Instagram, please stop telling me to follow people I know - MrLiambi's blog


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Tuesday 10 August 2021

Instagram, please stop telling me to follow people I know

Stop trying to make following suggestions a thing.

Do you have a particularly strong desire to follow your former coworker's spouse â€" someone you've never met and never plan to meet â€" on Instagram? How about your middle school arch nemesis? Of course not, no one does.

Yet, Instagram insists on trying to get users to follow accounts they don't care about and it's ruining the app.

I use Instagram to stay up-to-date with a mix of family members, close friends, and coworkers, along with celebrities, publications, and influencers I like. Currently, I'm following around 1,500 accounts, which some people might think is a lot. But each account I smash the follow button on holds a special place in my heart. (That, or I need to keep tabs on them for work.)

Sure I know a lot more people on the app, but if I'm not following someone I know on Instagram there's a good reason why. The app's deeply annoying "People You May Know" and "Suggested Accounts to Follow" features show Instagram doesn't seem to get that. Or perhaps Instagram does get it and just doesn't care.

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For anyone who's lucky enough not to be pestered by Instagram follow suggestions on a daily basis, allow me to explain why the features are so frustrating. Instagram makes follower suggestions a few different ways, two of which are especially irritating.

The first annoying suggestion arrives by push notification. Every so often, Instagram will send you a notification announcing that someone you may know is on Instagram, like so.

Leave me alone! I'm well aware this person is on Instagram.
Leave me alone! I'm well aware this person is on Instagram. Credit: SCREENSHOT / INSTAGRAM

I'll admit I initially thought this feature was nice, but only because I thought it just alerted you of new users. It wasn't until I started getting push notifications for the same people over and over again (all of whom have had Instagram accounts for years) that I became a little fed up.

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Ultimately, the push notifications are spaced out enough that you have time in between receiving them to cool down. I only get a few every month. Their arrival has turned into somewhat of a running joke between me and my phone screen, and it's gotten to a point where whenever Instagram begs me to follow one of the same three people again I can't help but laugh.

But the other obnoxious way that Instagram suggests followers is no laughing matter.

In the spirit of shoving follow suggestions in your face, Instagram decided to get even more aggressive than occasional push notifications and started compiling selections of "Suggested for You" accounts. These suggestions don't come via push notification, rather they appear out of nowhere as you're mindlessly tapping through Instagram Stories.

The suggestions appear without warning in groups of three on one of Instagram Stories' colorful Create backgrounds, shown below. Each suggestion includes an account holder's profile photo, name, handle, and some additional info such as a list of mutual followers you share or if the user is new to Instagram. If you choose to hit the follow button for one or more users shown, new accounts appear. And if you don't like the options Instagram presents you can roll the dice and click the "Shuffle Suggestions" button at the bottom of the screen.

Are we *not* supposed to accidentally follow someone this way?
Are we *not* supposed to accidentally follow someone this way? Credit: MASHABLE COMPOSITE: SCREENSHOT / INSTAGRAM

In my experience, the suggested accounts in these Stories are always bad. Half the time I don't know who the people are, and I can tell they're only being suggested to me because we share a few random mutuals. The other half of the time they're accounts that I'd have no reason to want to follow. Crucially, the fact that they pop up as another Instagram Story also means they create the same danger as poorly places Instagram Story polls. One wrong slip or tap of your Instagram navigating finger and you've accidentally followed a suggested user you may never have intended to follow. It's a flawed presentation.

It's a flawed presentation.

Instagram's algorithm thinks it knows users, but if it really knew me it would know to stop making these follow suggestions. All they do is disrupt my Story watching flow and make me more paranoid about thumb placement when using the app. I'm not the only one who dreads them either.

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Follow suggestions aren't all bad

Since I trashed two of Instagram's follow suggestions pretty heavily, I feel it's only right to note that there are two ways Instagram suggests users to follow that I do like and find genuinely helpful.

The methods I like don't appear on their own, which is why I like them so much. Instead of Instagram shoving suggestions in your face, you have to take action to prompt these methods or actively seek them out.

One round of good follower suggestions will appear right after you follow a user. Let's use Bryan Cranston as an example. Once you click the follow button, a "Suggested for You" carousel of other people Instagram thinks you may like based on your recent follow appears. The results are usually pretty sensical, and you can click "See All" to navigate the list more easily.

Follow someone, get similar suggestions. How nice!
Follow someone, get similar suggestions. How nice! Credit: MASHABLE COMPOSITE: SCREENSHOT / INSTAGRAM

You can get access to one of those thoughtfully curated lists of similar people to follow for any user on the app, as long as their accounts aren't private. Whether you already follow a user or just want a list of accounts similar to someone you don't follow, just navigate to a profile, click the user's Followers or Following number at the top of the page, and hit the "Suggested" column to the far right.

How to find users similar to Simone Biles. (Though there's only one GOAT.)
How to find users similar to Simone Biles. (Though there's only one GOAT.) Credit: MASHABLE COMPOSITE: SCREENSHOT / INSTAGRAM

If Instagram wants to suggestion a few account to follow when it makes sense â€" like if a user follows someone new â€" that's fine. If Instagram wants to keep lists of suggested users available for people to browse whenever they're in the mood, great! But please stop getting in our faces all the time and telling us who to follow.

Sure, I may know the people you're suggesting. But that doesn't mean I want to follow them. I've already connected with everyone I want to connect with on the app. And if there's ever anyone else I want to follow I'll manually search for them. Don't worry.

Users don't need Instagram constantly sending push notifications and slipping lineups of suggested people to follow in Stories. If you really want to help us, Instagram, let us search who views our Stories.

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