Warring social media platforms: the battle to be better


Jackson Spenner

Instagram, BeReal and TikTok originally attracted users because of very distinct functions. However, they have slowly grown more and more similar.

Instagram has Reels inspired by TikTok. TikTok has Nows inspired by BeReal. What’s next? Will BeReal have stories inspired by Snapchat?

Social media platforms are constantly changing to appeal to diverse audiences. Instagram and TikTok, two apps that almost all teenagers have installed on their phones, originally attracted users because of very distinct functions. However, they have slowly grown more and more similar.

For instance, Instagram debuted the Reels feature in 2020, which replicates TikTok’s short-form videos. Outside of posting pictures on Instagram, you can also take videos and compile them with background music. This is almost exactly like what you would find on TikTok.

But both sides play a part in the copying war: TikTok has pictures inspired by Instagram. While scrolling through videos, it is not uncommon to land on a montage of pictures. This feature launched recently, at the end of the summer of 2022. 

Warring Social Media Platforms Timeline by Ruby Rosenquist

While Instagram and TikTok appear to be mimicking each other, both social media platforms have been inspired by those that came before them. We shouldn’t forget that Snapchat released stories back in 2013. Instagram came out with stories in 2016 and TikTok soon followed in 2022 after realizing that this “trend” would bring in more users.    

Beyond Instagram and TikTok, different and more inclusive forms of social media are starting to dominate the field — the newest example being BeReal.

BeReal encourages users to be more authentic, eliminating heavily edited photos and asking people to present themselves candidly. But of course, Instagram and Tiktok have taken note, and introduced new features to build an inclusive community on their platforms.

In July, Instagram introduced a feature that is eerily familiar to BeReal users. Dual mode is a layout option on Instagram stories that allows users to take a photo using the front and back cameras simultaneously. However, on Dual you can swipe to add filters and stickers which encourages drawing a perfect image of yourself, something that contradicts the purpose of BeReal.  

After BeReal was released in 2020, TikTok added a new feature as well: Nows. They are the same as “BeReals” but simply have a different title. TikTok currently has a “For You” page with personalized content for users, a “Following” page to see content that people you know post and a page designated for Nows. So many options are available… all at once. 

Social media is getting extremely complicated these days. Why can’t each individual app focus on what they are best at? Well, that all comes down to the research.

The primary reason social media is so addicting is because humans crave rewards. Every like, view and share feels wonderful and reinforces our belief that these apps create pure happiness. Thus, each social media platform is merely looking for more opportunities to let their users interact and be rewarded.

In reality, the constant rhythm of checking these different platforms is stress-inducing. People claim to want to stay updated on current events, but they do this by scrolling through all of their social media feeds rather than paying attention to the world around them.

But when Instagram, Tiktok and BeReal all look identical, there is no need to have multiple platforms to stay informed. At this point, each social media platform, in their fight to be the best, is wasting our time and making our experience less worthwhile.

If Instagram and TikTok want to remain popular, they should start narrowing down their options instead of trying to check every single box. I preferred both apps in their original forms: Instagram without Reels and TikTok without Nows. That way, distinctions could be made between the two platforms.

Users have the ultimate say, and can decide which social media platforms they prefer. But to make the choice easier, apps should stop rebranding and focus on the goals that made them famous in the first place.