Since Instagram debuted its knockoff TikTok feature, Reels, earlier this month, I’ve been confronted by the same clip of a shirtless food influencer beginning every video in his shorts, patting his stomach.
Don’t get me wrong: I love an Instagay. Instagram is the best place to find hot, shirtless guys posing for plandids. I’d rather they stay beautiful on the grid than try their hand at contrived comedy on my already overwhelmed Twitter feed.
But in introducing Reels, Instagram altered the app’s longstanding format overnight, and it’s a total mess. It created a portal to a stagnant, unwanted world. Reels now sits atop the Explore page, perpetually showing me the same goddamn video.
Yes, Reels Is Bad — So Far
I’m not frustrated the app is marketing even more thottery to me, but I’m turned off by how bad of a job it’s doing. The first rule of social media longevity is to offer fresh content to engage with. It’s beyond me why Reels would do the opposite — except maybe because no one’s using it, which is an unappealing thought. The Home and Explore pages constantly show me new pics and vids, and that’s part of the reason I keep checking in. Perhaps the Reels issue is a glitch in the algorithm. Whatever the case, Instagram, call in your engineer for overtime (with adjusted pay, of course). I haven’t tapped through Reels once since its launch.
Instagram last drastically updated its format in 2016 by launching Stories on the home page. This too was an attempt to rip off a competing app, Snapchat. Stories filled a void. Instagram finally offered a space for short, unaesthetic content. This was crystalized in 2018 with Close Friends, often a salacious corner of the web to share NSFW content. Sure, Snapchat offered this feature too with its self-destructing clips. But the app skewed a bit too young, and it started to get awkward asking people at bars for their Snapchat QR codes.
Reels, however, doesn’t have a demographic in need of a platform. For the non-influencer, what’s the point of Reels and grid videos and IGTV? I couldn’t tell you the difference between these features, and I’m on the app all the time. Instagram is like an 18-page Cheesecake Factory menu: too many options, too little value. It’s providing far too many ways to share content without an understanding of the type of content its young, influential users actually want to consume.
Worse, there’s little attempt to add anything new to the content ecosystem. Reels, now the dark-sided corner of Instagram, is filled with knockoff TikTok trends. This is likely because the company’s actually paying TikTok creators to post on Reels — and many are regurgitating their same videos.
How Do I Disable Reels?
Unfortunately, this digital hellhole is inescapable. Reels can’t be disabled. The only way to avoid it is by ditching the Instagram app and logging on via desktop or mobile web browser.
It’s a shame that Instagram — and its parent company, Facebook — can’t live with a little TikTok competition. And it’s sad to see Instagram neglecting what made it so much fun in the first place.
As my colleague Ernest Crosby III says after a week of being bombarded by Reels of the same hot women, “It’s aiming to go hard at me. I can appreciate watching them, but stop trying to assume what kinds of content I like. Obviously, I like hot chicks, but not when I’m sending my mom a funny meme. Sheesh.” Let Ernest meme with his mom in peace.