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Instagram Attempts to Tik Tok

By Ritika Jain


The dominance of TikTok has led to the rise of short videos featuring dances, memes, reenactments of soundbites, modeling tips, political comedy and more. The platform grew from an influencer hub to attracting populations of all ages during the past few months of isolation. It even caught the attention of Donald Trump, who is threatening to ban TikTok due to commentary critical of his leadership and administration.


The format of brief videos pooling on your “For You” page based on the content we like, share and create has suited our short attention spans and resonated with our inner psyches. Since the future of Tiktok is now under threat, people are relying on its neighbor visual app, Instagram, as their backup. Instagram, in an attempt to provide users with an alternative, added a feature called Reels entailing a vertical stream of videos on your explore page that mimics the For You page.


Users can shoot or edit 15-second videos, add audio and effects, adjust the speed of the audio, and adorn their finished product with text or filters as they do on stories. However, your feed isn’t as tailored to your interests as the For You page. The way the TikTok algorithm works is that it recommends content from big accounts and small accounts alike to users’ feeds. There are a number of factors that go into determining what users would like to see: whether they watched a video to the end, shared it or followed the creator. The algorithm also considers hashtags and song clips, which is why you may encounter back-to-back videos with the same audio. Using “foryou” increases your chances of being recommended to other users who have engaged with the hashtag.


For example, my feed consists of videos of people crying to Taylor Swift’s new album and sharing their issues with school, relationships and the collective experience of living through a global pandemic. Reels, however, include a diverse array of content, like entertaining videos of my favorite celebrities mixed in with random videos I’m inclined to scroll past. It also fails to encourage engagement as Reels occupies a small portion of the explore page.


The format and style of Reels follows the TikTok blueprint, but the video editing process isn’t as smooth and user friendly. On TikTok you can upload multiple video clips at once and select audio, which the app will automatically sync for you. Reels requires users to edit videos one by one and manually sync the portion of the audio they desire. It’s also missing the duet feature on TikTok which allows people to further interact and support the content they see.


While Reels can be entertaining and a feasible alternative if TikTok gets banned, it lacks the freshness, originality and seamlessness that the latter provides. TikTok emphasizes virality, making it possible for ordinary people to attain thousands of followers and views on their videos. The ease at which one can create and embellish short and funny videos has made the app resonate with millions. As Mashable writer Jess Joho points out, the culprit may lie in the personality of users on Instagram, who have a different purpose than the user base on TikTok.


Reels joins Stories as an attempt to adopt another app’s main feature, albeit less successful. Some users may like that they can do everything in a space they are familiar with. However, features such as stories and IGTV make another video interface almost redundant.




Ritika Jain is an editorial writer who focuses on all things fashion, pop culture, and important social events. Follow her on Instagram.

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