Growth.Design Case Study #026
Story Duration: 4 min
People take action based on memories or emotions.1
In this case, my inability to direct my energy towards my own desires 2 is driving me to "hunt" for pleasure elsewhere.
Instagram is the perfect companion when looking for desirability (with a few caveats.)1Nir Eyal, Hooked (2014)
We constantly measure our social value relative to others. It is the most important incentive and motivating force of social behavior.1
That's why we buy things and put up our best lives on social media.
Mixed with negative emotions, it becomes an exponential driver for consumption.21Adam Waytz, The Psychology of Social Status (2009)
...It's hard not to compare yourself...
It's no secret... To maintain appearances people tend to shop for new things, and—
—Instagram is fully aware of this...
But it's impossible to compete with Instagram's "reality"....
...especially when you're here because you're bored in the first place—
So they push ads in the feed...
In fact, ads are everywhere.
You scroll ONE post... Ad.
You watch ONE story... Ad again!
Users have learned to ignore content that resembles ads, is close to ads, or appears in locations dedicated to ads.1
However, when ads blend into the content that well, our brain gets confused. We block real content and watch ads, giving us a poor experience.1NN Group, Banner Blindness Revisited (2018)
But Instagram found new ways to bridge the gap between:
Now, over time your brain trains itself to block these ads—
"Hey look! 👀 This is the life you could have"
—"why not get it now!"
...with organic "in-post" purchases...
In short, you see something you want, you can:
There's usually a conflict of interest when revenues come from non-users.
Teams optimize for money, while the experience for real users deteriorates.
Instagram had the vision of sharing your world through beautiful photos... But it's slowly becoming a shopping mall.
This leaves a gap for other products to do the same thing in a simpler & ethical way and win users.1
Don't want to scroll too much?
Now, there's a shopping hub directly in the menu...
...making you psychologically vulnerable, and hence the perfect target for advertisers.
Do you think that's ethical?
...while your brain is unconsciously looking for that dopamine shot...
They're not even hiding anymore... So much of the platform is engineered to make you buy stuff...
They also just released shopping in Reels...
Is it just me or...
These days, authenticity and original content are kings. That's why the line between "real life" and "marketing" is blurring but—
Now... There's ONE thing we can do to put an end to all this nonsense:
Limit the monetization of people's attention.
We certainly don't want our lives to be infomercials, so here are some ideas:
1. 🚧 In China, WeChat limited the number of ads one person can see: 2-3 ads/day1 compared to 10,000 ads/day for westerners. Ironically, ads are converting more...
2. 💰 Signal has an entirely different revenue stream: operating solely on donations.2 It works because they're offering the best messaging experience when others can't... due to ads, tracking, and privacy.1Connie Chan, Outgrowing Advertising (2019)
—if we keep optimizing products for profits over humans… your life could soon become an endless advertisement.
Months of lockdown ended up affecting my moral...
So I started to check Instagram more often to get a small dose of dopamine!
Ads became more and more invasive. I could barely watch 1 or 2 posts before getting a sales pitch.
Finally, the new shopping features made me realize that the whole platform is squeezing maximum revenues based on negative feelings of loneliness and boredom.
But it didn't take long before I started comparing myself to the impossible reality projected on the platform.
Humane Experience Score
Q: How do you consume content on Instagram? Do you share similar conclusions?
We're just one reply away on Twitter.
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