Let’s Talk About Instagram Reels

Amy Burke
August 26, 2020

By now, you’ve probably heard the news that TikTok has a questionable future. (And if you haven’t, you can read about it here!) To continue the saga, we’re here to recap Instagram’s latest version of the popular app. Call it what you want—an exciting new feature in an opportune time or a complete TikTok rip-off—but Instagram’s launching of Reels is some uncanny timing. 

Similar to TikTok, Reels lets Instagram users record and edit 15-second videos accessible to their friends or to the public. Users can find Reels videos under the Explore tab filled with a hodgepodge of photos, videos, or sponsored posts, but it still lacks the same tailored effect that TikTok mastered though its spot-on algorithm in the For You feed. Editing features also aren’t as comparable, so for those who truly love to create, you may notice a lag (and certainly a learning curve) in the video creation process. 

Frankly, not everyone’s a fan. Already there are countless articles, tweets and comments expressing people’s dissatisfaction with the new feature. 

See Vox’s article “This week in TikTok: Why does Instagram Reels suck so bad? or the New York Times‘ “We Tested Instagram Reels, the TikTok Clone. What a Dud for some brutally honest opinions.

It’s also worth considering that Reels isn’t all that easy to access. This is a feature you have to actively seek out, never mind the fact that for newbies like me, it takes a little while to find. The beauty of TikTok is that it removes the paradox of choice, where users really don’t have to think at all about what they want. There is already a feed perfectly suited to their interests, and it’s constantly populated with new content.

Reels, on the other hand, is merely an added bonus to Instagram. When you open the app, you have the entire platform to explore, whether through stories, your feed, IGTV, and now users’ Reels. Your typical mindless social scroller just isn’t going to put in the effort. 

Points do go to Instagram when considering their 1 billion user audience. Given that Reels is wrapped up nicely within the Instagram platform, others argue that the likelihood that loyal IG fans will otherwise not complain. Consider all those millennials who feel too old to be groovin’ with the youths on TikTok—maybe now’s their time to shine!

Reels also doesn’t feel all that revolutionary for an app that already has stories and IGTV for videos of short and not-so-short duration. In fact, it’s fairly well known that Facebook (i.e. Instagram) has a history of cloning its competitors. Instagram Stories felt an awful lot like Snapchat at the time, and IGTV gives us a vague recollection of a little platform called YouTube

But who can really say.

Put simply by Instagram themselves, “Reels gives people new ways to express themselves, discover more of what they love on Instagram, and help anyone with the ambition of becoming a creator take center stage.

And that’s certainly true. For all those creative Gen Z-ers out there, this may not be the platform of choice, but until the day (if it comes?) that TikTok is truly removed from our lives, there’s nothing wrong with an upgraded version of the ‘gram we all know and love! It just might take some growing pains.