How Instagram could improve its platform (if it really wanted to)

Instagram improve community

Ahhh Instagram

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with you right now (as I’m sure most bloggers do). I love how easy you make it to share snapshots of my day, but I hate how impossible you make it to keep up with what others are creating and grow my account. Instagram is plagued with accounts that blatantly disregard the terms of use for the platform and inflate their follower count and engagement rates, making it harder and harder for those of us who use it in an authentic way to grow and be discovered.

Instagram was found to be the worst social media platform for our mental health

(Royal Society for Public Health)

I mean, are we really surprised? When so much of the content is aspirational and even when you give it your all you reap little reward? I honestly think there’s things Instagram could do to make their platform better for the users that play by the rules and genuinely love creating content for it, the question is if they want to actually make it more user-friendly.

Blogosphere flatlay Instagram

Bots and bought followers

Probably the biggest annoyance for people using the platform correctly is those who use automated services to build their following and engagement rates. Bots have had a really negative impact on Instagram engagement. I can’t be the only person who rolls my eyes at comments that say ‘nice’ or ‘👍🏼’. It’s frustrating to put lots of time and effort into your photos to be met with a barrage of phony comments because the platform is flooded with bot accounts. Not only that, but it’s equally frustrating to see people’s accounts rapidly grow using these services with little or no perceived action to stop it.

In order for a bot service to work, it needs to be given access to an account, surely Instagram can just investigate companies that have access to hundreds and thousands of accounts and block the access of bot companies to their platform? To me, it seems like such a simple fix, and removing the access of bot companies would be a better way to tackle the problem at the source.

The same goes for bought followers, it’s pretty obvious if you look at social blade (and engagement rates) when someone buys a batch of followers, but still there seems to be no regulation of this or action taken to discourage it.

In terms of removing bought accounts, if Twitter can do this, and fairly rapidly it seems, I’m again left scratching my head as to why Instagram is dragging its heels.

The only reason I can think of as to why they’re not proactive on this front is that the more activity and engagement, the better for them in terms of advertising. They want a highly active platform, and don’t seem to particularly care about if this means people are able to grow their following by using dodgy tactics. Honestly, the more I think about issues with Instagram, the more I am reminded that it is a business, not a community, and the priority for them is advertising rather than high quality, hard-working accounts.

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Photoshop and photo enhancement

If CVS can ban photoshopped beauty imagery, and beauty brands can face huge fines for manipulating the effects of products in their imagery using photoshop, I’m again confused as to why Instagram doesn’t take a stronger stance on this. We all know how rubbish looking at a seemingly perfect body or face can make us feel, especially when it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s been digitally altered.

I honestly think it would help to shatter some of our beauty ideals if photoshopped imagery was automatically labelled with a banner that made it clear that it had been manipulated. I also think it would be helpful if images were labelled when they’ve been digitally enhanced. Some of the images I see on Instagram are impossible to recreate without heavy editing, and I worry that it gives people an unrealistic expectation of what life can (and should) be.

I’m almost certain Instagram has the technology to automatically recognise images that have been photoshopped or digitally altered, and I think it could really help to make the platform less harmful to our mental health if those images were automatically labelled. I think it would be nice to know when scrolling through our feeds if something is real or not, but that’s just me.

To be honest, I don’t see Instagram making any of these changes (no matter how much they could improve the user experience) because I don’t believe they care about the community. I don’t believe they have any concern for the impact their platform can have on people’s wellbeing. At the end of the day, they’re a business first and a social platform last. And as long as that’s the case, I think it’s important that we disengage from content that makes us feel negatively about ourselves and only engage with content creators we know are using the platform correctly (and creating kick ass content).