Instagram users raise their voice: ‘stop trying to be TikTok’

One content creator has started a movement to demand the return of the “traditional” social media platform; her petition has already received close to 200,000 signatures and a response from the CEO

The Instagram post by American photographer and influencer Tati Bruening, known on her social media as Illumitati.
The Instagram post by American photographer and influencer Tati Bruening, known on her social media as Illumitati.Lucie MAILLARD (L.M.)

“MAKE INSTAGRAM INSTAGRAM AGAIN. (stop trying to be tiktok i just want to see cute photos of my friends.) SINCERELY, EVERYONE.” So reads the post shared a few days ago by American photographer and influencer Tati Bruening – known on her social media as Illumitati – proclaiming the need for Instagram to return to what it used to be instead of favoring vertical contents, short videos that are mysteriously similar to those published on TikTok, and recommendations from users that one does not follow. Speaking via video call from Germany, Bruening told EL PAÍS that she thought about making that post after spending some time on the app and realizing, frustrated, that none of the posts that she saw interested her; everything was either from people she didn’t know or ads, and almost everything was on video.

Since the moment that she posted that protest message on Instagram, a platform where she has 322,000 followers (and counting), the post has gathered over two million likes. Among the users who followed her lead and shared it is American celebrity Kylie Jenner, the second person with the largest number of followers in the world (360 million, only behind Cristiano Ronaldo), and her sister Kim Kardashian (326 million).

But posting this initiative on the app itself was not enough: Bruening also created a petition on Change.org so that Instagram and its parent company, Meta, would listen to those who demand the return of the app as it was known until not so long ago. Her original goal was to gather 150,000 signatures; at the time of writing, the number was already close to 200,000.

Barely three days after Illumitati posted the image, Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, replied to the four demands included in the petition. The creator says that she is happy to have received a response and believes that it is very positive that Instagram and its CEO have addressed the users. She recently shared a video in which she encouraged constructive criticism of the platform and argued that, whether the users are right or left wing, when it comes to nostalgia for the old Instagram, everyone agrees.

One of the changes demanded in the petition is the reversal of the Reels strategy, a style of video that Instagram recently included and which, according to the users, is too similar to the TikTok format. “We have TikTok for a reason, and let’s face it: the only reels uploaded are recycled TikToks and content that the world has already seen. What’s innovative and unique about old stale content? Nothing!” proclaims the influencer on Change.org.

The head of Instagram chose the Reels for his statement; a decision that was probably made to defend the format. In the video, Mosseri appears in his usual nonchalant style, leaning forward, sitting on a table. “There’s a lot going on Instagram right now. We’re hearing a lot of concerns from all of you. So I wanted to take a few moments and clarify a few things.” Among those “things,” Mosseri addressed the rumors of future changes and insisted that, for those who have seen (or heard about) a full-screen version of the feed, it is simply a test for a few users, with the purpose of experimenting with a more immersive and fun experience, which, he acknowledges, still has a long way to go in order to be good enough. That full-screen interface is precisely one of the more TikTok-esque features.

Close to a week ago, the CEO had announced plans to make Reels the only video format on Instagram. Until now, it was still possible to upload a video in the “small” photo format, and not necessarily vertically.

In addition, Mosseri alluded in his message to what some have perceived as a shift from the still image (Instagram’s purpose since it was developed in 2010) to video (TikTok’s purpose). “We will continue to support photos, it is part of our heritage, but I need to be honest: I do believe that more and more of Instagram is gonna become video over time.” Illumitati herself explains that, as a creator and photographer, she struggles to achieve the same engagement that videos get for her images.

Mosseri also talked about the controversial algorithmic recommendations that so many users find annoying. According to the New Yorker, the purpose of this function is to help users discover what they do not even know that exists, what they would not find in any other way and could be interesting to them, and he admitted that, if those contents are not liked, it means that Instagram is doing something wrong. However, he has also pointed out that any user can mark these recommendations as not interesting, and even silence them for a month, and emphasized that this tool is essential for content creators to reach more people and grow.

Many users have replied to his statement with Illumitati’s “make Instagram Instagram again” and have asked to be listened to. Although he has not addressed those who have alluded to the already famous motto, he has responded to some critics who predicted an imminent end for the platform or who have criticized his explanations, either by repeating the aforementioned explanations, or by promising that he will examine the matter. As for Bruening, she hopes this will lead to a long-awaited change.

More information

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS