A Conversation with Instagram on the Subject of Reels

Me, with camera, now slightly redundant for Instagram purposes

Instagram: Oh hiiiii @the_idle_hands! How are you?

Sandra: Hello Instagram! I’m really well, thanks, muddling along and all that. You’ve been quite busy lately haven’t you?

Instagram: Lol, yeah! I’ve hardly slept, I’m so busy thinking up new and innovative ways to reinvent myself.

Sandra: I’d noticed. Not that into people posting photos any more, are you?

Instagram: Photos, she says! Hell no! Photos are so 2020, literally no-one cares about photos.

Sandra: I mean, I think they do… it’s kind of why they came to Instagram in the first place.

Instagram: WRONG! It’s all about the videos these days. Reels. Reels for days. If it doesn’t move, I don’t want to know.

Sandra: Quite a weird attitude for a photo sharing app, that. Aren’t you just blatantly trying to be TikTok?

Instagram: Dunno what you mean. Tik Tok? Never heard of it. Definitely, definitely not trying to be exactly like TikTok, and anyone who says different is a liar.

Sandra: Sure.

Instagram: Post a Reel! I LOVE Reels. Reels are everything! Join the Reels revolution, I’m prioritising all things Reels and rewarding those who get on board. They’re REELY amazing (a little joke I came up with, hahahahahahaha). Do it! You’ll love it!

Sandra: Ok, I really like creating videos, actually. You can show a bit more in a video, different angles, a different perspective. It would also be lovely if you’d show my stuff at least to the people who follow me, because I’ve spent quite a lot of years working hard on my Instagram account. I’ll make a Reel now and post it tonight. Excited!

The following day

Sandra: I posted a Reel. Nobody really saw it. Bit of a let down, actually, after all the excitement.

Instagram: You made it 30 seconds long. You did it wrong. I had to tell the algorithm to set fire to it until nothing but ash remained.

Sandra: What? How did I do it wrong?

Instagram: No-one watches Reels that are longer than 4.3 seconds, idiot. You can’t expect an entire 30 seconds of anyone’s attention. That’s why you have to put “watch to the end” in a massive caption across the front of your Reel. Or else they won’t. They’ll just scroll up to the next one, and the next one, and so on, to infinity.

Sandra: Why do you offer a 30 second Reel option, then?

Instagram: Do not question me.

Sandra: You’re so weird. Fine. I’ll try a short, snappy one tonight, if I must.

Instagram: Go, girl! I’ve got your back. It’ll be huge. Probably go viral and get you 40,000 new followers overnight. In fact, I’m pretty sure it definitely will.

Sandra: Amazing! Thanks for your help. I don’t mind if it doesn’t go viral, it would just be cool if you could show it to the people who follow me, if that’s ok? I’ve got a really good feeling about this one!

The following day

Sandra: Instagram. My 4.3 second Reel was only seen by 7 people. What went wrong? I did the thing! The thing where you make it really short, even though you don’t want to, because everything has to be so fast, it sort of hurts your eyes. You said it would be brilliant?

Instagram: You are so stupid. You didn’t use trending audio <rolls eyes>. I had to tell the algorithm to lock it in a lead-lined box and hurl it into the North Sea.

Sandra: Trending what, now?

Instagram: Trending audio. Cannot believe you don’t know what trending audio is, you moron. The songs that everyone uses. This week, it’s your Harry Styles, your Kate Bush, your snippets of spoken word from films. I’ll change it tomorrow, but today, it’s that. Sick beatz, innit.

Sandra: Oh, that. I am aware of it, actually, but I didn’t really want to use it. I love my music, you see, one of my favourite things about making a Reel is thinking of a song I love, to use as the soundtrack. I tend to use the song as the starting point and tailor the whole Reel to it, and it brings my love of interiors and music together and it’s a beautiful thing! I have a Spotify folder of music I think will make good Reels soundtracks, it makes me really happy, actually. Lights a fire in me.

Instagram: Happy? Hahahahahaaaa, it’s not about you being happy, you half-wit!

Sandra: You’re actually quite rude. So, you’re saying I need to abandon the songs that I like, and that mean something to me, and use the exact same ones that millions of other people are using?

Instagram: <beams> Yes!

Sandra: Instagram, I hope you don’t mind me saying, but it seems to me that this signals the death of originality. You want me to basically follow a formula and just add my video content into a template?

Instagram: <beams even wider> Yes! I’ve even made a template option so you can directly copy the timings of other videos as well as the song! Give it a go, you misery. It’ll do amazingly and you’ll probably win an international prize or something.

Sandra: <digs deep> Ok. I’m pretty sure being your authentic self was one of the foundations Instagram was built on, but I’ll try it. But not that cover version of Dancing in the Moonlight, because that is hands down one of my least favourite songs in the entire world, and I cannot. I just cannot.

Instagram: Well, fine. Deprive yourself of 8 million views.

Sandra: I’ll do Harry Styles. It’s not what I’d choose of my own free will, but he has some catchy tunes and a really nice face.

Instagram: You are literally old enough to be his mother.

Sandra: Shut up, Instagram.

Instagram: <smirks>

Sandra: Ok. 4.3 seconds, “Music for a Sushi Restaurant” as the tune. I’ll use one of your templates, just to make sure all the boxes are ticked. I’m excited again, now I know the secret to Reels success! I wonder what’ll happen after I go viral? Will it be like winning the lottery? Cannot wait!

The next day

Sandra: Instagram, man! I did everything you said! I did the Harry Styles and the template! You then sent me a notification that my Reel was banned in 87 countries due to copyright infringement, and you muted the music, so the Reel was silent!

Instagram:

Sandra: Explain!! Why do you insist on trending audio if you also don’t allow it because of copyright issues? I’m so confused?

Instagram: Stop asking questions.

Sandra: Also, only 4 people saw it. And you made it really blurry when it uploaded, despite it being absolutely crystal clear in its original format.

Instagram: I had to tell the algorithm to cover it with an invisibility cloak, like the one in Harry Potter.

Sandra: You are an absolute dick.

Instagram: <smirks>

Sandra: Right, well, I’ve had enough. I’m going back to doing what I want and not what you tell me I have to do. My next Reel will be 40 seconds long, so I can tell a proper story, and it will be soundtracked with something excellent, probably from the early 90s.

Instagram: Good luck with getting anyone to watch a 40 second Reel. 40 seconds? You haven’t got a clue what the people want. Oh, also, I forgot! I’ve got exciting news! I’m introducing a new feature where you can make – wait for it – 90 second Reels!

Sandra: EH??? But you just said……

Instagram: <fingers in ears> LALALA CAN’T HEAR YOU….

Sandra: <weeps, ties phone to a firework and volleys it up to the heavens, moves off-grid, to a hut on a remote island>

FIN

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