Video: Is Instagram revealing my stalkers?
– A lot of us have some wild ideas about how Instagram works and it's probably because we're confused why the app's arranged in certain ways. Like why is one person in my feed first versus someone else? Or, more crucially, why is my crush always at the top of my story viewers? Is it because they're stalking my page? Here's what I know. Instagram has one billion users, including myself, and the app hasn't been super forthcoming about how its algorithm works. The company treats it like it's the Coca-Cola recipe or something, even a New York Times article mentioned the stalker idea. So how does Instagram rank people in stories and in the app in general? Does it actually show me the people who stalk me the most? We went to Instagram to find out.
(medium-paced jazz music) That's Julian Gutman, product lead for Instagram home, which includes Instagram stories and the feed. First things first, let's address the stalker myth. – So the answer is, the people that show up on that list are not the people that stalk you the most. It's actually based on your activity and people that you're closest to. – All right, you heard that. Instagram isn't going to show you who's stalking you the most. Instead, it's the people you're interacting with. So if you go to your crush's page or even your frenemy's page all the time, it's likely they're going to show up at the top of your story viewers. – I think there are often these kind of situations where there are a lot of confounding factors. But you can kind of create a narrative around it, maybe based on what you wanna think or sort of what's interesting to you. – It's totally possible that I'm projecting a narrative onto my story viewers because I'm actually the one stalking them.
Although I have to say I don't think I'm creeping that much, so what else am I doing in the app that makes Instagram think I care about these people? – [Julian] Do you visit their profile? Do you like their feed posts? Do you comment on their feed posts? Do you view their stories? – But Julian wouldn't get specific about how certain interactions are weighted in the app. Like whether a like is less significant than a DM or a comment. Or what happens if a DM is opened but not responded to? How does that affect the algorithm? Even what you do outside the app can affect your feed. Like who you're connected to on Instagram's parent company, Facebook. Even still, I sometimes have random people in my story viewers list that I barely know. – Do you check the list multiple times? If you check the list multiple times it tries to show you a new set of people.
So it's trying to give you new information every time you check the list. – So if you're like me, and you check your story multiple times after you first post it, you're probably going to see new people at the top of your viewers because Instagram always wants you to have a new experience when you open the app. This whole strategy around showing you relevant, interesting content led the company to change its feed from chronological to algorithmic. When this happened in 2016, Instagram said people were missing 70% of posts in their feed, so it wanted to optimize the 30% they did see. Facebook's feed works the same way. The algorithm's everywhere. When that switch happened two years ago, it was super controversial, but I actually like it. The feed works as it's supposed to most of the time, my best friend's posts populate at the top of my feed, although because Instagram always wants to show me new content, it sometimes refreshes too quickly and I don't have a chance to scroll. Okay, so I'm starting to understand why I see certain people in certain places on the app, even though Julian wouldn't get super granular.
He's guarding that algorithm. Ultimately, it comes down to self-control. Everything we do on the app molds the algorithm. So maybe I shouldn't look at my random Tinder date's profile. I'd rather have my best friends at the top of my feed. Resist the boy click. If I were to guess why this myth exists, it's probably because deep down, we know that who we look at and stalk on Instagram says a lot about our priorities and interests. I don't want to admit that I look at my ex's profile, but Instagram knows all our secrets. Our interactions don't lie. I just hope the app never actually exposes my stalking habits. Hey, thanks for watching. If you haven't subscribed to The Verge yet you should do that, and then you should go check out our sister site, Eater. They publish a series called the Kitchen Gadget Test Show, which involves testing gadgets in the kitchen. What could be better?.