If you are an Instagram user, you have probably noticed the way that Instagram sorts the user stories and the viewers of your story. But how does this affect your personal life?


You have probably heard about Facebook and how it manipulated user news feeds in 2014. Facebook conducted a massive psychological experiment on 689,003 users, manipulating their news feeds to assess the effects on their emotions. How did Facebook manipulate news feeds to create induced emotions? They used an automated system that identified positive or negative words. Then, they reduced the positive content in some users news feeds, finding that when the positive content was reduced, a larger percentage of words in people’s status updates were negative and a smaller percentage were positive. When negativity was reduced, the opposite pattern occurred.

So manipulating users’ feeds is not something new, whether it’s Facebook news feeds or Instagram story or post feeds. And of course, when a company like Facebook acquires another social media such as Instagram, it would probably want to do some experiments of its own with the photo-sharing platform as well.


The Story Began With the Instagram Story

As an Iranian, Instagram is the main genuine social media that I use on a daily basis. Instagram is so much popular in Iran that TechRasa has published an infographic regarding Instagram which you can check out here: Instagram usage statistics in Iran.

The story began with the Instagram story. Before the Instagram story was introduced, there weren’t much to play with. Maybe the only feature that could affect the users was the discovery or the search section which the company could do some experiment with, but that’s not our story today.

The Instagram story has two unique features:

  • The unique way that stories are being sorted for you. I call this “story sorting” for the sake of convenience from now on.
  • The unique way that your story viewers are being sorted for you. I call this one “viewer sorting”.

You don’t need to be a geek to start to see some patterns in story sorting and viewer sorting after a while. In my experience, the sorting wasn’t implemented from the beginning. But after a while, I started noticing some changes in the way that Instagram sorts my feed.


Story Sorting: The Ones That You Pay More Attention to Come First

Chronological order is the most common way that we might think our feed is being sorted. That’s true for story sorting to some extent. You might ask how? There are two perspectives to this. It actually depends on how you want to assess the sorting process. If you are assessing the sorting process for a single user, yes it sorts the stories of that user in a chronological order, meaning the oldest story of that user comes first and latest one comes last. But if you look at all the stories of the people that you follow, the sorting is not in a chronological order.

If you look at your story feed and check the time of users’ latest story, you realize that the pattern is different. The most fundamental factor that I have found for this kind of sorting is basically the amount time that you spend on a person’s page which you follow. And it mostly depends on your actions:

  • The amount of time that you spend on a person’s profile and stories
  • The number of messages that you exchange with that person
  • The number of likes and comments that you give to that person

Based on these metrics, Instagram sorts the stories of the people that you follow. Which could translate to “the people who you want to be more in touch with”.. Whether it’s a really cool friend or most probably a crush that you have been stalking recently. So this way, Instagram is actually making you more engaged on its platform. Imagine if the story sorting was in a chronological order, most of you would have lost interest in checking the stories because it would have taken so much time to find the stories that you are interested in.


Viewer Sorting: The Ones That Pay More Attention to You Come First

Viewers sorting is something that you might get annoyed by, simply because it might affect your privacy. How does it affect your privacy? Imagine that you are checking someone’s stories and it even doesn’t matter if you follow that person or not. It obvious that person could see you checking his/her stories by checking the viewers. But it gets complicated when the viewer sorting takes place. If the sorting was in a chronological order, you are only one of the people that checks that person’s story. But when the sorting happens based on your actions toward that person, it shows that how much you are into that person. 

In my research, if you are active enough on the Instagram story, meaning that you are posting stories on regular basis, it would give enough data to Instagram to find a pattern on viewers of your story. After a while with regular use, if you check your story viewers you would find that Instagram sorts the viewers in a certain way. How is it being sorted? Well, it mostly depends on that person’s actions:

  • The amount of time that person spends on your stories
  • The number of messages that person sends to you
  • The number of likes and comments that person gives to you

Basically, if your viewer sorting has a pattern, the people on the top of your list kind of like you. Even in some cases, you might find who has a crush on you. And this part is the one that might affect your privacy. Since Instagram has given no explanation on viewer sorting and no body seems to know how they are being sorted, you can track the people who might have some affection for you or the people who might simply like your stories. 


Drop us a comment and let us know about your take on Instagram viewer sorting and story sorting.


We Thank Adro our sponsor for this article

Adro AdExchange

Adro is Iran’s first Ad exchange for programmatic ad space buying with more than 9 billion ad requests per month. Their Real-Time Bidding (RTB) platform has increasingly benefited the advertising industry by auctions that enable ad networks to sell their banner inventory in Iran’s desktop and mobile applications.

Read Iran’s first AdTech overview report from this link.

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