In my sadder moments during the Groundhog Day that has been lockdown in New York, I find that I have scrolled through my Instagram feed so much that a message pops up telling me I’m all caught up on new posts from friends, brands, and publications.
A new feature rolling out on the app today does not promise relief from the pit of sadness that is excessive doomscrolling. Instead, it ensures I will never run out of content.
The feature, called Suggested Posts in Feed, will do just what the name suggests—show recommended posts that users might like in their feed. Once a user has scrolled through to the end of their feed, they will be able to see older posts or posts that Instagram thinks they might like. The aim, according to Instagram’s director of product Robby Stein, is to bring more content that users might like to their feeds without requiring them to do any work, such as manually looking up related accounts to the ones they already follow.
“Before, users used to have to find new content by searching for accounts or posts. We want to bring the best of Instagram to their feed and show them content they will love but might not find otherwise,” says Stein, who says his own suggested posts are all interior-designed themed.
Recent Instagram innovations have borrowed heavily from features on other apps: Many have called Stories a clear response to a popular Snapchat feature, while the more recent Reels seems to be cribbed from TikTok. This suggested post feature seems inspired by the latter as well, which has an algorithmic discovery feed that helps users find new content effortlessly. However, Stein says Instagram’s feature has been in development for a couple of years.
The new feature comes at a moment when Instagram is making a play for TikTok users amid a potential ban in the U.S. by President Trump. In India, where the app has already been banned, Instagram’s owner, Facebook, has already rolled out a short-form video feature to its primary app.
Stein says that the recommendations will differ from content served up in the Instagram app’s explore tab. “Suggested posts will show content directly related to people you follow and what you have on your feed. The discover tab will help you branch out a little more and show content that we think you might like but is a little less closely related to what you’re following.”
It’s hard to see how this feature is not another play to feed Instagram addiction: Once you scroll to the end of your feed, a message pops up asking if you are interested in seeing more content that might appeal to you from accounts you don’t follow— you can choose to view older posts, or continue scrolling to see Instagram’s suggestions.
“One of our key principles is to make sure people are in control of the experience. It comes after a message saying ‘you’re all caught up,’ [so that] people can take a beat before continuing scrolling,” Stein says.
Like the main feed, the recommended posts will be interspersed with ads, and shoppable links will be available in some posts. Like everything on Instagram, nudging users to spend more time on the app so Instagram can serve them more ads is at least part of the endgame. Now that the infinite scroll is actually infinite, it will never end—and neither will the ads.
A previous version of the article misstated the way suggested content loads in the feed.