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Some Gen Zers would rather take a chance on a new app than use 'embarrassing' Instagram if TikTok gets banned

Lindsay Dodgson   

Some Gen Zers would rather take a chance on a new app than use 'embarrassing' Instagram if TikTok gets banned
  • A potential TikTok ban in the US has creators worried about where they'll upload their content.
  • Instagram is not necessarily an alternative, with some thinking it's "embarrassing."

As a potential US TikTok ban looms, Gen Zers are contemplating what app might take its place.

There are a few contenders in the mix, but it seems for many young people, Instagram isn't among them.

Josie, a Gen Z content creator, said in a recent TikTok that she might be able to handle a ban if posting on Instagram wasn't such a "humiliation ritual."

"The TikTok ban bill was just passed in the House, which is a bummer," she said. But the idea of posting her TikTok content to Instagram Reels in front of everyone she knew in high school wasn't appealing.

"I don't know about that. I'm sorry," she said. "I don't know if I have the gumption to really do that. That's a big ask."

A potential TikTok ban looms

The US Senate passed a bill on Tuesday that could see TikTok removed from app stores. President Joe Biden signed it into law on Wednesday, giving ByteDance nine months to sell its US TikTok assets or face a nationwide ban.

Creators are very unhappy, considering a potential ban hypocritical and an infringement on their freedom of speech.

While the most obvious solution would be for them to start posting their content on Instagram Reels — Instagram's short-form video platform — that's not what will happen, several Zoomers told Business Insider.

Many said they will likely continue to use Instagram for Stories and direct messages, but that it would not replace TikTok when it comes to uploading content and scrolling.

It is hard to make sweeping statements about any generation, especially one that spans the ages of 12 to 27, but a mass exodus of the ones who use TikTok to Meta's photo app is unlikely, they said.

They'd rather take their chances on something new like Clapper or put their energy into YouTube shorts, they said.

"We'd probably splinter off into a million different places, bombarding our friends and followers with 'come follow me here' messages across every social media platform imaginable," Gabrielle Yap, a Gen Z writer, told BI.

"We'd be like digital refugees, lost and a little scared, but you bet we'd rebuild our online communities somewhere, somehow."

Instagram has too many personal ties

Josie doesn't share her full name on TikTok, and she said she has everyone in real life blocked on there, including her friends and her boyfriend.

"So I actually have this nice, cozy little open public diary, and I never really feel like I need to be confronted about it in person," she said.


Anyways follow me on instagram i reckon

♬ original sound - josiejosiejosiejosi

Young people still use Instagram. It was declared "over" in 2022 but has made something of a comeback. More people downloaded Instagram than TikTok in 2023, and Threads has been an unexpected success. Gen Z and millennials are also both still active on there.

But Gen Zers who spoke with BI said social media platforms all have different purposes, and they doubt Instagram can capture the magic of scrolling on TikTok.

A Pew Research Center survey found YouTube is the biggest social media platform among US teens, with 93% of respondents aged 13-17 saying they used it. TikTok is in second place at 63%, followed by Snapchat with 60%.

Instagram is close behind, with 59% of respondents saying they used it, though over twice as many (17%) said they used TikTok "almost constantly" compared to Instagram (8%).

Generations also use Instagram slightly differently. Filters and Reels remain more popular with millennials than Gen Z, while Zoomers favor stories and DMs, according to a YPulse survey last year.

Instagram posting is 'cringe'

While they may have an account to document their social lives, like millennials have a Facebook page that's gathering dust, Zoomers have found Instagram pretty cringe for a while now.

In 2022, Gen Z writer Hibaq Farah explained in a blog on Nylon why the app gave her generation "the ick."

Instagram is "boring, exhausting, and generally not fun" compared with TikTok, Farah said, which boomed during the pandemic and quickly became her most-used social media platform.

The sentiment is growing. Multiple TikTokers have expressed finding Instagram "embarrassing."

"I hate posting on Instagram now," said Tabitha Mae, a creator who posts storytime videos. In a recent TikTok, she said there had been a "shift" over the past few years where posting on Instagram became "an insanely stressful, nerve-racking process."

"Posting feels icky," she said. "It honestly feels like every time I post, I'm just being judged by everyone I've ever met."


posting on instagram = public humiliation #instagram #anxiety #igisdead #instagramisdying #postingoninstagram #embarrassing #relatable #foryou #fyp #viral

♬ original sound - Tabitha

Commenters echoed Mae's thoughts, with some saying they thought Instagram was too "filtered" and that they had deleted the app and felt all the better for it.

Yap told BI she loves "a good curated feed and aesthetic story," but Instagram can feel a little too "polished."

"Like everyone's trying to project this perfect life," she said. "On TikTok, it's all about being raw, funny, and real."

Kat, who was born in 1998 and works in social media, told BI she doesn't think it's likely young people will flood to Instagram.

She said her own feed is "out of whack and not enjoyable anymore."

Getting more people on the app

Instagram's parent company, Meta, this week it would increase spending to turn itself into "the leading AI company in the world," sending its shares down more than 12% in pre-market trading on Thursday.

It's already starting to do this with the upcoming rollout of its Meta AI chatbot on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp.

It's unclear if such AI tools would convince Gen Z to scroll on Instagram and use it more often. However, Sophie Lund-Yates, from Hargreaves Lansdown, told the BBC that Meta's "substantial investment" in AI has helped it get people to spend time on its platforms.

Where else is there?

Snapchat is also "kinda dead," Kat said, and its curated content feed "is a clickbait hellhole."

"My unpopular opinion is that YouTube Shorts has the next best algorithm to TikTok," she added. "I think if TikTok was banned I would go there. Obviously, it wouldn't be as good."

Jaxson Whittle, an older Gen Z, told BI he holds a different opinion.

"If TikTok is banned, I think I might use it as a reason to get off social media completely," he said, apart from X which he needs to use for work.

However, he said many of his friends are happy to move to Instagram since they are already active users. They use Reels so they don't feel left out of TikTok trends, he said.

"I feel like Instagram is pushing Reels so hard that it's pretty easy to click on something and fall into the infinite scroll," he added.

As for Clapper, the TikTok dupe that was set up as a platform for Gen X and millennials, some younger creators are all for it.

TikToker Cassandra Marie, for example, called Clapper the "new TikTok" and praised the app's growth potential, as well as the nostalgic feel of being like TikTok in its early days.


Replying to @tatlondono have you heard of Clapper? #clapper #clapperapp #tiktokban #tiktoktips #tiktoktricksandtips #tiktokadvic

♬ original sound - Cassandra Marie ☀️

A handful of creators have been sharing their Clapper handles, hoping to replicate their followings there if TikTok shuts down.

But the reviews have been mixed, with some saying the video quality is bad and the follower growth rate was inconsistent.

Kat is also unconvinced. She said it reminded her of the early days of TikTok circa 2018 "when it was cringe."

"But instead of it being cringe teens and cosplayers, it's giving an older and conservative crowd," she said. "No hate to them, but I don't think it's the move for Gen Z at the moment."

Yap said she's heard whispers of people moving to Discord and Twitch, but these platforms don't have short-form video people can endlessly scroll like TikTok does.

The thought of a TikTok ban is scary, she said, but Gen Zers are "adaptable" and "creative" and will find a way to keep sharing their voices whatever happens.

"The internet is vast, and wherever we land, you better believe it'll be filled with memes, Gen Z humor, and enough sarcasm to fuel the whole nation," she said.

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