I’ve been on Instagram for a long time. My personal account is almost 10 years old (in June) and my Bookstagram is just over 2 years old. There have been so many changes to the platform in that time, both good and bad. And I don’t think I really thought much about how the platform works until I became a content creator back in 2020.
Suddenly, there were algorithms to learn, hashtag strategies to think about, and posting times to be aware of. Right as I felt like I was getting the hang of things, everything went downhill. Engagement strategies kept changing without anyone telling us, Reels became the priority even though “gram” implies photos, and more features that no one cared about kept being added.
And honestly, I’ve debated quitting many times.
I know it sounds so dramatic. I feel dramatic when I say that. The fact that I constantly ask myself why I’m still posting on the platform should be an indicator that it’s time to go. But at the same time, where exactly would I go?
There aren’t any other photo platforms designed to showcase content like Instagram. I’ve tried my hand at video platforms like YouTube and TikTok only to confirm that I much prefer photo and written content. Maybe I could turn my blog into a daily thing because consistency helps with growth, but it’s not the same as engaging with the community of readers on Instagram.
It comes back to the community for me. I love the people I’ve found and the friends I’ve made on the platform. People whom I would never discover if it weren’t for the Bookstagram community. So many creators from other countries that make my TBR list even longer and share parts of their lives online. That’s what keeps me coming back even though I think about quitting at least once a month. Even though Instagram itself has proven that it doesn’t care about the average user, only about making “influencers” and Internet personalities.
There are many things to complain about when it comes to Instagram. Keep in mind that all my complaints here are solely in relation to my Bookstagram since I’ve barely touched my personal account in months. These things vary from creator to creator, but here’s my list.
Reels vs. Photos
We’re starting with the one that most content creators are complaining about ever since it started. The stupid need to compete with TikTok has resulted in Reels, the less successful distant relative who hovers around begging for attention while everyone wonders why they were invited.
Look, it’s simple. If I wanted to make videos to be popular, I would have focused on YouTube or TikTok. But I didn’t want that. All I wanted was to take my photos, post them, and talk to other people in the comments. And yet Instagram has decided that if you don’t make Reels, they’re not going to push your content out to anyone at all.
It’s a completely different skill, making videos and taking photos. Don’t let my 12 credits of videography and editing fool you, I’m terrible at Reels. I don’t like it’s the basis for whether photos get seen and accounts get followed. I don’t like that my reach plummets if I haven’t posted a Reel this week, or that I also have to grovel for likes and views there so it’s not a complete waste of my time.
All I want is to focus on getting better at my photography skills, which are already lacking. It’s unfair to force this on content creators, especially when some people don’t want to make video content. I’ve seen a lot of discussion about how this negatively affects neurodiverse creators who don’t like being in front of the camera or for people who struggle to make video content because they don’t enjoy it. Not every niche is suited to videos, and yet Instagram insists on punishing us if we don’t make them.
Oh, and let’s not forget that Instagram still hasn’t rolled out Reels internationally so they’re punishing international creators who don’t have the feature for not using it to promote themselves and gain a higher reach. It’s been over a year and they can’t even make it available worldwide when they keep harping on the importance of making Reels.
Three months ago, saves were more important than shares. Two months ago, shares to stories became more important. Last month, hashtags crashed and Instagram said they might not be that important anymore. Now, we’re back to saves being the most important thing and hashtags are working for some people while still broken for others. Oh, and reaching our existing followers is nearly impossible but you’ll occasionally be able to reach 5K new followers if the Instagram deities deem it a good day.
In order to get likes, we need to increase engagement with our followers and other accounts. In order to get engagement, we need to make sure people see our stuff. In order to get our content seen, we need to make sure there’s enough likes and interaction so that Instagram realizes this is worth showing people. But in order to get those likes and interactions, our content first needs to be seen…
Wait, isn’t that just a loop of nothingness?
Consistency is something Instagram demands from creators but refuses to provide us with. Sure, the algorithm is an ever-changing thing that learns and updates itself, but there’s also multiple algorithms running so you never know what’s going to change things. It’s not like Instagram settles down to give us an update every time something changes. Nope, it happens, creators suffer, and then someone figures it out and tells everyone else so we stop freaking out.
So many creators I know have been affected by the number of algorithm changes in the last two years. I’ve seen myself be affected by it greatly, going from an average of 50+ likes to 20+ in a single day. I used to reach more people who followed me, but now I only recognize a handful of the same names. We’re out here trying to keep up with all the changes so that the people who follow us can see our stuff, but why is that expected when none of us do this full-time as a job? A hobby shouldn’t make me feel this stressed out.
