That Feeling When by Nikhil Taneja: Keeping up with the algorithms
Impressions, engagement and followers: is it really worth all the effort? What’s your take on social media numbers?
A couple of weeks ago, a post on Instagram, that called people on the social media platform to arms to force Instagram to ‘Make Instagram Instagram Again’, went viral.
Instagram took notice of the post and the head of Instagram put out a video explaining how Instagram is already Instagram with all the creators, community and chaos on it, and trying to make it Instagram again will actually make it less Instagram, since the entire world has moved on from what people claim was Instagram at one point—aesthetic pictures and vibes.
Each time any social media platform changes its algorithm, mass protesters online decry the changes and demand that we go back to the algorithm from the good old days because they made our lives better, easier, and more monetisable, and then, eventually, get used to the new algorithm, and one day that changes, and we twist and shout and scream out loud again.
This is the inevitable (vicious) circle of life on the virtual hamster wheel we are all running on, believing we have some kind of online free will and control, without once realising: we are the hamsters.
The good old days
Okay, this got a bit too deep, so let me break it down: First, and to be really honest, I’m exhausted too. As a writer, I started using Instagram for the captions on my pictures, and just as I was getting good at it (getting more likes, basically), they added video, but I resisted and persisted, while realising picture captions don’t work much now, so maybe I start using the carousels to write on them.
Just when my carousels were working (getting more shares, basically), they added Reels, but I resisted and persisted, but now when I post my own pictures on the feed, I somehow end up losing followers (argh!). And when I put carousel threads, they don’t get as many shares as the Reel of a dentist dancing to a Lizzo song pointing left and right into the void, as words come up explaining why people should come to her to get their teeth fixed… it’s about damn time!
But why are dentists dancing to a Lizzo song? And why am I posting my writing as picture carousels? Then again, why are we even sharing our personal and private pictures publicly with the world at large? When you think about it, none of these have an answer, really. We want to make Instagram Instagram again, but ask any millennial (or probably even some rebel Gen Zs) about what the good old days were like, and we’d talk first not about algorithms but about a mystical, mythical time before digital devices, before we had to swipe left or right to find love, swipe up or down to find food, tap once or twice to express joy, zoom in or out to experience life. And then the cellphone turned up, and social media apps took away our attention, and now our entire lives are spent being online rather than being lived offline.
Real vs Reels life
Of course, this is a worldly view of (and from!) someone who basically struggles with Reel edits and would rather ruminate about olden times than try to keep up with not only the algorithms but an entire generation of young creators who use video as an extension and expression of their identities and personalities, and make their living off of it. (Cheers to each and every one of them, and I hope they continue reaching new, unprecedented heights!)
And yet, I can’t help but wonder: instead of just curating our lives around the whims and fancies of algorithms, should we not aim to create a life outside of them too?
Nikhil Taneja is a writer, producer, storyteller, public speaker, feeler of feelings, men’s mental health advocate and co-founder of Yuvaa
That Feeling When is a fortnightly column that offers a relatable take on mental health and emotional well-being.
Catch Nikhil Taneja’s column every fortnight in HT Brunch. It will next appear on August 27, 2022.
From HT Brunch, August 13, 2022
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