Artists tell Instagram ‘stop trying to be TikTok’ in online petition

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Instagram is obsessed with TikTok, the video-sharing app. So says the “Make Instagram Instagram again” petition that has gained momentum over the summer. Launched on 22 July and now with more than 300,000 signatures, the petition aims “to bring attention to what consumers want from Instagram and to start a conversation surrounding the health of our beloved app”. The demands stem from Instagram’s—or rather, its owner company Meta’s—constant changes to the platform.

In June, Instagram head Adam Mosseri revealed updates including a new “creator marketplace”, changes to the app’s video function Reels and an expansion of their NFT accessibility. Three weeks later, he announced yet more Reels updates (this focus on Reels is what is prompting Instagram users to detect the app’s TikTok infatuation).

The main petition requests are: a return to chronological timelines, fewer Reels, more photos, and for the company to listen to creators. It was started by the photographer Tati Bruening who announced “I’m starting a movement. Let’s bring back the old Instagram”, alongside an in-feed image that reads: “Make Instagram Instagram again (stop trying to be TikTok I just want to see cute photos of my friends.) Sincerely, everyone.” It has almost 2.3 million likes.

Many users shared Bruening’s image using the tag #makeinstagraminstagramagain—so far it has been used in more than 5,000 posts. Artist Support Pledge—the Instagram-focused, cyclical sales system launched by the artist Matthew Burrows during Covid to help artists sell their work—posted an anonymous user testimony that reads: “Instagram helped me start and grow my business. They are now killing it. Sales are down 80%. And the other 20% is from contacts I’d already made. No one is engaging with the posts, including Reels.” But it was when celebrity “creators”—like Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian—shared Bruening’s image that Meta really sat up and listened.

On 26 July, Mosseri posted a video in response to users’ “concerns”. He reassured them that a lot of the changes people were seeing were tests that had not been rolled out, and wouldn’t be until they were better (like full-screen videos). He added: “I want to be clear, we are going to continue to support photos, it is part of our heritage… that said I need to be honest, I do believe that more and more of Instagram is going to become video over time.” Users were not placated.

Four days later, Instagram announced that it was rolling back its latest updates. “This is a small victory for the power of a collective effort to make change,” Artist Support Pledge posted. “This is a relief, but we should be vigilant in understanding what this means. It’s a temporary peace token.” Will Meta press on with their plans for “Instatok”? Regardless, the campaign is a reminder of the power within the Instagram community—and that little hashtag icon.

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