Picture this: You’re in school. The teacher of your favourite subject walks into class. Suddenly she starts dancing and flashing text cards at you. Halfway through reading one it disappears, then another card appears. Before you can begin to figure out what it says, it disappears again, followed by one more text card. And to top things off “Backstreet’s Back Alright!” is blaring in the background (hey, what can I say? I’m a 90’s kid! hehe).
With your attention all over the place how much of the core information do you catch?
How much actual value do you get out of those interactions? Will you even retain and recall any of the details over time? Sounds like a nightmare right? Well, with Instagram Reels, that’s exactly what we’re being subjected to.
Watch the video, quickly try to read the disappearing text, tune into the background song (while its lyrics are clashing against the text you’re attempting to read)… your attention scattered in so effing many directions! ADD anyone? Before you can even grasp what’s happening, the next video begins to play. And just like that you’re down the Instagram Reels rabbit hole!
When you resurface, a good chunk of your day has gone by. And regardless of how entertained you might’ve been, you don’t feel very alert/alive, and you can’t even remember where you began or why you went into Insta in the first place. It’s a sickening feeling.
Remember the early days of Instagram? We had just photos and captions. It was mostly about mindful and meaningful engagement. Everything was clean and calming. There were no distractions that forcefully pulled at your attention in multiple directions. Heck, even hashtags didn’t exist back then.
Then FB bought Insta and began screwing with auto-playing video content. Well okay, the long form and live videos were kind of alright. They served a purpose for creators and audience alike. And more importantly, they didn’t invade the feed.
But then, Reels came last year and the doom began.
I’ll admit, I was one of the early, enthusiastic Reels creators. They were so much fun to make, and such a creative way to tell a story in 15-30 seconds. I even followed some great Reels heavy accounts.
Since they take time and effort to create, only some creators who were serious about the quality of their content made the effort with Reels at first. And even they did it selectively because it’s a medium that suits only certain kinds of content and not others.
So back then the Insta feed wasn’t messed up. There was a good balance of photo/carousel posts, with video/Reels content. Going down the feed was still a fairly pleasant experience.
Then the Instagram algorithms heavily skewed towards Reels and all hell broke loose!
People who had no business making Reels began creating mediocre, pointless ones just so they could be discovered. And the good content creators, who actually had valuable information to share, messed up their profiles by churning out Reel after Reel.
If you’re doing something only because you think you have to, and believe it’s the only way to grow, the magic goes away. And that impacts the quality of your content in an undesirable way.
I never liked the pointless dancing around. But now I don’t even want to watch the funny babies/toddlers, or cute animals, or most of those witty little skits people enact! Things I used to enjoy before have lost their charm.
At first when I started to get sick of Instagram Reels, I just cribbed, cribbed, cribbed. But there’s no point in that, is there? The complaining could get just as annoying as the Reels themselves. So I began taking steps to change things. I thought I’d share what I’ve learnt along the way.
If you also want to make your Instagram feed experience less distracting and more pleasant, here are some ideas for you to consider.
1. Stop feeding into the algorithm’s demands
This one’s a no brainer. You want fewer reels on the feed? Start by not creating them yourself. Share your message through long form written/video content and carousel posts.
I know Reels get more views and exposure right now, but is that extra reach you’re getting worth the very real harm it’s causing to all our brains? Besides, if your audience’s attention span is only 15 seconds long, don’t you have to work a LOT harder in the long run to get and hold onto their attention at all?
2. Login to Insta on a browser instead of the app as a habit. Way less distracting!
Videos don’t start playing automatically on the browser, so your attention isn’t forcibly sucked into the Reels rabbit hole. You can publish posts and engage on your feed right from the browser.
But if you must use your app (like when you want to share a story or check your insights), mute your phone before you enter Insta. Even when videos auto-play, not having to listen to all kinds of songs and noises is a comparatively peaceful way to scroll.
3. Drastically reduce the number of Reels-heavy creators you follow
I’m not saying you should stop following everyone who post Reels. Just be discerning about what kind of content is worth your attention. If want to continue to publicly follow certain accounts but not be subjected to their endless Reels on your feed, make good use of that discreet mute posts option!
4. Skew your attention towards reels-free accounts
Engage more with simple, distraction-free long form content that resonates with you. Spend time reading full captions and leave meaningful comments. Show the algorithm that this is what you want more of.
5. Be vocal and spread awareness
Just because everyone you know is churning out reels these days doesn’t mean you should be afraid to speak out against them. Most movements for positive change start out as unpopular opinions.
I know reels are fun to watch and make. Like I said, I used to create them too at first. But auto-playing, highly distracting short video content is DESTROYING attention spans. It’s a very real and serious problem!
It’s high time for all of us to seriously consider how we can collectively heal our brains of this addiction to constant stimulation and distraction. Shunning reels is a good place to begin.
The good news? Many people are beginning to realise how our attentions are being stolen and destroyed by distracting social media trends. There are plenty of people like us who are completely sick of Instagram Reels. It’s time for all of us to get together and take our peaceful Insta feeds back!
Forget what’s happening on a larger scale for now. Smaller sections of us can come together and create distraction free eco-systems in our immediate circles. In the long run, we can hope for bigger ripples in the overall social media culture and consumption patterns. ♥️
Why are reels and Tik Toks so addictive? (Understanding how these 15-second videos can be a new addiction)
How to stop being at the constant mercy of your smartphone
Your attention didn’t collapse. It was stolen
“I’m a Spiritual Vegan Multi-Passionate Entrepreneur. I read voraciously, find humour in most things, and believe kindness and authenticity can make this world a happier, loving place.
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