Instagram was one of my favorite apps — now I can’t stand it


Instagram is dying a slow, drawn-out death, and I don’t think that I’m the only one to notice. The app has been at the center of controversy after controversy as Meta continuously shifts around its ambitions for it, tries to compete with other social media giants like TikTok, and packs itself full to bursting with suggested posts and a relentless number of advertisements. It feels like Meta is doing its best in order to maximize profits and draw users in, but from everyone I’ve talked to who feels the same as I do, we’re only being pushed away.

As it’s desperately tried to find a new identity, Instagram has become completely useless to me. It’s an app full of content I don’t care about that’s plastered floor-to-ceiling with ads that have me closing it each time — feeling frustrated and that I might as well delete it to save myself some time and storage space.

Remembering what Instagram used to be

Someone holding an iPhone. The screen shows a full-screen Instagram post.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

What hurts the most about what Instagram has become is that I, like many, remember what it used to be: a simple app that allowed users to share photos with one another. Obviously, there have been some solid improvements since Instagram first debuted in 2010, but the app’s pivot to video content has made it into a half-baked TikTok impersonator that’s a far cry from what it initially set out to be.

As people my age shifted away from relying on Facebook as their primary social media site for the likes of Instagram and Twitter, Instagram became one of the only reliable places for me to see the pictures my friends were posting. Sure, many of the photos also made their way to Twitter as well, but Instagram’s focus on photos set it apart as a streamlined place to go to see pictures of your friends.

I get lucky if I see two photo posts from accounts I that I actually follow each time I open Instagram.

Now, I get lucky if I see two photo posts from accounts I that I actually follow each time I open Instagram. The rest of the app is devoted to suggested content, ads, and Reels (like, a lot of Reels). Essentially, the only feature I actually use on Instagram anymore is Stories since they’re always at the top of my feed when I open the app, and I know that I’ll actually be seeing content that my friends are posting … albeit while still having to swipe through a fair number of ads.

In the age of COVID, when friends can sometimes be further away than they’ve ever been, Instagram could have been a nice way to stay connected with people who I don’t get to see much in person anymore. Instead, Instagram is obsessed with being a platform for content creators. The thing is, my friends aren’t “content creators,”; they’re just regular people that I want to check in on and stay connected to — something that Instagram has made it clear it doesn’t care about anymore. Because of this issue, paired with the constant stream of ads, there’s just no reason for me to even open the app these days.

Still searching for a good alternative

A smartphone and two other devices on a white table. The smartphone has the TikTok logo on its screen.

I think the obvious question here is, “If Instagram is so bad, then why don’t you just find another app to use?” And that’s a fair question! As a social media site starts going downhill, we’ve seen time and time again that people will jump ship to other apps that better suit their needs. Unfortunately, there just aren’t any popular picture-sharing apps that people seem to be gravitating toward en masse in favor of Instagram.

The way that I use social media is almost entirely centered around where I know I’ll be able to find my friends online. But no one is leaving Instagram to go somewhere else — we’re all just staying put and accepting that it’s terrible. I’m absolutely guilty of this; I still have Instagram downloaded, but I’d delete it without hesitation if there were a better alternative that was just as popular.

No one is leaving Instagram to go somewhere else — we’re all just staying put and accepting that it’s terrible.

I’ve seen arguments be made that TikTok is a solid Instagram alternative. While I think that TikTok certainly is a better place for video content than Instagram, I feel it falls into the same issues with prioritizing content creators over connecting users with their social circle. Plus, it doesn’t support the same photo-sharing features that Instagram used to have at the center of its experience.

A Galaxy S23 Ultra running Instagram. On the screen, there's an orange guitar.
Peter Szpytek/Digital Trends

Despite its major issues, Instagram was still the second most downloaded app in 2022, just behind TikTok. The thing is, I don’t think it’s popular for the reasons that made it so exciting when it first went live. Now, it’s popular as a place to upload six-month-old TikToks and work on growing an audience for up-and-coming influencers.

As social media continues to evolve and grow, I’m sure Meta will continue shifting Instagram’s focus. But I think I’ll be sitting out until it realizes that, actually, an app where people just share pictures of their friends is a pretty novel idea now.

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