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Can You See Me?

Can You See Me?

What’s Happening with Instagram

By Tonneli Grutter

On Monday, July 25, 2022, mega influencer Kylie Jenner said the magic words that thousands of florists and small-business owners have been feeling the crushing weight of for months: Make Instagram Instagram Again. Suddenly, users of the popular social media app could breathe a sigh of relief. 

No: It is not in your head.

Yes: Your numbers are down.

In Fact: Even top celebrities are down.

Most Important: It’s not your fault!

In recent months, many celebrated photo-based Instagram accounts have seen major throttling by the app to force more users to create video content. Likewise, users report that their carefully curated feeds, once filled with flowers, friends and family, have now been overrun by random videos unrelated to their interests. Suddenly, creators with 50,000 or more followers were seeing their most beautiful photo posts shown to less than 10 percent of their subscribed audience. This inspired the original author of Jenner’s statement, a 21-year-old L.A. photographer named Tati Bruening—known professionally as @Illumitati—to create the now viral meme urging Instagram’s parent company, Meta, to stop mimicking TikTok’s focus on video-oriented content and to return to prioritizing photos.

The viral meme reads, “MAKE INSTAGRAM INSTAGRAM AGAIN. (stop trying to be tiktok i just want to see cute photos of my friends. SINCERELY, EVERYONE” It even resulted in a Change.org petition with nearly 300,000 signatures. For some time, users who came to love Instagram as photographers have been grappling to find a similar passion for video, but recently the app began taking things a step further: Instead of showing users the content they follow, newly developed AI would begin to fill an ever-expanding portion of their already ad-saturated feeds with suggested video content to compete with TikTok. The results: Many unhappy users asking themselves and, often, their followers, via Stories, “Is Instagram over?”

In the early days, Instagram gained steam in the floral community as something special that went beyond what current tools of the era such as Yelp and Facebook could offer. Instagram made its name as a photography app where people could share and view square-ratio-cropped images from friends, family and favorite brands. In a revolutionary move and, perhaps, the most vital to its success among florists, the app became an early adopter of hashtag searching, too, which allowed customers to easily look up phrases like #weddingflorist and #flowerwall. The platform opened the door for florists to dive deep into their creative practices, build collaborative relationships, exchange educational content and, most important, showcase the work they always dreamed of creating but could never fully put to words. In short, florists finally had the power to show consumers what they are capable of. Instagram broke down the gates that kept bespoke full-service floristry locked away for the privileged few. It showed consumers across the globe not only what flowers can be but also that there are floral artists waiting to work with them closer than they realized. No longer did customers need a Beverly Hills address to locate floral design teams willing to create the installations of their dreams because Instagram provided the perfect platform. Any florists brave enough to push their creative limits and invest in their portfolios had a chance to shine. At its peak, Instagram was a thriving machine that led to fantastic opportunities for many. It seemed the sky was the limit for those with talent willing to put in the effort.

During the 12 years since Instagram was launched, in October 2010, the app has had mixed success in mimicking other competitors such as Twitter, when it adopted hashtags; YouTube, with long-format IGTV; and Snapchat, when it rolled out Stories. So, it came as no surprise to social media experts when TikTok broke the 1 billion-user benchmark that Meta went into a copycat tailspin. Throughout this struggle for dominance, it is widely believed Instagram began a mission to do the unthinkable: abandon its origin as a friends-plus-photos-based app. Each social media app has its unique vehicle of delivering content; for Instagram, that vehicle has always been photography. Over the years, the app has consistently tried to pressure users to upload video in addition to photos through an ever-changing algorithm, but it cannot change the fact that Instagram without photos is as appealing to its core users as Twitter without the written word and YouTube without video. 

Just one day after Jenner’s now infamous callout to the company using Tati’s meme, Instagram’s top boss, Adam Mosseri, released the following statement: 

“Now, I want to be clear: We’re going to continue to support photos—it’s part of our heritage, you know, I love photos; I know a lot of you out there love photos, too. That said, I need to be honest—I do believe that more and more of Instagram is going to become video over time. We see this even if we change nothing. We see this even if you look just at chronological feed. If you look at what people share on Instagram, that’s shifting more and more to videos over time. If you look at what people like and consume and view on Instagram, that’s also shifting more and more to video over time, even when we stop changing anything. So, we’re going to have to lean into that shift while continuing to support photos.”

Only time will tell what changes this statement will result in long term, but one thing is clear: Roughly one week later, at the time this article was drafted, we at Florists’ Review are happy to report that we can see you again! Our feed, which was overrun by random videos, is suddenly showing us the work of floral community members that we hold dear.

Would you like to share your thoughts on this story or social media trends? If so, reach out to us on Instagram @florists_review.

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