How I got attached to TikTok Copycat, Instagram Reels

  • I deliberately avoided TikTok to avoid its addicting algorithm.
  • But Instagram copied the popular video sharing app in August 2020, sucking me in instead.
  • My obsession with Reels proves that social media giant copying TikTok worked: I’m spending more time on the app.

I avoided downloading TikTok because I didn’t want another social media app on my phone that I know I would get addicted to.

I already distractedly spend hours browsing Instagram for content to cleanse the palate, and lately I’ve specifically gotten into the habit of scrolling through the Explore tab of the app, where videos appear in an elongated rectangle, a bit like on TikTok.

Without realizing it, an hour had passed as I scrolled through the suggested videos that Instagram’s algorithm had spat at me. And now there is an entire button dedicated only to the reels at the bottom of the screen.

But my obsession with Reels proves that TikTok’s copier – rolled out in August 2020 – made me as addicted to it as I would have been if I had actually downloaded TikTok.

And the result? I spent more time on the app, on average an hour a day according to Instagram.

Instagram is full of TikTok videos

The problem with Instagram Reels is that a lot of the videos posted appear to be from TikTok, as the TikTok logo is visible there.

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TikTok has become fertile ground for a new generation of content creators and a new brand of digital culture. Its algorithm is notoriously addictive, quickly learning what type of content users are most likely to engage with.

Instagram took note and responded with a similar feature, allowing users to post short videos to the platform.

But my time spent (or wasted?) Watching Reels left me in awe of one thing: How many of these videos are from TikTok and just posted on Instagram? And since I don’t have TikTok (and I’m adamant about keeping it out of my phone), I’m not sure what trends are specific to it.

Take the reels I’ve seen with users lip-syncing with someone saying “no one will know” while doing something they were trying to hide. As Know Your Meme explains, this is a TikTok trend with an audio clip from the “Bad Girls Club” TV show.

I know for a fact that one of these videos, which went viral and was reported by multiple outlets, was from TikTok. It was about a traveler who had stuffed a backpack under her sweatshirt, making her look pregnant, to avoid paying carry-on baggage fees.

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While so much content is overflowing with TikTok, Instagram is benefiting somewhat from the videos created on – and for – its competitor.

As with many forms of technology, I am in conflict

The reels I watch bring me joy and make me laugh every time. I send at least five a day to my sister.

There’s an Australian influencer who parodies the early 2000s “H20” show about a group of friends who turn into mermaids when they come in contact with water.

There are videos of cats falling from furniture to a poorly played flute interpretation of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”.

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There are videos that poke fun at how millennial parents would get angry when you turned on the lights while driving in the backseat of a car at night.

Like most things related to the internet and social media companies, my feelings are twofold: I’m worried about app addiction, but I’m also attached to technology that can give me a break after a long working day.

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