Instagram’s algorithm gets a bad rep. In 2016, the photo-sharing platform changed the way its feed works, showing posts in a more tailored, algorithm-based way as opposed to in chronological order as before. IMO this rules – I don’t care what someone from school posted one minute ago, but I do care about seeing three-day old memes about Larry David covering his ears at NYFW.
Anyway, for those who want autonomy over the way their feed is organised, I have good news: Instagram is trialling a new feature that will let you have more control over what you see first. Called ‘Favourites’, the feature will let you add certain people to a priority list, whose posts will then be shown higher in your feed.
Although it’s likely not intended for this purpose – because, as this 2020 Dazed feature explores, Instagram does not care about sex workers – the update might help reduce shadow-banning (when a user can post as normal, but their content is hidden from the community).
This practice is often employed against sex workers, who have long been penalised by social media platforms. By allowing users to select which accounts they want to prioritise, those who frequently get shadow-banned will now be able to appear on selected feeds without Instagram unfairly censoring them.
Although Instagram has previously stated that it doesn’t “take action on accounts because they belong to sex workers or adult performers, we only take action when accounts break our rules”, sex workers have highlighted the differing treatment of sexually explicit celebrities with actual adult creators.
“Celebrities and others who trade on sex appeal in more ‘respectable’ ways are currently allowed to get away with much more explicit sexual content than sex workers are, and this will continue,” London-based sex worker Valerie August told Dazed in December. “The difference isn’t the actual content, but the fact that it’s connected to a sex worker.”
This isn’t the first time Instagram has tested out a ‘Favourites’ feature. Back in 2017, the app trialled something similar to what eventually became Close Friends – the ability to share Stories to a select few followers – but this feature applied to grid posts as well as Stories.
Instagram is constantly testing new updates, some of which end up being popular and successful – see: hiding like counts and updating its nudity policy – and some of which are mercilessly mocked – see: the feed sharing ban and, of course, horizontal scrolling.