Hello friends. My My name is Kate Knibbs and I’m a senior writer at WIRED covering culture and media. I’ll be your stand-in for the Plaintext guide this week, as my colleague Steven Levy has generously loaned me his newsletter. “Have fun doing my newsletter, please don’t go off on a tangent about the Kardashian-Jenner industrial complex,” she said before walking out, if I remember correctly. My fault!
The Flat View
Instagram sucks now. What was once a repository for photos of friends and family is now a junkyard filled with knockoff TikToks known as “Reels.” Watch Reels is almost like watching TikTok, except instead of an algorithm that mines videos to precisely match your interests, Reels is a chaotic mix of acquaintances selling gut health supplements for multilevel marketing schemes, strangers pushing sponsored content, fan shows, commercials and… if you’re a parent, grim videos of sick babies. There’s the occasional cute dog clip, but all in all, Reels is a shameful attempt to copy a rival social network that only serves to dilute Instagram’s appeal and alienate its users.
This is not an original complaint; in fact, a horde of angry influencers have been going after it all week. Reality star Kylie Jenner retweeted a viral plea from a photographer named Tati: “GET INSTAGRAM INSTAGRAM AGAIN. (Stop trying to be tiktok, I just want to see pretty pictures of my friends.) Honestly, EVERYONE .” Her older sisters Kim and Kourtney Kardashian reposted the meme shortly after. The Kardashian-Jenners have even more reason to be upset about this change than I do; after all, they use Instagram to sell them and their products, so a change in its functionality poses a threat to their multibillion-dollar business interests, as well as their ability to see pretty photos of their friends.
Before this kerfuffle, Kylie recently made headlines for taking incredibly wasteful 14-minute private jet trips for fun. I don’t approve of his behavior. But when he’s right, he’s right. And, like Virgin reporter Ashley Carman pointed out, Kylie has a history of taking advantage of social platforms with her criticism. In 2018, when he casually noted that he stopped using Snapchat after its redesign, the company lost $1.3 billion in market value. For social media, if you’ve lost Kylie, you’re in trouble. Should a 24-year-old climate villain have so much influence? No, but she does.
And now Instagram is in crisis mode. Adam Mosseri loaded a frenzied-eyed front vlog the day after Kylie posted, trying to convince people that the change in the video is good indeed. Adam, Adam, Adam. Don’t piss on our legs and say it’s raining!