Unlike its name, Instagram’s new feature fails to ‘Reel’ in many users

An+artist%E2%80%99s+rendering+of+Instagram%E2%80%99s+new+feature+%E2%80%9CReels%E2%80%9D+shows+a+user+expressing+her+creativity+through+a+makeup+video+using+its+features+like+audio%2C+speed%2C+filters+and+more.

Erin Lee

An artist’s rendering of Instagram’s new feature “Reels” shows a user expressing her creativity through a makeup video using its features like audio, speed, filters and more.

By Dominique Chang, Sunny Hills High School

After several accounts of TikTok’s possible shutdown in the summer, avid users like sophomore Jamie Choi deleted the app in August before the new school year began. Because she spent at least two hours a day on this social media platform, the sudden change affected her daily routine. 

“It was a little hard because TikTok was something I’d watch or look forward to watching everyday,” said Choi. “But when it got taken out of my routine so suddenly, I felt ‘empty’ in a sense.”

The first few days after Choi decided to delete this app, she was tempted various times to redownload the trend-setting platform. However, Instagram’s new “Reels” feature — released Aug. 5 — became the perfect replacement for TikTok. Although Choi found herself spending less time on Reels than TikTok, it successfully kept her from redownloading the original addictive app. 

“Reels has made me feel like there are still fun and entertaining videos that I could be engaged in,” Choi said.  

Instagram’s new release received multimedia attention for the past couple of months as shown through various outlets such as the New York Times and Business Insider. Although TikTok originally branded the idea of creating short, entertaining videos anywhere from 15 seconds to a minute to post onto a social media platform, it was only a matter of time until Instagram copied yet another app’s features — similar to the now iconic “Instagram Stories” from Snapchat.

Reels allows users to post 15-second videos of essentially anything — from dances to lip syncs and comedy skits — while offering filters, music and different utilities to edit the short clips. 

“Featured reels are a selection of public reels chosen by Instagram to help you discover original content we hope will entertain and inspire you,” wrote an Aug. 5 post on Instagram’s home page. “Reels gives people new ways to express themselves, discover more of what they love on Instagram, and help anyone with the ambition of becoming a creator take center stage.”

So could Instagram’s latest offering become the next social media sensation?

Perhaps not yet as many of the Reels videos are reposts from TikTok, which could hamper Instagram’s aim to attract more Reels users. 

However, Choi is a fan of Reels as she often finds herself watching videos on her explore page. 

“Usually on my explore page, I find mostly just comedic videos or pretty much anything that might relate to what I watch and listen to on different apps like Netflix,” she said.

Choi finds it amusing to watch clips of shows she watches in her free time, like Grey’s Anatomy, on this new feature.

“Since Reels is on the same platform [as Instagram], I don’t have to switch back and forth,” she said. “It’s very convenient for everything to be on one app like this.”

Although it offers an opportunity to expand a user’s audience across two platforms, Instagram’s decision to incorporate short videos into their app raises discussion as many see it as a TikTok “ripoff.” 

“I think TikTok is better because it has a wider variation of audios and effects,” active TikTok and Reels user junior Alyzah Alvarez said. “But Reels still functions pretty similar to TikTok and adds more content for people to look at on Instagram.” 

Although Alvarez continues to post more original content and stays more active on TikTok instead of Reels, she still posts the same content — mostly makeup looks — on both social media apps to reach a wider audience. Other than the benefit of her videos reaching more people, no other advantage exists in posting content on Reels.

“I don’t like the idea of Instagram adding Reels because it is too similar to TikTok,” she said. “When I look at the Reels section on the explore page, they’re usually reposts of TikToks, so I tend to watch videos on TikTok instead.” 

Students also noticed that although TikTok users repost their content on Reels, they do not upload the original content they post on Reels over to TikTok, making TikTok more original and trend-based. 

“I feel like Instagram Reels is kind of unnecessary and unoriginal since it’s so similar to Tiktok,” said senior Vivian Tran, a TikTok user with 20.5 thousand followers. “Instagram already has so many [utilities] such as stories and Instagram TV, so I feel like Reels is a bit excessive.”

Tran does not post on Instagram Reels but actively uses Instagram’s other feature “Instagram TV,” which allows users to post longer videos up to 15 minutes; as of Oct. 13, Tran had 3,223 followers.

In addition, TikTok allows for users’ creative expression for up to a minute while Reels stops the video at 15 seconds; inconveniences such as these make users like Tran prefer TikTok over Reels.

As someone who does not use the TikTok app or the Reels feature, junior Dane Soaper does not seem to be surprised that Instagram copied  yet again another app.

“This isn’t the first time Instagram has tried to replicate another app’s features within its own for profit,” Soaper said. “Remember when stories were just on Snapchat?”

However, since Soaper avoids TikTok because he thinks it will be too time consuming, he prefers the Reels feature as he is only an active user of Instagram. 

“Yeah I do happen to like Instagram Reels better because it’s more convenient,” Soaper said. “However, Reels is just like TikTok, but tacked onto what Instagram already has.” 

This story was originally published on The Accolade on October 13, 2020.