During a podcast interview with tech Reporter Kara Swisher, Systrom expressed his discontent regarding the recent developments in the app and said, “I think we have lost the soul of what made Instagram, Instagram.” He explained how the app has become a marketplace for brands and influencers. “My biggest regret, I think, at Instagram is how commercial it got. The problem is that Instagram’s incentives are to go to more commercials, more creators, more deals, more ad dollars, which can have unintended social consequences,” he mentioned.
Kevin’s concerns majorly revolved around the fact that Instagram is no more a place to be natural and organic. Personalities and lives are being fabricated on the app to make everything look visually appealing. People are more concerned about the aesthetics than the authenticity of their accounts. “This has focused the energy on people living amazing lives with no bounds, doing the fanciest things, looking the best, and wearing the fanciest clothes. That creates a “terrifying” dynamic, where Instagram users believe that the curated facades they see on the app are people’s real lives,” he pointed out.
The picturesque content posted on Instagram tends to create a false perception of the lives people live in reality. The increasing usage of filters and editing tools has led to growing body image issues, especially among women. Furthermore, the pressure to create and share beautiful content can be exhausting and even harmful to mental health. Users may feel the need to constantly present themselves in a certain way, which can lead to anxiety and self-doubt. Disconnecting from the platform can also be difficult due to its addictive nature. The constant pressure to present oneself in a certain way may lead to a range of adverse effects on emotional well-being.
“Life is really hard, and whatever people post on Instagram is the tip of the iceberg. It’s this race to the bottom of who can be the most perfect,” Kevin said. While life is full of challenges and hardships, the app creates an illusion of a perfect world by only showing the highlights of people’s lives, rarely reflecting the reality of their overall experiences. Such content can also give rise to a feeling of inadequacy and low self-esteem as users constantly compare themselves to the people on the internet, both known and unknown.
The co-founder disappointingly mentioned how he saw the transformation play out in his own feed. His friends, who started by posting pictures of their daily lives, only post ads now. “That, to me, is not the Instagram we started,” the co-founder concluded. He mentioned BeReal as an alternative app to be used by people who value authenticity and believe in being real on their social media profiles. He further claimed it to be a platform where people could be themselves.
This was the first time Kevin Systrom spoke about the app after he left Instagram in 2018 due to growing distress between him and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg.