Ah, 2015. Phones still had headphone jacks, Donald Trump was never president, and Instagram still had a chronological feed. Those were the glory days.
And then, in early 2016, Instagram announced it was ditching the chronological feed in favor of algorithmic sorting, something nobody asked for. The idea was to seemingly sort content based on what’s most interesting to you. But pretty much nobody was happy about it, and it raised real ethical and political concerns beyond general anger.
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 standard view. This feature is now rolling out to everyone in the form of some new sorting options for your feed.
Instagram is introducing two new ways to organize your feed, dubbed “Following” and “Favorites.” Both are in reverse chronological order, thank goodness.
The following is basically the old school chronological view. You can see posts from people you follow, with newest posts at the top and older ones at the bottom. The way things should be.
Favorites are basically the same, except they are filtered to the accounts you consider most important.
Crucially (and sadly) when entering the app, there’s no option to set chronological order as the default. Instead, you always start with the algorithmic or “home feed” and have to select the option every time you enter the app.
How do I do it?
Dead easy. Open the app and tap the Instagram logo in the top left. You will then see a drop down menu with both list views.
Tap on any of them and you’ll see your feed reorganized based on your selection. If you choose the favorites view, you will be prompted to list your favorite accounts.
Alternatively, visit your profile, click the hamburger menu in the top right and select “Favorites” from the list.
The feature is rolling out now, so you should see it soon if you’re using the latest version of the app.
Cool, but why can’t I set chronological order as the default?
Well, Instagram and Meta still want to make money. Although algorithmic feeds are supposedly designed to show you the content most relevant to you, they’re also designed to get you more time in the app.
In fact, Instagram says it actually plans to bring it more Content from accounts you don’t actually follow in your default feed. In its announcement post, the company wrote, “Over time, we’ll be adding more recommendations to your feed based on your interests.” Sigh.
Having the chronological feeds hidden behind a few extra taps every time you enter the app pretty much ensures that the majority of people still see things algorithmically most all the time. So Instagram isn’t really losing much engagement with this change, especially now that it plans to roll out more recommendations.
Um, does anyone actually want Other Recommendations?
No probably not.
But it’s not all bad news. While your homepage feed may soon feature more sponsored posts, the Following and Favorites views are completely ad-free — at least for now. In their current form, these list views only include content from accounts that really matter to you.
Some will still lament the lack of a Originally chronological viewing—and the ethical concerns remain when most users are exposed to algorithmic sorting—but it’s still an improvement to at least have the option.
Granted I would have preferred to forget about algorithmic sorting altogether, but at the same time I really appreciate that the chronological views are free of content from accounts I’m not interested in. That would be almost impossible if Instagram allowed people to permanently opt for chronological sorting.
It’s not ideal, but hey, it’s something.