Last week, Instagram added a new photo album feature that allows you to put up to 10 photos or videos in a single post.
Albums could have turned out badly. Major changes in popular social networks almost never go smoothly, and this one seemed poised to create a firestorm. “Instagram Just Announced Its Biggest & Most Controversial Update Yet,” Refinery29 blared. “Instagram just ruined Instagram,” cried Mashable.
But here’s the thing: The update is actually good (and the first new feature in a while that isn’t blatantly ripping off Snapchat). It’s useful for storytelling and photo series. You could even go as far as to call it… cute.
But while the feature itself is not bad, people are using it to do bad things. Specifically, clog your feed and take up your time.
Instagram is popular because it’s easy; easy to understand, and easy to see what your ex who finally unblocked you was up to 53 weeks ago. Although Twitter has its charms, it can occasionally be overwhelming, and is obviously a text-focused experience. Facebook is for clicking “attending” on events one does not actually attend and for deleting people one does not actually know on their birthdays. Snapchat is for DJ Khaled and that guy who caught a rabbit.
Instagram, however, is a site based on the pure pleasure of aesthetics, personal vanity, the fun of scrolling, and not much more. It’s a safe space for those of us who would rather not think too much; for those of us who enjoy a quiet, endless scroll of well-lit selfies, photos of food we can’t afford, and of course all of our “friends” who are “models.” But the new album update is turning the app into work.
This is an example of the damage that can be done with slideshows as Cosmo asks you to “hold your ovaries” while looking at these “total smokeshows.”
“Hold your ovaries” while looking at these “total smokeshows.”
Based on my extensive research as an Insta thot, the appropriate maximum time to spend on a photo is two seconds. You look, maybe read, and move on. But with the addition of albums, you have to look a little longer — and the ability to add multiple videos prolongs the scrolling experience even more. Allowing users to add up to 10 photos is frankly unnecessary. Specifically, it is five too many.
Since it's unlikely that any higher ups at IG’s HQ will read this article and heed my advice on how not to annoy its audience, here are some best practices for Instagram albums.
Here’s the deal:
The first rule is that Instagram albums should be used for vacations, tutorials, i.e. cooking or doing makeup, or some kind of celebration — but only if it will make your followers feel like they’re missing out on something. Otherwise, what’s the point?
More importantly, if you must post an album, it should be no less than three photos or videos and no more than five. Why? I’ll tell you. Two photos is useless. Two photos is hardly a reason to utilize my swiping ability. Two photos says, I clearly couldn’t decide between these and I'm hoping nobody notices. We noticed.
The appropriate maximum time to spend on a photo is two seconds.
Three is solid: It’s a beginning, a middle, and an end. Four and five are reasonable numbers because those amounts let you mix it up and have a little fun! Tell us a story, go ahead, but don’t get too deep. Five stories = 10 seconds. Similar to Snapchat, that is the max amount of time that should be allotted for an Instagram photo album.
Six is selfish. No one wants to pay attention for that long. As my father always says, there is a time and a place. 2017 is not the time. Your Instagram feed is not the place.
Posting more than six photos in one sitting is just plainly not respecting your followers’ time. Do not be that person. Do not steal 14 to 20 seconds out of our day. What makes your seven photos more important than the ones below it?
If you’re thinking, but wait! I NEED to do six or more. Well then, my advice is just to add it to your story. You get just as much attention there and no one has to look at it for longer than a day.
For videos, the more individual clips you have, the shorter each should be. Try to keep your content to Snapchat terms — use no more than 10 seconds per clip, but ideally five or less. If you post an all-video Instagram album, you’d want it to reach no more than 25 seconds. Also, consider whether this is really one that must be retained for posterity forever, or something you could share in your story.
There is room for Instagram to improve the new album feature. I would love to see who swiped on my albums — just as you can see who viewed a story — for example. But capping the photos at five would be a strong start.