Little Ditty About Instagram, A Predatory Social App in the Heartland

This article may contain affiliate links; if you click on a shopping link and make a purchase I may receive a commission. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
make instagram instagram again
If you're on Instagram, you've likely seen someone share this graphic that was originally created by Tatiana Bruening. And considering Instagram these days, you've likely seen it in Stories, not in-feed, and from someone who has at least 10,000 followers.

Folks are all up in arms because Instagram has come out with a few “heartfelt” videos lately sharing how the platform is changing and how they supposedly still respect photographs which is what the platform was made for originally. But really what Adam Mosseri said is Instagram is going to turn everything into a Reel XOXO ciao babe deal with it. You have to realize that once Instagram was bought by Facebook it was never a platform for the people, it was a platform for the money.

Screen Shot 2022 07 27 at 9.54.14 AM
A peek into what I shared on Instagram back in 2012. Filtered randoms that moved to Stories once they were made available so my feed could be more “curated” to appeal to brands and followers.

I was late as an influencer to join Instagram; it was January of 2012 (my 37th birthday to be exact). But once I was on the platform, I was hooked. I loved the retro feel of the filters, how they made an iced latte on the corner outside my office building look cool. I took a lot of pictures of my feet, and even back then, a lot of mirror selfies of what I was wearing.

But what hooked me was the same thing that hooked me with blogging way back in 2005. The community. Back when I started on Blogspot, there was a blogging community. You shared what blogs you liked in your sidebar, you had widgets to “follow” blogs on Google Reader, you clicked the taskbar at the top to hop to a random blog, you commented daily, and you had your own blog.

If someone commented on my Instagram content, I'd click on their profile to see what they have been sharing. Maybe they have this polished and pretty profile with a bunch of followers, maybe they have four followers and just take photos of their cats. It didn't matter, they had a platform, I had a platform, and it was fun to check out who these folks were that gravitated towards my content.

On Instagram, I could follow my favorite celebrity, my favorite museum, my favorite celebrity chef, my cousin, and the lady down the street that makes art out of beer cans. Unlike Facebook, I didn't have to weed through 65 photos from their trip or 65 folks wishing them happy birthday. I just saw to find what they really liked enough and felt was “them” enough to share on “The ‘Gram.”

Instagram really helped me understand the Wardrobe Oxygen audience. No longer was it anonymous individuals commenting on my blog post, or private accounts liking what I shared on Facebook. Now, there wasn't necessarily a face or a name, but if I clicked on their screen name I saw my readers loved to read, they enjoyed travel, they enjoyed quiet moments at home, they adored their pets, they were proud of what they cooked or knit or sewed or hiked, they were people instead of numbers.

Instagram was an even playing field, where a “brand” like me (I joined as Wardrobe Oxygen, not Alison Gary) could socialize with “people,” just like in those early Blogspot days. It was fun, it was eye-opening, it connected me to my community. To this day, I recognize screen names and profile photos, tap to see non-private accounts and what they're into and up to, super proud that such cool and lovely people choose to follow and connect with me and Wardrobe Oxygen.

But Instagram doesn't care about the faces and hobbies of the audience anymore. They just want its money. If you don't have a bunch of followers, if you don't play by their rules and use engagement tools and post X number of times of week and make videos, no one, not even your mother or your best friend or your neighbor who makes art out of beer cans will see your content. Not even if your mother or best friend or neighbor only follows a dozen or so accounts.

Instead, they will see ads. They will see accounts recommended because they play by the rules, they make the content Instagram wants, they bring Instagram money. They will be top of the feed, and you will have to make an effort to see what brought you to the platform in the first place: community.

No meme you share, no petition you sign, nothing will change this trajectory for Instagram. Because Instagram doesn't care what you think. Instagram does not care about you.

Now some say don't blame Instagram, every business wants to make money and every business changes. And sure, I have a business, and I want it to make money and Wardrobe Oxygen isn't like what it was in 2005. But each day as a business owner you are faced with choices. I can do this or I can do that. I can make this change that will be hella profitable, but will it piss off my audience? I can make this change that will make my audience/customers/members happy, but will it hurt my bottom line? Maybe I can just tweak this one thing, which won't be as profitable but it also won't ruin the customer experience.

Instagram is Facebook/Meta, and if you've seen the news in the past few years you know Facebook/Meta always chooses the path of more money, even if it ruins the customer experience, even if it is unethical. Because Meta trusts you're addicted, you're too in deep on their platforms to leave, even if it sucks.

And they're right. While Instagram isn't growing like TikTok, the platform they are so desperately trying to imitate, Instagram isn't going to go away any time soon. Folks aren't going to jump to another platform right away, especially if like me and likely you, we're over 35. We're too in deep. We have hundreds or thousands of photos, we have our followers, we have our parasocial relationships, and we're too busy/skeptical/tired/settled/uninterested to investigate and start over somewhere else.

