoming change in Instagram’s algorithm has the (artfully filtered) panties of the photo-sharing platform’s users in a figurative bunch.
Rather than photos appearing in chronological order, as they presently do, Instagram is testing an algorithm that will favor photos and videos “based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content,” according to a March 15 blog post on Instagram’s website. Like the feed you see on Facebook, “the order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post.”
Instagram says the idea is to make sure that we don’t miss posts we care about. But those words have struck fear in the hearts of the platform’s users, and a rash of insecurity has spread across the site. The concern is that the algorithm could hurt some users’ “influence”—which is to say, their visibility and the amount of interaction with their posts—on the platform. These fearful, thirsty users have reacted with posts hashtagged #TURNMEON, begging followers to turn on personalized notifications to ensure that no selfie goes unseen, no #ootd unliked.
Naturally, many of the #TURNMEON posts come from brands, which may be reasonably concerned that users’ personal connections and Instagram’s paying advertisers’ posts will be favored over theirs.
More than 62,000 Instagrams had been hashtagged #turnmeon at the time of writing, and a change.org petition (against, um, the change) had more than 324,000 supporters.
Instagram’s message to panicked users: Be cool.
A company representative told Vanity Fair the new algorithm is currently only being tested with a single-digit percentage of its users, and Instagram tweeted a promise on Monday (March 28) to notify users when “changes roll out broadly.” Despite that, many of the #turnmeon requests display a message warning that “Instagram is changing from tomorrow.” (Update, March 29: “This meme is incorrect that the changes are happening today,” an Instagram representative told Quartz. “There are still weeks, or even months, of testing to come before we roll this out more broadly. Currently the test groups are very small. We will let the community know before any changes are made.”)
To be sure, change is tough. I am an avid Instagram user, and already lament the ways advertisements disrupt the once-personal feeling of my photo feed. I too would rather scroll through photos chronologically, and decide for myself what I consider to be important.
But I am not going to answer the widespread plea to #turnmeon. No way am I going to set up notifications that buzz me every bloody time a brand posts a photo—or even when one of my beloved friends does.
It’s a point Eva Chen, Instagram’s head of fashion partnerships, made rather elegantly (via Instagram). “I feel like getting thousands of post notifications a day would be stressful,” she muses in the caption to a selfie in which she oscillates in a rocking chair, with a cup of tea.
Algorithm or not, I doubt I would have missed that one.