Ah, 2015. Phones still had headphone jacks, Donald Trump had never been president, and Instagram still had a chronological feed. Those were the glory days.
And then, in early 2016, Instagram announced it was getting rid of the chronological feed in favor of algorithmic sorting, something no one asked for.
The idea was to ostensibly sort content based on what’s most interesting to you. But pretty much no one was happy about it, and it yielded real ethical and political concerns beyond general annoyance.
After six years of darkness, Instagram has finally seen the light. In December, it announced it was bringing back the chronological feed as an alternative to the default view. That feature is now rolling out to everyone in the form of a couple of new sorting options for your feed.
Instagram is introducing two new ways of organizing your feed, dubbed ‘Following’ and ‘Favorites.’ Both are in reverse chronological order, bless the tech gods.
Following is basically the old-school chronological view. You can see posts from people you follow, with the most recent posts at the top, and older ones toward the bottom. The way things should be.
Favorites is basically the same thing, except filtered down to the accounts you’ve deemed most important.
Crucially (and unfortunately), there is no way to make chronological order your default upon entering the app. Instead, you always start with the algorithmic or ‘home feed,’ and you have to remember to select once of the chronological options every time.
How do I do it?
Easy-peasy. Open the app, and then tap on the Instagram logo on the upper left. You will then see a drop-down menu with both list views.
Tap an option and your feed will be reorganized based on your choice. If you opt for the favorites view, you’ll be prompted to list your favorite accounts.
Alternatively, visit your profile, click on the hamburger menu on the upper right, and select ‘Favorites’ from the list.
The feature is rolling out now, so you should see it soon if you’re on the latest version of the app.
Cool, but why can’t I make chronological order default?
Well, Instagram and Meta still want to make money. Though algorithmic feeds are supposedly designed to surface the content most relevant to you, they’re also designed to make you spend more time in the app.
In fact, Instagram says that it’s actually planning on bringing more content from accounts you don’t actually follow into your default feed. In its announcement post, the company wrote “over time, we’re going to add more recommendations to your feed based on your interests.” Sighs.
Having the chronological feeds hidden behind a couple of extra taps every time you enter the app pretty much ensures that the majority of people will still see things algorithmically most of the time. So Instagram doesn’t really lose out on much engagement with this change, especially now that it plans to introduce more recommendations.
Umm, does anyone actually want more recommendations?
No, probably not.
But it’s not all bad news. While your home feed might soon have more sponsored posts, the Following and Favorites views are completely devoid of ads — for now at least. In their current forms, these list views purely comprise content from accounts that you actually care about.
Some will still bemoan the lack of a default chronological view — and the ethical concerns remain when most users are exposed to algorithmic sorting — but it’s nonetheless an improvement to at least have the option.
Granted, I would’ve preferred being able to forget about algorithmic sorting altogether, but at the same time, I really appreciate that the chronological views are free of stuff from accounts I’m not interested in. There’s almost no way that would’ve been the case if Instagram allowed people to permanently opt for chronological sorting.
It’s not ideal, but hey, it’s something.