When I took two weeks off the internet, I also took hundreds of accounts off my Instagram Following list. Most were fellow influencers that I knew, liked, and respected, but what they shared made me feel negative feelings. I found myself feeling a lot of comparison, a little jealousy, some judgment, and other things I know they wouldn't want me to feel.

I also unfollowed most meme accounts, those accounts that would share pretty graphics or funny Reels about pop culture or nostalgia or horoscopes or politics. They were just encouraging me to stay longer on a platform and spending less time on the content of folks I care about. And I unfollowed a lot of the big influencers that clearly were no longer sharing their content but had a team that filmed, edited, captioned, and engaged on their behalf (which I get, but it sort of ruins the fun/magic for me as a fellow influencer).

My hope with this purge was to see more of my IRL friends and family, the influencers who I know or admire, and those readers who have become like friends over the years. Yet each time I check my feed I see the same accounts over and over, and rarely are they accounts of individuals with fewer than 10K followers. And when I do see those smaller accounts I care about… it's because they have made a Reel.

Reels are a part of my job, I don't make them because I think they are fun. I started this job to be a writer, not an on-air personality or comedian or spokesmodel, or cinematographer. There's a reason why I have a sad, neglected YouTube channel. I can do it, I can even do it well, but Reels are not my task of choice.

But because Instagram wants them, brands want them, and the more Reels you do, the more people see your Reels, the more followers you get, the more money you get from brands, and so it goes. We all have parts of our job we don't necessarily enjoy but do it because it's necessary for our job description.

So it's hella weird to see Aunt Doris with 23 followers making a reel about her book club meeting or my old coworker Steve making a Reel to celebrate his mother's 75th birthday.

Instagram started as a sharing platform at a time when audiences were respected (remember when everyone read blogs and used tools to follow blogs and commented on blogs and commented on the comments on blogs?). We all had the same tools on Instagram, and we all used them. We all took photos of our feet and our drinks and the stage or the vista or the art in front of us. We all got creative in that little filtered box, creating our own art from shadows and light and angles and the faces and furry paws of those we loved.

Facebook bought Instagram in 2012. In 2013, Instagram began offering sponsored content and in the following years ramped up advertising, brand relations, and ways for the platform and accounts to profit. In 2016, Instagram switched from a chronological feed to one based on an algorithm (which IMO helped ads be displayed more often). That same year, Instagram launched Stories and Instagram Live, to compete with Snapchat and Periscope. From 2017 until now, Instagram has made changes almost monthly to make the platform more addictive, to replace competitors, to make money (source and source).

And with these changes, Instagram cared less and less about you, the audience, the folks who are sharing their knitting and kitten and kombuchas. While you're needed to click the links and watch the ads and heart the Reels, they don't really care what you have to say, what you want to do, and who you want to see. You're just a number and a payout.

All excited at the White House in 2016

In what feels like a past life, I was at an influencer event at the White House hosted by Michelle Obama. After the event, we all went out into her vegetable garden and a fellow influencer told me I HAD to get on Snapchat. It was so fun, and it was getting big and brands were paying well for content on there. That night I signed up, and immediately enjoyed it. My daughter and I made a lot of draft snaps that were never shared, having fun with the filters.

And once I became comfortable on Snapchat, Instagram came out with Stories. I was already on Instagram, and already getting paid by brands to post there. It made no sense for me to spread my time over two platforms so I quit Snapchat and continued the same kind of content I was creating there on Instagram Stories.

I think Instagram hopes we'll all jump the TikTok ship and head to Reels like we did with Snapchat and Stories. But what Instagram fails to realize is Reels will never replace TikTok because the community vibe is different. We follow accounts, but we also follow real people. We view, but we also participate. TikTok is brilliant because of how different it is from Instagram. And this world is a hell of a lot different from what it was in the White House vegetable garden, discussing Snapchat.

There's no point in sharing that meme to make Instagram Instagram again. It's like wishing an ex was like they were a decade ago. They've changed, they've moved on, and they don't care about your nostalgic Hudson, Hefe, Ludwig, and Perpetua filtered memories of what used to be. It's like wishing we were still in that world of First Lady vegetable gardens, a garden where I don't think I captured a single video or photo, but will always remember.

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

Did you like what you just read?

Consider tapping here to buy me a coffee in thanks. The best gift you can give a content creator is the gift of sharing. Consider sharing this article on Facebook or Pinterest. Thank you so much for your support!

Similar Posts


  1. This is the most comprehensive and thoughtful piece I’ve read regarding the evolution of Instagram and its current iteration. You hit on everything, Alison, and I’m in total agreement with your conclusions. I so appreciate the absolute realness/no-BS/transparency of everything you do on here. You and your family are lovely, and I enjoy your account so much.