And yes, I know that I shouldn’t be focusing on the numbers if it’s just a hobby. Trust me, I have that conversation with myself very often. It both is and isn’t about the numbers, but no matter how you look at it, the algorithm punishes people randomly and changes without telling anyone. How am I not supposed to feel affected even if I’m doing this for fun? I don’t get to interact with my friends as much when the algorithm decides that we don’t get to see each other’s work.
“Promote here” accounts
The platform has always been filled with bots, but one of the newest trends are the accounts who ask you to promote your photo on some random other account that has 12 likes and 9,000 followers that they bought. It’s always a bot account that was made 7 hours ago and has nothing on their own page. Half the time, they’re asking you to promote your stuff on an account that isn’t even related to your niche.
Thankfully, it’s easy to block these things. I can filter out the words so the comments don’t go through on my posts, but it’s still frustrating. Why is it that Instagram can’t filter out what are clearly bots and spam comments, but they can run around telling me that liking someone’s photo is a “questionable action?” They have the time to take down photos of food for “violating community guidelines” but they can’t seem to figure out how to filter the words “promote here” as automatic spam?
Ignoring What We Want
HELLO? Where’s my chronological timeline? It’s been 6 years and I would like it back, please.
I know that we’re technically getting it back with the update that’s slowly rolling out. Some people *ahem* American creators *ahem* have already seen it appear on their feeds, allowing them to separate the current timeline style from the chronological feed. But really, 75% of the reason I struggle to want to engage is because I don’t see posts as they come up and sometimes what I see is from 4 days ago.
For years, users have been giving Instagram feedback about what is and isn’t helpful. I still don’t see the point of having the “Shop” feature but that gets it’s own complaint section below. I think I’ve created 2 guides despite not seeing the point in having them? Also, we’ve recently gotten Story Likes, which is just the ability to like a story, even though we already have Reactions.
Basically, Instagram has decided that no matter what we ask for, they’ll never give it to us and instead keep pushing out features that are reboots of existing features.
Ads and Shops Galore
Literally who even shops on Instagram other than Safiya Nygaard? I have never seen an ad that made me want to buy something from a store on the platform. Sure, I’ll see boosted posts from my friends who own stores, but I’ve never had the inclination to buy anything from Instagram itself. Why wouldn’t I go directly to my friend’s store website and buy things there?
Also, the number of ads I get are ridiculous. I know Instagram makes money off them, but ads every 3-5 posts and in between every other person’s story is wayyyyy too much. Most the of ads aren’t even targeted correctly, further showing that the algorithm has no idea what it’s doing. The number of condom ads I’ve gotten as a single person is far higher than it should be. Maybe if I was on my personal account that would make sense, but all of this is on my Bookstagram account. What made the algorithm look at a stack of my books and think “Ahh yes, this one needs to know about the newest ribbed condoms that come in 4 new flavors?!”
Just leave me alone. If I wanted to see that many ads, I’d watch the Super Bowl each year.
Reels Are Always Broken?????
We are BACK to complaining about Reels. Seriously though, the feature is constantly broken. I’ve had the audio for a Reel be perfectly timed in editing only to be out of sync once it’s posted. It’s deleted itself from my drafts after asking me if I want to remove a corrupted cover image. Three weeks ago, it even crashed my phone after I spent 20 minutes trying to edit a Reel!
What’s the point of forcing us all to use the feature if I can’t even use it without the whole thing glitching at least 5 times? It doesn’t make me want to use it more. Searching for audio is so weird and I can never find what I’m looking for. Plus, it’s still a really bad rip-off of TikTok. The only thing I like more about it the “align” feature that makes it possible to do clean transitions.
Reels are also super temperamental. I can post two Reels around similar topics with popular audios at the same time on two different nights, but one will skyrocket while the other remains at 154 plays. There’s little to no logic that I can see, and I get so paranoid when posting Reels because I never know if it’ll do well or not. What if I wasted an hour trying to make something perfect and then it only gets 87 plays? What if I do everything right and still it goes nowhere? Wasn’t I supposed to do this to improve my reach?
I think I’ve done enough complaining for one post. It’s been therapeutic for me to get it all out of my system.
Not a lot of people realize how much work this can be if you aren’t already popular. Without a following in the 50K and above mark, there’s a lot of struggles to be seen. Even as a creator under 3K followers, I see the difference between what affects me and what affects the slightly bigger accounts. It’s not fair to anyone unless you’re so popular that it doesn’t even matter anymore, people will just show up to like your stuff.
I am thankful for the community of people I’ve found and who have stuck with me for so long. I love talking to them in my DMs or in the comments, love building the friendships and getting recommendations from them. It’s the only reason I stay - the friends.
One day, I hope Instagram realizes how badly they’ve screwed up and change things for the better. Or maybe someone else will come along with an app that does everything right that Instagram gets wrong. Until then, I’m going to keep complaining about Reels and how impractical it is for something they deem so important.