Being Real Isn’t Instagram’s Thing – and It Shouldn’t Be


Courtesy of Pia Fischetti/The Fordham Ram

Instagram is notorious for copying features from other social media platforms; we all remember when Instagram Stories launched in 2016, a blatant attempt at ripping off Snapchat during its peak. Instagram did it again with TikTok by introducing Reels. 

You have probably guessed where I am going with this. Instagram has found its next victim: BeReal. Instagram is now experimenting with a new feature called “IG Candid,” which is essentially a clone of the French app. Understandably, Instagram wants to stay on top and stave off any competition, but the app’s creators are going about it the wrong way.

Instagram needs to learn its place and innovate within its niche instead of trying to emulate every other popular app. Instagram is extremely curated; people post their most flattering photos. Think about how many snapshots you see of vacations, huge friend groups and concerts on your feed. Instagram is the platform where most people strive to seem picture-perfect. 

We all know this phenomenon isn’t necessarily a good thing. There is a reason why Instagram has been labeled the worst social media platform for mental health. Putting aside the questionable morals behind Instagram’s appearance-focused nature, the fact remains that curated aesthetics are exactly how people use the platform. The app should lean into this instead of trying to emulate the candid realness evident in other platforms.

The Stories feature is probably the most successful duplicate that Instagram has pulled off. I’d say that I see people post more Instagram stories on any given day than they do Snapchat stories. However, users don’t post on Instagram stories as a means of “imperfect sharing,” as was originally intended by the Snapchat feature. These disappearing posts are often just as curated and intentional as the ones you see on users’ main grids. 

I think a lot of this intentionality is due to the Highlights feature introduced in 2017, which allows people to display their stories on their profile page long after the 24-hour period ends. It has become another way for users to put out the exact lasting image they want to project. Contrast this with the content you see on Snapchat stories, which actually disappears after 24 hours and is generally more casual and in the moment. 

When you examine other features that Instagram has copied, like Reels, it’s clear that they don’t measure up to the originals. TikTok and Instagram’s purposes are completely different. Instagram’s objective of replicating TikTok—besides being a pipe dream that they’d be able to steal TikTok’s billion-plus users—is hard to deliver. IGTV flopped years before, and this new attempt at pushing video is equally unexciting. 

What Instagram fails to understand is that TikTok is so wildly popular because of its algorithm; people love seeing content that they’re actually interested in or can relate to. Instagram’s algorithm, on the other hand, is notably annoying. There has even been a recent trend on TikTok poking fun at Reels for being late to the party on jokes and other fads that TikTok saw weeks earlier. The fact that Reels are primarily just TikToks being re-uploaded to Instagram says it all. Instagram can’t form a monopoly on all social media because different platforms serve wholly different purposes. 

I don’t anticipate IG Candid working out any better than Reels has. How can it, when the whole point of BeReal is to show exactly what you’re doing at a random time of the day and to be… well, real? Instagram has evolved into such a carefully curated, photoshopped space, quite the opposite of BeReal’s mission. 

I could envision Instagram adding a space to display Candid posts like they created Highlights for stories. At that point, users will start to curate Candids, and doing so defeats the inherent purpose of the feature. It will be no different than what Instagram Stories morphed into. If Instagram doesn’t add its own unique features, Candids will end up just like Reels: a duplicate that fails to measure up to the original. 

Instagram will not be associated with authenticity anytime soon. Executives would do well to realize this and include new features that fall within the scope of curated content creation instead of wasting time (and irritating users) by trying to be something it’s not. Instagram must innovate or risk being left behind. 

Daniella Terilli, GSB ’24, is a marketing major from Westchester, NY.