January 20, 2022

Bloated to death

It’s 2012. You look down from the Obama-Romney debates to scroll through your phone for a bit, tapping on the Instagram icon. You decide to post something, here are your options:

  • A square photo

It’s 2022. After getting your booster shot, you want to share the news with your followers. Instagram’s icon has changed, but you still instinctively find it with your thumb. Here’s what you can publish:

  • A square photo
  • A landscape or portrait photo
  • A video
  • A gallery of multiple photos
  • A photo story
  • A video story
  • A text story
  • A “Reel”
  • A live stream
  • An Instagram TV video
  • A message

But you’re not done yet. Is this for everybody or close friends? Do you want to add a location or tag a friend? What about hashtags? Share to other accounts on Instagram or other services? Maybe add a fundraiser?

It’s complicated, it’s a mess. More is not better. Indeed, more has made this worse. With each feature and option the process becomes more confusing and less enjoyable.

This is the most recent example of the “feature creep” phenomenon, where software tends to pick up more and more features and options as time goes on. Sometimes it’s born from chasing competitors, while other times these bloated menus are evidence of inadequate vision and leadership. Either way, it’s the fastest way that good software goes bad.

Facebook is borderline unusable. Instagram is heading that way with each passing month. Which social platform, surprisingly, hasn’t suffered from this?


There have certainly been additions and tweaks, but the Twitter experience of 2022 is remarkably similar to that of 2007 when I first made an account. Sometimes this stasis has felt like neglect — the company’s much-derided big innovation of 2015 was changing the favoriting icon from a star for a heart — but it’s ultimately served the platform well as the larger players around it have outgrown their own good.

The market demands growth, the news cycle demands change, and an office full of workers need something to do. But remember that things don’t always have to change to improve. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, said it best:

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

About the Author

Ben Guttmann ran a marketing agency for a long time, now he teaches digital marketing at Baruch College, has a book coming out this fall, and works with some cool folks on other projects in-between all of that. He writes about how we experience a world shaped by technology and humanity – and how we can build a better one.

Get my book, it's coming out this fall.

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