A new test from Instagram could make it harder for you to see recent content in the app. Though you can now look up all sorts of recent Instagram posts centered around a particular hashtag, the test will only let you see the posts with the most likes or short videos called “Reels” related to the hashtag. The company says this trial will mix “more recent and timely content” in the two groups to see how people engage with it.
When they were first introduced on Instagram, hashtags could be a fun way to highlight photo trends, but now they are mainly a way for users to get more visibility and, hence, more clicks and likes. According to Instagram, the “Top,” or top posts tab, shows popular posts while the “Recent” tab shows content in the order it was posted, regardless of how many likes it gets.
Social media apps continue to rely on algorithms to show users more varied (and more marketable) content despite negative reactions from users who prefer seeing their timelines in chronological order. With apps like TikTok siphoning away users and attention — even becoming more popular than YouTube for Android users — Instagram has been rolling out (or in this case, taking away) features to try to make Reels a natural alternative to viewing photos.
Figuring out ways for users to interact with more system-sorted content has influenced changes in other platforms as well. Last month, Twitter made it harder to view things in order by defaulting users to an algorithmic timeline, but it reversed that change after a few days.
If and when it’s released more widely, it will be interesting to see how this change affects what kinds of content users see on Instagram.