Instagram Focuses on Reels, Upsets Users

A recent update to the Instagram app suggests the company is going all-in on Reels, much to the dismay of loyal users.

Those who have logged in to Instagram over the past couple of days will have noticed a small but meaningful change to the user interface.

On the bottom navigation bar, users will now find a Reels button and Shop tab where the Create button and Activity tab once were.

The Create button and Activity tab are now sitting at the top right-hand corner of the screen next to the direct message button.

Whether intentional or not, this is sending a message to users that Instagram is prioritizing Reels and shopping over main feed content. And users aren’t happy about it.

Before we get into user reactions, let’s first take a look at what has changed and why (according to Instagram’s announcement).

Reels & Shopping Over Regular Posts?

Instagram’s announcement reads:

“Today we’re announcing some big changes to Instagram — a Reels tab and a Shop tab.

The Reels tab makes it easier for you to discover short, fun videos from creators all over the world and people just like you.

The Shop tab gives you a better way to connect with brands and creators and discover products you love.”

Instagram claims the way young people and creators are using the platform is changing.

There has been an “explosion” of short video content on Instagram, the company says, along with a significant shift toward online shopping since the pandemic started.

Instagram describes the addition of a Reels button as “kind of a stage, a place where people can share their creativity with the world and have a chance to break out and find an audience.”

In reality, Reels is direct competitor to TikTok which Instagram is pushing in the same way it pushed the Stories feature it borrowed from Snapchat.

Reels isn’t resonating with users, so Instagram is taking its efforts a step further by literally putting the feature front and center.

Replacing the Create button with a Reels button is a risk to be sure. Though Instagram believes an even greater risk to the future of the app is not making these kinds of changes.

“We don’t take these changes lightly — we haven’t updated Instagram’s home screen in a big way for quite a while. But how people create and enjoy culture has changed, and the biggest risk to Instagram is not that we change too fast, but that we don’t change and become irrelevant.”

Instagram says it’s excited about this change – a feeling which is not shared by its user base.

User Reactions to Instagram App Update

If the reaction to Instagram’s update can be described in one word, I wouldn’t hesitate to use the word “angry.”

So angry, in fact, that I can’t share most peoples’ comments due to the profane language.

Here are some of the cleaner tweets I managed to find:

Even influencer James Charles, with an audience of tens of millions, went off on a lengthy (safe for work) rant about the Instagram update.

The criticism is consistent across the board. Instagram isn’t fixing things people perceive as being broken, and instead adding new things no one asked for.

What Instagram users want most is very simple. They want an app that’s easier to navigate, and an algorithm that allows them to see the content they care about.

People are not opening the Instagram app to watch Reels and go shopping. Though time will tell if Instagram manages to create a shift in user behavior.

I imagine we’ll learn a lot about the affect this change is having on users when Instagram publishes its next quarterly report.