Millennial silence isn’t golden, it’s deadly

This is a response to Karissa Bell‘s Mashable article, published June 3:

Yet another tech writer calling out the Millennial generation on being whiny and entitled. Although this sort of vitriol is generally amusing, this particular article shows a deeply flawed understanding of the digital native culture and the connection between a service like Instagram and its user base. Worse yet, the author is painfully blind to the inevitable evolution of the use of social media for years to come.

The author believes that the social media outrage in response to Instagram’s recent feed changes was “short-sighted, entitled and, well, millennial” and claims “Instagram owes you nothing”.

“It’s time to stop freaking out about your Instagram feed”. Your piece still desperately begs the question — why should the millennials stop “freaking out”?

Yes, we might learn to accept the changes eventually (as was the case with Facebook’s news feed and multiple other iterations of the panic-inducing changes to Facebook that have happily carried the platform to be “for old people”).

So, why should we not “lose it”? According to research by PEW, “59% of users are on the platform daily, including 35% who visit several times a day”. Using Nir Eyal’s Hooked terminology, to those users who made Instagram a part of their daily routine, the app relieves a pronounced itch. The user’s drastic response is a result of a deep connection with the app, a connection which has been carefully cultivated by Instagram and the very reason the company is so successful. Why shouldn’t they have to deal with the negative response which stems from the same relationship. It’s the same as expecting to enjoy support from loved ones without dealing with their anger when you hurt them.

You mentioned innovation — yes, companies must make changes to stay relevant and improve their products or services, but it is user feedback that guides them. Would it be better if users switched to another service with no explanation? Social media outrage is a tool that not only indicates which features are implemented poorly and fail to satisfy user needs, but also measures the level of engagement and loyalty of the audience. Simply put, feedback on this scale is every product manager’s dream.

Regarding the freaking out aspect and “tone of voice” — An article published in Journal of Communications studied the level of incivility in newspaper website comments. The study shows “incivility is a common feature of public discussions” and that it “was not limited to just a few individuals but rather was widely distributed across many different commentators”. That’s just the way online commentary works.

Finally, to answer the quoted tweet by Kate Arnell (@Kate_Arnell) — we don’t just quit the app, we go somewhere else and it’s Instagram that will miss out.