Instagram Push Notifications: Everyone Calm Down

If you've been on Instagram lately, you may have noticed a flood of annoying posts encouraging you to turn on push notifications. Instagrammers have been freaking out about the social network's proposed changes to its feed, worrying that it may affect their views. 

But what's actually going on and how does it affect you? Here's everything you need to know.

What's Happening?

Instagram announced on March 15 that it would be implementing a new way to order your feeds so that what its algorithm deems to be more important and relevant to you will show up first, as opposed to being displayed chronologically. Facebook, which owns Instagram, already uses a similar method to order its users' timelines.

In the blog post announcing the concept, Instagram said the changes would happen "in the coming months" and that it would "take time to get this right and listen to your feedback along the way."

However, it appears that the update had been rolled out to a portion of Instagram users recently, causing widespread panic. More than 300,000 people have already signed a petition to keep Instagram chronological, and some folks have started a #turnmeon hashtag to get their followers to turn on push notifications.

What Will Push Notifications Do?

Push notifications will be a way for Instagrammers to opt in to see updates from specific accounts, ensuring that you'll see their posts when the new algorithm kicks in. However, this also means you'll get a ping on your phone each time someone you follow posts something. Depending on the number of people you opt-in to, this could mean your phone will be blowing up with alerts all day. 

Who's Affected?

Right now, the new feature does not affect everyone. It's not clear what percentage of Instagrammers are seeing the new feed right now, and Instagram has promised to announce "when changes roll out broadly."

If you're someone who makes a living from your Instagram following, the new algorithm could potentially mean a fall in views, since it might bury your posts below other accounts. This will all depend on how the algorithm decides what to show, and since the feature is not yet public, it's hard to tell how this will happen.

Those who are simply on Instagram for personal reasons are likely to just see more posts from people they've opted in to, and potentially get a lot more alerts from the app. It might mean less variety on your feed as well.

Why Stay Calm?

Instagram has made it clear the feature has not publicly rolled out yet, and also explained it is listening to user feedback on how to implement the changes. At the moment, there is no real reason to get upset, especially if you're not seeing the new format in your feed yet. The changes could takes months to happen, and if Instagram takes not just the outpouring of user dissent but also the petition to heart, it is possible the company could change its mind about the update.

Instagram could also find a way to let users opt out of the new ordered feed, just as Twitter has done with its Show Me The Best Tweets First option.

If it doesn't, and Instagram moves ahead with the changes, just remember all the times Facebook made changes to its layout and how everyone got used to it over time. We're likely to get used to the differences and move on. 

Cherlynn Low

Cherlynn is Deputy Editor, Reviews at Engadget and also leads the site's Google reporting. She graduated with a Master’s in Journalism from Columbia University before joining Tom's Guide and its sister site LaptopMag as a staff writer, where she covered wearables, cameras, laptops, computers and smartphones, among many other subjects.