  2. I always thought Zuck’s preferences were not mine — and that he was a shady untrustworthy %^&^% — and never joined Facebook or Instagram after FB bought it (I guess I missed two golden years?) Every year (month?) a new reason to think it was a good decision even if that makes me an old fogey or one of the tin foil hat brigade or whatever.

  3. I see that as of 7/28/22, IG is going to walk back/go slower on its changes because they’ve backfired

    Also the reporting on the changes reveals the true reason for them: IG’s revenue took a hit when Apple instituted some privacy changes.

  4. Instagram has been part of Facebook for all but 2 years of its existence. This rose-colored nostalgia for a “better” Instagram is weird to me bec. I’ve always seen & experienced IG as another social media business, run, not for my personal enjoyment, but for a corporation’s profit — like all internet businesses. Of course, I’ve worked in Silicon Valley for 30ish years at many of these companies, so I’ve prob. never had rose-colored glasses about these things. As the saying goes, if you’re not paying for it, you become the product. So the biz will continue to tweak the tools to increase profit off you. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  5. I came to Instagram far later than you. I mostly follow people who I know and I see their posts all the time. In fact, second on my feed today is from someone on a beach showing her feet against those of her children! It does make me feel inadequate sometimes – other people are doing exciting things that I feel I ‘should’ be doing, and they certainly have more followers. But I see what I want. And I rarely look at reels, largely because I hate it when people put music on them.

  6. I guess I’m the ultimate old fogey. I read Wardrobe Oxygen because I like the brains, heart, choices, complaints, recommendations.

    This is a smart, kind, thinking, literate place.

    What random strangers who I don’t know think I should spend my money on is of no interest.

  7. Call me just plain old…I’m not on Facebook, instagram, or TikTok. I’ve only started watching YouTube fashion videos in the last year. I want influencers who actually influencer instead of sell sell sell. Ie I want to see that you know what you are talking about, are authentic and consistent. Sorry rant over

  8. I have to respectfully disagree with the complaints being circulated about the changes being made by Instagram. Influencers are complaining about having to make Reels now and that it is hurting “creatives” and “artists” but that is not true. The reality is that influencers have been posting a lot of uncreative, uninspiring garbage for a long time and making a lot of money off it. It is not creative or artistic when everyone posts the same picture in front of the same hydrangeas wearing the same nap dress. It is not creative when everyone posts a screenshot of the same political meme, or posts ten crappy photos in a row of their kids playing outside, or posts a screenshot of their Wordle score. To me, that is all spam and as a result, I end up scrolling through stories very quickly and in some cases, have unfollowed people because I have zero interest in seeing these things.

    Every time someone doesn’t have the engagement he or she likes, the person complains about the algorithm but in reality, the content is poor – it is boring, uninspiring, and not creative.

    Also, influencers complain about Instagram posting ads but they post ads too. In fact, most influencers post more ads than creative or artistic content. Why is it OK for an influencer to flood our feeds and stories with ads for bed sheets or seltzer but it is not OK for Instagram to do it? I don’t want to see an ad from an influencer anymore than I do from Instagram. They both are a turn off.

    Personally, I have never missed a photo posted by a family member – they always show up in my feed and stories. Also, if someone truly posts creative content, I go out of my way to check their feeds/stories to see it. But I can do that because it is rare. So much of what is being posted on Instagram by so called creatives is not creative.

    I have started playing with making Reels and I think they are fun and a new way to be creative. But they require more work from influencers when compared to reposting things like screen shots and “throw back” photos. Instead of complaining about how Instagram is changing and blaming Instagram, I think influencers should take a good, hard look at what they are posting instead.

    1. Wow Ann Marie, you’re definitely following the wrong people on Instagram. And I may be one of them as I do throwback photos and reels from time to time.

      What inspired me to write this wasn’t my experience but the experience of my friends who are non-influencer creators. A friend who is a leather worker, another who is a wedding photographer, another who is a watercolor artist. They have loved Instagram for building community, gaining customers, reaching larger audiences but now are forced to make Reels so they’re seen by maybe 3% of their existing audience.

      And influencers post what works. If we want to point fingers I’d point a lot of fingers to individuals who use Instagram to tell them how to live. They don’t want to read, they don’t want to do any work, just give me a link so I can look like you, eat like you, do my makeup like you, have a house that looks like yours, a child that acts like yours. Audiences eat that up, and if you get creative or innovative you become too complex.

