Later this year, Instagram will change in a big way. Rather than showing you a chronological feed of images, it will serve up photos in the order it thinks you'd like to see them. This will happen via an algorithm similar to the one that shapes your Facebook feed.
Many accounts are worried that the tweak will make their content less visible, and they're begging their followers to enable post notifications. Maybe you've noticed a deluge of posts in your feed that point toward the upper-right of your screen, demanding that you turn on these notifications that will send a ping to your phone whenever a new picture is posted. You'll have to turn this feature on for each individual account you want to get direct updates about.
We don't recommend it.
First of all, it's ludicrous that people and brands are asking you to turn on notifications now, when the update won't happen for a while. For all we know, Instagram will eliminate post notifications as part of the algorithm change.
Second, if you start turning on post notifications for all sorts of individual accounts, you'll soon find yourself inundated by updates. Phone notifications are distracting and awful, so why would you want to turn on even more of them?
It's strange that people are freaking out about the coming update, even though it would ostensibly help them. After all, if you follow a lot of Instagram accounts, there's a good chance you're probably already missing important posts (baby pictures! puppies!) in your endless feed. This is exactly what the algorithm is supposed to fix.
We can't know for sure how the algorithm update will work, but it makes sense to look at Facebook for clues.
Facebook, which owns Instagram, has gotten pretty good at interpreting the people and things you're most interested in and displaying content based on those preferences. The social network also lets you select certain people or accounts to see at the top of your News Feed, so it's likely that Instagram will let you do something similar.
The accounts that are most worried, as The Cut points out, are brands that probably rely on Instagram for revenue.
Rhubarb Paper Co., a greeting card company with nearly 4,000 Instagram followers, said in a post Monday that the algorithm update will be "really bad for small businesses," implying that their content will be punished by an automated feed. That might be true to an extent, since Instagram directly references "your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of a post" as parts of the algorithm, and it's hard for a brand advertisement to meet either of those criteria.
In all likelihood, the update will produce a more pleasant Instagram experience for the average user while making it harder for fashion outlets and other retailers to show ads to people without paying the social network for sponsored placement.
That's not to say Instagram is trying to silence the businesses that use its platform. If the new algorithm does its job right, those brands will still be reaching customers who are passionate about their products and actually like, comment on and share those photographs with frequency.
A spokeswoman for the company declined to comment on the record when reached by The Huffington Post Monday.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that Rhubarb Paper Co. posted about the algorithm update last Thursday. The company's post went up on Monday.
This article has been updated to include more screenshots.
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