On July 27, 2022, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri took to Twitter to explain some of the major changes that are occurring on the social media giant’s app, including a shift in its algorithm that promotes more video and reel content for all users. Many journalists, small content creators, and even the Kardashians have voiced their disproval of this shift, with one Twitter user noting:
“stop making everything reels. You’re making everyone from journalists, content creators, CEOs, and celebrities agree. It’s now an app for everything you’re advertising, not of my friends and people I think are cool.”@StefanEtienne / Twitter
While Instagram has backpedaled and said they will now attempt to phase out the full-screen reels and videos becoming more popular for all users, so far, no major changes have been implemented. The shift to video content on the app has also had negative impacts on a certain kind of Instagram account: aesthetic archives.
?? There’s a lot happening on Instagram right now.— Adam Mosseri (@mosseri) July 26, 2022
I wanted to address a few things we’re working on to make Instagram a better experience.
Please let me know what you think ?? pic.twitter.com/x1If5qrCyS
What’s an Aesthetic Archive Account?
Aesthetic archive accounts upload historical photos and videos with equal amounts of aesthetic and nostalgic appeal. They may post anything from Kermit the Frog photographed in Supreme clothing in 2008 to videos of seals sneezing to unseen Robin Williams fits from the ’80s and ’90s. It’s all very niche content with the aesthetics cranked high. One well-known account, ihategum, has already told it’s followers that Instagram has not been showing its content to followers over the last few weeks.
While it’s hard to say for certain why Gum’s followers aren’t seeing its posts, the change in Instagram’s algorithm may provide a possible answer. Aesthetic archive accounts rely heavily on photo content, with roughly 85% of their content being photos from the past. As Instagram leans more toward videos and reels, it seems aesthetic archive posts may be deprioritized in Instagram’s algorithm, coming long after endless reels of someone’s day in a big city or recycled TikToks in their followers’ feeds.
By deprioritizing these accounts, Instagram is losing the qualities it possesses that separate it from the other social media giants: Being a window to the past and providing niche content. One of the greatest benefits of Instagram for me is the fact that it operates like an archive. I can look back on photos of my friends and me at 16 and 17 when I am 80 years old. I can follow accounts that show me photos of Tupac in the ’80s that I may never see otherwise.
Sure, other platforms like Twitter and Facebook also get a fair amount of old photos and videos that people on the internet dig up and share for all to see. But Twitter and Facebook have always had a built-in quality of networking and information sharing that make them operate more like a modern-day message board, with media content used to dress a post up and give it a pretty bow.
Instagram, on the other hand, has always been focused on the media side of things. Since its founding, it’s prioritized visual content and aesthetic appeal. With a profile that showcases each user’s collection of unique media memories, Instagram has always been a space for content that is nostalgic, niche, and creative. This is what separates it from the others, what makes the platform great.
Aesthetic archive accounts provide content that is both aesthetically appealing and niche. Their unique posts connect us to the past, a time when video didn’t exist or wasn’t widely utilized. These accounts possess the very qualities that help separate Instagram from other platforms. Here are 3 aesthetic archive accounts that remind us of Instagram’s appeal, and why it needs to keep photo content a priority!
Hey, this is Gum. Gum posts a wide range of niche content, but stays mostly within music and entertainment topics. You can find photos from behind the scenes of Biggie Small’s last ever photo shoot, accompanied by a story of how much the plastic crown he wore sold for. You can find artists’ renditions of popular album covers and posts honoring the anniversary of a classic hip-hop album by posting rarely seen photos of the artist. The list goes on.
But even that broad categorization is doing Gum a disservice. Gum leans heavily into the nostalgic factor, especially for those who grew up in the late ’90s and early ’00s. Followers are regularly treated with posts showing original Bikini Bottom architecture or clips from Call of Duty’s popular Modern Warfare 2. And one can’t forget the original artwork, like album covers made from play-doh, that always credit the artist. Gum truly does it all.
Artifax is another aesthetic archive account that does not disappoint. The account is unique in that most posts stray from offering captions for photos. The images speak for themselves. You’re treated with everything from uncaptioned photos of Carrie Fischer’s Rolling Stone beach photo shoot to photos of an airplane runway from the cockpit’s point of view. My personal favorite is a photo of a Japanese art installation, titled “Toast Bed,” which features, well, a bed that looks like a piece of delicious garlic toast.
You can also find photos from popular anime series that often capture a conversation with profound insight and pithy statements of truth. This may be followed by photos of Pele being hoisted on fans’ shoulders in 1970 after winning the World Cup. Or, just maybe, you’ll catch a glimpse of Homer Simpson flying on a skateboard through the air. It’s difficult to predict what will come next from Artifax, and that’s the beauty of this aesthetic archive account.
Welcome is another unique aesthetic archive account that offers everything from photos of original art to beautiful hidden locations throughout the world. If I had to pick one word to describe the photo of 4 cows happily licking a pitbull or a storm-themed spa in Italy, it would be serendipitous. Welcome’s photos typically capture moments that most would never believe were caught on camera – like a Bison chilling in a living room beside a man casually watching the news – and followers are instilled with a joyful sense of wonder.
Welcome frequently posts original artwork by underground artists, such as Personas 111 by Tomihiro Kono or Landscapes by Elias Wessel (look them up, they’re beautiful). My favorite post by Welcome is a video of a musician, Dagmar Turner, playing her violin midway through brain surgery to ensure her cerebellum wasn’t affected during her procedure.
Welcome follows the same format as other aesthetic archive accounts in that its content is creative, unique, and hard to categorize. But maybe that’s the entire point of these accounts, maybe it’s the lesson they are trying to teach us all: Instagram is a creative space for everyone to share their unique selves in any format they’d like. Instagram shouldn’t reward users for choosing one format over the other by promoting more video and reel content. Keep it a safe space, open to all.