      Here’s an example Krystal Bick of This Time Tomorrow has been blogging for almost as long as I have. Like me, she has changed since she started and now is technically a fashion influencer, but she creates the most gorgeous photos, stunning videos, incredibly moving content that makes you feel you’re in a movie. She has 147K followers, yet gets about the same amount of views on her Reels as I do and her photos positively tank these days. I don’t think you can consider her content not creative https://www.instagram.com/krystal_bick/

      I think audiences should take a good, hard look at who they are following because I personally haven’t seen a nap dress in front of hydrangeas by anyone but one account I follow, and that person is a dear friend who has always been the nap dress/hydrangea kind of person and is living her best life in this cottage core period of time.

  9. I quit Facebook years ago, don’t miss it. I left instagram after watching The Social Experiment and quit Twitter not long after. I liked instagram but since everyone is always sharing their “highlights” it often made me feel less than. I think we’d all be happier with much less social media. I understand you need to do it for your work. I really enjoy your blog.

    1. Thank you, Ruffin. I never wanted to drop the blog because it’s my place, my terms, and I think it’s a more welcoming and accessible place than social media. I hear you about feeling less than, it’s why I stopped following a lot of accounts. I don’t plan on stopping here on the blog any time soon. 🙂

  10. There is a workaround to Instagram’s new feed. It’s kind of annoying, but it works. In the app, click on the Instagram logo on the top left. It will give you a dropdown menu of Following and Favorites. Click on Favorites – and the accounts you’ve added to your Favorites list will show up in your feed. Unfortunately you have to do that every time, but it helps to get rid of all the ads and accounts you didn’t choose to follow.

  11. I’m so sad about this. I had just convinced myself to start an IG account for salads. Haha. Just something silly to do, a new challenge for myself, my friends and family could follow. But…um…I don’t want to do this now. Videos about salad? lol Seems like a ridiculous amount of work for something that no one will ever see. Thanks Mark.
    Is there something out there that’s still a photo-sharing site?

    1. I’m pretty sure that Flickr is still around! But that said, if you want to create a salad instagram (Instasalad or Saladgram?), for yourself, to document your creativity then you should. I for one would enjoy it! I still read several blogs – one on bike policy, one on cooking, and of course, Wardrobe Oxygen – so a salad blog could work too!

    2. If it’s friends & families, wouldn’t videos embedded in a blog work?

      Btw, since you like salads, have you checked out The Department of Salad on substack? I highly recommend

    3. Honestly, I’d still do Instagram. All the photo sharing sites are focused on pro photography/technical stuff and I still think Instagram is the best place for what you are describing. And if you’re not trying to make it your business, who cares if 10 or 10K see it?

  12. Alison, you are such a fabulous writer. Blogs are my favorite social medium because the blogger can consider a subject in some depth.

    For the record, I find Instagram extremely frustrating and hardly ever go on there.

    For all of Facebook’s issues, I really do like FB groups, and I’m so grateful for WO2. What a wonderful group of people you have drawn together!

    Keep on writing!

  13. Yeah, Facebook/Meta is ruining IG like it ruined FB. There’s still some groups & accounts I check out on FB, but nowhere near like I used to.

    The thing I hate is when people blame the algorithm on the changes on IG or FB: “the algorithm” isn’t sentient. It’s a formula developed by people at Meta to do what higher up people at Meta want it to do. So ultimately, what Zuckerberg wants. Which yeah, is make money. & rate coeds. (Never forget how FB started. I guess that’s where the obsession with numbers comes from)

    Tik tok isn’t the replacement – I watch exactly 1 account over there, which is cute cat videos by a cat rescue I follow. I couldn’t care less about skate boarders drinking juice to Dreams. What is the point?

    So meanwhile, I get around the garbage IG puts in my feed by looking up the accounts I follow individually. & depending on my mood I report the garbage as spam or offensive.

    I know this: I’ll be damned if I buy anything from IG directly. Nope, I go to the website.

    1. You are so right on!

      I felt like the perfect example of the Meta approach is the default date chosen by all their platforms (Facebook, Instagram, etc).
      It’s Mark Zucerkberg’s birthday, because that man is so damn insecure, he has to make that the default.

      (Apple’s is a launch day for a particular product).

      I’m so grateful and happy to read Ali’s content–even if you just went back to plain blogging, Ali, without Facebook–I go to your site every single Friday.

      1. Aww thank you so much! I don’t like Facebook, but I like the groups and have struggled to find a free to use platform that is easy to navigate. I’d be willing to pay for it to exist, but I don’t want y’all to have to pay and I know most folks aren’t interested in adding another app or site or membership to their plate. But the blog will remain!

  14. Call me old-fashioned Alison, but I love reading your blog posts, the meatier the better! I follow you on Instagram too, but it’s not the same as hearing your writing voice come alive.

  15. I quit Facebook in 2016. I have started to hate Instagram and am deleting it from my devices. I appreciate you spelling out all the business changes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *