This afternoon I was struck by an anecdote in the eighth chapter of Frank Chimero’s breezy The Shape of Design in which he describes encountering a rendering bug in what for all intents and purposes and maybe in actuality is Instagram; the profile photos of people who had followed Chimero or “liked” his posts were shown grossly out of proportion to the design’s intent.
[…] That one simple change made me feel a part of this photography framework and the community it sustains. Seeing the faces of the ones who liked my photos made me part of a web of mutual appreciation. The people snapped back into focus as individuals.
I began to think about the screen’s original design: it had information density, but it wasn’t a suitable representation of personhood. The design was optimized for consumption of information rather than thankfulness for the interactions and relationships it depicts. Appreciation is a significant aspect of positive experiences; if the design choices have been optimized for consumption instead, it turns an opportunity for nourishing collective resonance into a gesture of empty snacking.
Indeed, as I look at my Instagram notifications tab, the framework actually smushes notifications together into groups. Instead of seeing who engaged with a post. I see the name of one person and then merely the number of additional people. Instagram believes in the thrill of quantity rather than the warmth of quality.