With TikTok in the picture, where is the future of Instagram heading?
In 2020, we had to bid adieu to many things. A thriving social life, the work commute, the need for lip colours, and even pants. But alongside all the grief, inconvenience, and turmoil the virus had brought on, was the slow and steady death of the perfect aesthetic. As popularised by Instagram.
Perhaps it was a dearth of the perfect frames only associated with travel, and now that travel hasn't been an option to excite and inspire the same way it did, the world gravitated towards raw, unfiltered sequences that TikTok advocated. Most of us might be avid users of both platforms; while both provide two vastly different schools of content, we can't deny that there has been a divide in attention when it comes to preferring one to the other. TikTok is seemingly gaining an advantage — by sheer gauge of its general reach, impact, and shareability. And not to mention, it's where most of the future generation are leaning towards.
TikTok's uptick of users also coincided with the start of COVID-19, which might have had a part to play to why people weren't seeking polished, indulgent content, in the backdrop where many were suffering and advocating for bigger, more important issues like #BlackLivesMatter. Perhaps it's also the reason why "Finstas" have been increasingly more popular, with a majority of influential people striving to create raw, "real" content that didn't abide by the rule of thirds or the same filtered finish across the entire grid.
But the common consensus is that the perfect grid just isn't that sought after anymore.
Vanessa Caitlin, a 30 year old digital content producer, who has 11.6k Instagram followers and 12.8k TikTok followers, only started to really grow and expound her reach on the Gen-Z-driven platform with fitness content. "I find TikTok more lighthearted, relatable and authentic — everything is less curated. The community is more supportive in general and to be honest, more creative as well. I do see both Instagram and TikTok being able to coexist, as the former is where I get life updates from my circle. One will not necessarily take over the other. That said, if the younger generation doesn't feel the need to constantly be updating what they are doing in their lives (which seems to be the case) then Instagram may have to pivot and change their strategy."
Perhaps what's so magnetic about TikTok is that there are no rules to skyrocketing your influence. There's no formula, and any aspiring user can debut with any trope of content — animals, humour, dance, stunts, fitness, food, challenges, music, and the list goes on. A free-for-all where one doesn't have to look a certain way or own enough affluent things just to be successful. "There's a certain pressure of having to present myself a certain way on Instagram and I don't have to feel that way on TikTok.", commented Esther Tay, a 19 year old.
And just like that, it's a shift of social media, by shaping how the future generation would use it. And that doesn't have to bode the end of Instagram, which all in all, now takes on a more serious, professional responsibility. With businesses blowing up on the Instagram trail, the platform is now a hotbed for emerging start-up businesses, especially with the food and shopping industry. "DM to order", "limited stocks daily", and "pre-order opens soon" are common phrases to entrap the eager audience vying for the next hot thing that isn't mass-produced or found in a physical store. People are using Instagram differently, as compared to how they would say, a few years ago.
Apart from that, an Instagram profile can also be a form of reference for prospective employers. It's been shown for at some job interviews that have listed Instagram handle, as part of the employee information form. Which explains why people are more likely to let their hair down on TikTok, because their employers are less likely to find them on the platform — especially with its intricate algorithm. According to TikTok: "The system recommends content by ranking videos based on a combination of factors — starting from interests you express as a new user and adjusting for things you indicate you're not interested in, too". Every user will have a unique configuration of content specially tailored for them.
More importantly, TikTok sits as the ultimate black hole of escapism beyond the nauseating polished profiles that social media has unknowingly endorsed. And perhaps, this curated formula has finally exhausted itself, now with TikTok's entrance.