Social media users responding negatively to an update or change on any given platform is nothing new. Nearly any time adjustments are made—particularly those that impact the feed content or user-interface—the frustrated comments start rolling in immediately. And…that’s a natural reaction!
Many of us spend hours each day on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and beyond, and when the contents of our feeds are disrupted—or we don’t know where to find something that’s been moved—the adjustment period and learning curve can be a temporary annoyance. After a few days or weeks, we have familiarized ourselves with the once-new, and go back to scrolling as usual like nothing happened.
But…that’s not always the case. And the cries for Instagram to bring back the chronological feed never fully quieted.
While it has been 5+ years since Instagram announced their algorithm, people are still searching for a way back to the good old days. Below are just a few keyword phrases earning searches from chronological feed fans, alongside the average number of users searching each phrase monthly in the past 12 months:
- Instagram chronological order (480 searches/mo.)
- How to change Instagram feed back to chronological (110 searches/mo.)
- Instagram chronological order petition (40 searches/mo.)
- Keep Instagram chronological (40 searches/mo.)
- App to make instagram chronological (30 searches/mo.)
Source: SEMrush.com Data, January 2022
To be certain, those numbers represent a very small percentage of Instagram’s user base, which surpassed the 2 billion monthly user mark in 2021. However, the numbers don’t reflect the totality of folks who want it back; it’s just those who want it badly enough to search for a workaround, sign a petition, or download a third-party app.
Luckily, they’ll no longer have to do any of those things thanks to a chronological feed being back on the table. In fact, users will be able to choose between 3 different Instagram feeds:
- Instagram Home Feed (the current, algorithmically-determined feed)
- Instagram Favorites Feed (user-curated feed; includes posts from hand-selected accounts, with those posts displayed in chronological order)
- Instagram Following Feed (purely chronological order)
Let’s take a peek at how we got here, and how the new Instagram feed order options work…
Instagram: The Early Years
When Instagram was launched in October 2010, it employed a time-based feed sorting mechanism. Posts from accounts a user was following were displayed in reverse chronological order, from most recent to most remote.
The obvious upside to a chronological feed is that you don’t risk missing out on anything. Interestingly, that’s also the obvious downside, because there can be a lot of posts to sort through!
Enter: The Instagram Algorithm.
Rather than risking users being burned out by a never-ending, insurmountable feed that naturally includes posts they have varying levels of interest in, Instagram switched to an algorithmically-driven, relevancy-based feed model in 2016.
The goal of this new manner of sorting was to show users the posts they were most likely to be interested in, based largely upon their personal engagement metrics, post recency, and the user’s relationship to the posting account. For example, if a particular user tends to like, comment, or even simply linger on pictures or videos of dogs, Instagram is more likely to show dog pictures and videos to that user.
Instagram Goes to the Senate (and teases a chronological feed)
In December 2021, Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, made his first testimonies to the US Senate “as part of a series of hearings about online safety for children and teens.” This testimony was in response to a request from Sen. Richard Blumenthal, asking that Mark Zuckerberg or Mosseri take part in a Senate hearing.
Senator Blumenthal’s letter read, in part:
“I write to request your participation in a Congressional hearing on Instagram and kids. Parents across America are deeply disturbed by ongoing reports that Facebook knows that Instagram can cause destructive and lasting harms to many teens and children, especially to their mental health and wellbeing. Those parents, and the twenty million teens that use your app, have a right to know the truth about the safety of Instagram.”
Among Mosseri’s first responses to the request to speak before the Senate was this video-inclusive Tweet.
As shared by TechCrunch, during the Senate hearing, “Mosseri was asked if he believed consumers should be able to use the Instagram app without “being manipulated by algorithms,” and the executive said he would support giving people the option to have a chronological feed.” Mosseri went on to explain that Instagram was actually already working on such an update, saying:
“We believe in more transparency and accountability and we believe in more control. That’s why we’re currently working on a version of a chronological feed that we hope to launch next year.”
Which brings us to today…
Instagram Feed Options in 2022
Instagram Home Feed
For users that are satisfied with their current Instagram feed, and the content it surfaces for them based on Instagram’s algorithms, things can continue without interruption. The Instagram feed that we’re all currently using will continue to be available, as the default feed, when the two new feed options rollout, though there are plans to include “more and more recommendations over time” within the Home feed, as Mosseri notes in this video-inclusive Tweet.
Instagram Favorites Feed
This feed subset will give users the option to select specific accounts that are most important to them. These accounts can be personal Instagram accounts of family and friends, or any account type that a user deems worthy of Favorites status. Posts will be sorted chronologically, with the feed only including posts from the selected accounts.
Instagram Following Feed
This reverse chronological order Instagram feed is closest to ‘the old Instagram’ — the feed users experienced before Instagram launched their algorithmically determined feeds in 2016. For those 140 people searching “How to change Instagram feed back to chronological” every month—this feed’s for you.
As shown within Mosseri’s video, users will be able to easily toggle between each of the 3 different feeds, with the “Home” feed being the default option.
What Makes Instagram Unique in Comparison to Other Social Platforms
While some users might have the preference for a chronological feed on any given social media platform, from TikTok to Facebook, there is something about Instagram in particular that we think might make that desire even greater—pictures aren’t as fleeting as dance trends or timely news updates.
To be certain, Instagram is more than pictures. It even has Instagram Reels, its very own video platform, built right in. But it’s those pictures we want to be sure we don’t miss just because life got busy and we missed a day on the ‘gram—those visual life updates from family and friends near and far, each worth one thousand words of its own.
- We want to see who got engaged, and who got married
- We want to see dogs playing in the first snow of the season
- We want to see what restaurants people are trying, and what they ordered
- We want to see new haircuts, new eyeglasses, and new shoes
- We want to see people at holiday parties, Sunday brunches, and baby showers
- We want to see how that new paint color turned out in our friend’s kitchen
- We want to see everything we haven’t been able to see in person, due to distance, busy schedules, an ongoing pandemic, or a million other reasons
And sometimes, when an algorithm is determining what we see, we miss some of that. But what we gain is the benefits of automated curation. After all—we are busy—and we simply don’t have time to read or see it all.
As Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri shared on the Instagram blog in June 2021, in Shedding More Light on How Instagram Works:
“When we first launched in 2010, Instagram was a single stream of photos in chronological order. But as more people joined and more was shared, it became impossible for most people to see everything, let alone all the posts they cared about. By 2016, people were missing 70% of all their posts in Feed, including almost half of posts from their close connections. So we developed and introduced a Feed that ranked posts based on what you care about most.”
Like all things in life, there are pros and cons to all of Instagram’s feed options, and deciding which you prefer might even change from day to day; luckily, the option to switch things up is just a toggle away. Because fortunately, change is what social media does best.