Instagram Is Boring Now
Let me give you a snapshot of my current Instagram feed: A heavily pregnant friend wearing a face mask. A picture of grocery market owners, with the caption: “Now is the time to support local businesses.” A Zoom screenshot of pixelated dancers. A mermaid taking glamour shots in her bathtub.
The last is the most interesting of the bunch, but even the mermaid’s post didn’t live up to her usual mermaid standards. Instead of majestically floating through a body of water, she was apparently at home, relying on a bath bomb to turn her water a lovely aquamarine.
In recent years, Instagram has become the place for people to perform their “best lives” — from travel influencers, to musicians, to fashion mavens. But in lockdown, there’s less to do, and less to flaunt. Images of the globetrotting hand-holding couple doing their laundry and snaps of van-lifers parked in their parents’ driveway are quickly going from endearing to stale.
“I don’t care about what my friends have made for lunch,” says Rebecca Williams, a full-time parent in Norfolk, Virginia. Pre-pandemic, Williams says, her feed was a fun mix of travel, cooking, and parenting posts. Sometimes they gave her FOMO. But now, everything has narrowed. Williams loves her friends, but says she finds their nonstop culinary posts monotonous. “We’re all cooking more now, I get it,” she says. “But I don’t want to see it on Instagram. I used to check the app every day… now I make up excuses not to go on it.”
Even celebrity and influencer accounts fail to deliver a satisfying dose of escapism.
Sixteen-year-old Emily Lacey from West Yorkshire, England, says she’s cut her Instagram usage from two or more hours a day to barely one hour: It’s that boring, she says. Emily likes Instagram Stories and group chats, but says that her friends aren’t very active right now. “They’re [just posting] videos of themselves [at home] talking about something random,” she says. She spends her extra time on TikTok and walking her dog.
In London, Juan Menendez says his Instagram feed sucks. “Mine is like 50% ads I already said I wasn’t interested in. 10% tweets I’ve already seen on Twitter. 30% people’s kids I don’t remember. 10% I can’t even recall following whatever this is,” he tweeted. Juan is one of many who feel this way.
Social media has become an important channel of communication since shelter-in-place orders were instituted around the world. Mid-March, Instagram Live Views doubled from the week before, and usage from 18–34-years old increased by 40%. The volume of Instagram stories has also risen. But, according to many, the surge in home-based content has intensified the ennui of the lockdown.
Even celebrity and influencer accounts fail to deliver a satisfying dose of escapism. Posts about private yachts, jets, mansion fever ring tone-deaf in the midst of record unemployment figures. Increasingly, it feels like Instagram just isn’t fun anymore.
Sure, not everyone feels that way. Maher Zamel, an educator from Amman, Jordan, says the app has been an awesome source of entertainment. He’s been tuning in to Instagram live performances, and scrolling through musician’s feeds. “I never really used it before,” he says. “But I play guitar, and I love watching reworks or acoustic versions of their songs.” He now spends 15–20 hours a week on the platform.
In Oakland, California, office manager Natalie Cheng says she’s been enjoying Instagram more than usual. “The memes are keeping me alive,” she says.
Cheng’s Instagram feed is mostly comedy, and she says the many, many memes on the platform help her feel better about life right now. She’s even started shopping on Instagram, prompted by interactive ads from small businesses. “I live my entire quarantine life on Instagram,” she says.
For those that make a living off Instagram, the quarantine has proven to be a challenge. Travel influencers who pride themselves on their visibility and authority now have nothing to show — and they’ve learned the hard way that reposting old content tracks comes off as insensitive to their followers. They’re one of many who are struggling to generate income right now. There’s only so many flashbacks you can post, after all.
There are silver linings to a more boring Instagram feed. For one, it may be the incentive you need to discover new and cool accounts — I’d suggest Harley’s Food Art, Tal Peleg, and Princess Rap Battle for starters. Or maybe it will push you to try something new — whether that’s free Yale classes or drag queen makeup tutorials. Then there’s the fact that a boring feed is evidence people are following the shelter-in-place guidelines. And at least for now, FOMO is on pause. I can safely say that I’m not jealous of anybody else’s life right now.