Instagram announced Tuesday that it would add a mute feature to its service, allowing users to ignore certain accounts without unfollowing (and potentially alienating) friends who take the same picture of their breakfast every day. (We like avocado toast too, but enough is enough!)
The platform had previously allowed users to mute stories, the photos and videos that appear at the top of their feeds and disappear within 24 hours. But before Tuesday, it was impossible to avoid the photos of frequent posters unless you stopped following their accounts.
“The new feature lets you hide posts in feed from certain accounts, without unfollowing them,” Instagram said in a statement. “With this change, you can make your feed even more personalized to what matters to you.”
The feature, familiar from platforms like Twitter, had long been requested by Instagram’s users. It will become available to users “over the coming weeks,” the statement said.
A spokeswoman for Instagram, Seine Kim, declined to provide specifics about the new feature, saying only that it was part of a larger effort to give users more control over their feeds.
“We’re always looking at ways to make the feed a better experience for people,” she said in a statement.
Some power users — including those for whom Instagram is a source of income — have complained that the platform is not responsive enough to their feedback. A sticking point for many of those users is the algorithm introduced in 2016: It scrambles the order in which posts appear in user feeds.
“Of course, we use data to inform product decisions, but we also get feedback in more low-tech ways,” Ms. Kim said. “We do some qualitative research and keep our ear on the ground for feedback from our community.”
The mute feature represents the kind of concession to that user base that the app, which is owned by Facebook, has begun to make more frequently. In March, Instagram announced that it was testing a “new posts” button that allowed users more power over when their feeds refreshed.
“I think it’s something people wanted for a very long time,” Natalie Franke, a power user with about 60,000 followers, said of the feature. “Because there are apps that allow people to see who has unfollowed them, there is this fear that by unfollowing someone you could upset them and create an uncomfortable situation, whether that is personal or professional.”
Ms. Franke, 27, runs Rising Tide, a network that helps influencers and influencers-in-the-making cultivate followings. She said that the mute feature was in line with Instagram’s stated goals in that it would incentivize higher quality posts.
“I think this puts an emphasis on creating content that truly resonates with your audience because its easier than ever for them to block you out,” she said.
Maintaining a captive audience is particularly important for users who make money from the platform. Tyler McCall, an independent consultant who advises entrepreneurs and small businesses on their Instagram strategy, said that for influencers especially, the mute feature would be “a huge deal.”
“You really don’t want people as followers who aren’t seeing and engaging with your content,” he said, explaining that even an account with a large following would not have a way to show advertisers that the content they are creating is valuable.
In response to Instagram’s announcement, Mr. McCall has told all of his clients the same thing: “The content you’re creating needs to be even more strategic now because people can literally just ignore you.”