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Instagram's big change, the Warriors' road to 73, and more in today's newsletter.
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The Ringer
In the March 30 newsletter, Molly McHugh looks at the thirstiest Instagram users, Bryan Curtis introduces a feature podcast about O.J. Simpson and the media, Jason Concepcion examines the Warriors’ final six opponents, and Allison P. Davis previews tonight’s Empire.
Instagram's changes prompt users to ask for notifications
Iglika Mateeva

Obey Your Thirst: Why Users Cannot Resist Instagram’s Big Change

By Molly McHugh

The chronological timeline is officially over. Facebook ditched it years ago, Twitter is inching away from it, and now Instagram is shedding time-ordered posts in favor of a curated feed. Soon, Instagram will order your friends’ posts based on popularity and the accounts you interact with most. This means you’re in danger of missing things — maybe your mom isn’t reeling in the likes for her photos of inspirational quote art, but hell, you still wanna see that. Only now, that’s going to be more difficult.

There is one way to make sure you won’t miss certain posts, though, and that’s by hitting the three dots in the corner of an Instagram profile, which will turn on notifications for that account. This won’t reorder your feed, but you’ll know whenever that person posts something.

Some advice: Don’t overdo this. It’s a smidgen stalkery to go down your Following list and turn on notifications for anyone you’re determinedly (but innocently!) creeping on. And all those notifications will get annoying. But if there are a few friends and family members whose ’grams you want to see, then go ahead and flip the switch.

This matters most, of course, for ~The Brands~. Insta celebrities, retailers, restaurants, TV show accounts, manufacturers, anyone who depends on Instagram for their livelihood is none too pleased about an algorithm deciding what tops users’ timelines. And for some reason, hordes of them are convinced the changes are being pushed through this week. (They aren’t.)

You might have noticed the cadre of incensed Instagram personalities and brands that have taken to the platform asking you to please, please turn on notifications. There are even templates available so they can ask for the favor in style. It’s thirsty out there.

Instagram Post 1
Instagram Post 2

They are mad, and they aren’t going to take it. Except that … they probably will. Whenever a social network releases an overhaul like this, the pushback is swift and certain. By adding a secret sauce to determine what you see, a platform is essentially making choices about what is cool or noteworthy or, in Instagram’s case, worth seeing. It’s undemocratic, and if there’s one thing we wrongly believe about the Internet en masse, it’s that it’s a democracy.

But algorithms can yield positive results. Facebook’s News Feed algorithm, for all its faults, favors user content over brands. The last big update, launched in summer 2015, gave precedence to posts from your friends. Instagram’s change is similar, and that’s scary for a brand getting thousands of likes (some from bots, no doubt) but not consistent interaction from specific users. But for you, regular Instagram user, the only difference is that things won’t be in chronological order and you’ll probably miss a post or two. But when have you not, right?

***

What’s happening isn’t as fascinating as our reaction to it. In 2014, researchers from Penn State and UC Irvine published a study of how users react to structural changes in established social media sites. They chose perhaps the most controversial of all social media updates: the Facebook Timeline.

The researchers applied coping theory to how users reacted to the launch, and found some stressed-out people — they saw the Timeline as threatening to their Facebook experience. The no. 1 reason? Loss of familiarity, followed by loss of control. Obviously. Fear of the unknown and a sense of detachment caused by uncontrollable change were unsettling. The study also looked at what methods people used to cope: Overwhelmingly, users were very It’s not us, it’s Facebook. “Based on our analysis, user adaptation strategies tended to be slightly more problem-focused (51%) than emotionally-focused (49%),” the study found. “Users focused more on trying to change the environment (64%), as opposed to trying to change themselves (36%).” (Lol.)

It’s the same conclusion we can see in Instagram’s case — we’re more than just users. “These Facebook users had a strong sense that they were the user community (not the products) of Facebook,” the study explained. “Therefore, Facebook would fail without their continued use and customer loyalty.” After the Timeline rollout, some users threatened to leave Facebook — a coping strategy that has been tried time and time again and, as of yet, has not succeeded. (It won’t work on Instagram, either.) And what’s more, researchers tried to surmise the best method for coping with Timeline — leave Facebook? Self-censor and sabotage Timeline? Nope. It was, and I’m sorry for this, “learning how to use Timeline, customizing it to meet one’s needs, using common sense, making requests for changes, and ultimately accepting Timeline.” Resistance is futile, embrace the void, accept and love a nonchronological Instagram feed.

Instagram says nothing is happening “right now,” but it will let you know when the update is coming. Which is a nice way of saying that things are definitely about to change but not without a fair and more official warning than the barrage of Instagram brand thirst. Honestly, we should all be a little less upset about the new timeline and a little more terrified of a search bar coming to Following and Followers. No good can come of that.

OJ Simpson reacts to the not guilty verdict
Getty Images

O.J. Simpson and Another Foil: The Media

By Bryan Curtis

Did you watch FX’s The People v. O.J. Simpson last night? Of course you did. Who could miss a chance to see John Travolta do an uncanny impression of Robert Shapiro’s eyebrows?

The series gave me an idea: We know O.J.’s journey through the courts. But what about his journey through the media? O.J. spent the ’90s making a run to daylight through newspapers, supermarket tabloids, and 24-hour cable news (there was a time when Larry King was cutting edge — trust me). The public hung on every one of O.J.’s utterances. There was even a crazy idea — maybe more of a wish — that he would go on TV one day and confess to everything.

I called people who covered O.J., who interviewed O.J., who were pals with O.J. We took the stories they told us and turned them into a podcast called The Media v. O.J. Simpson. It’s a little different from some of the other pods we’ve done at The Ringer. If you need a reason to listen, here’s one: Where else can you hear Jim Lampley talk about his friendship with “Juicy”? Listen now on iTunes, SoundCloud, or Stitcher.

Stephen Curry
Getty Images

Do the Warriors Have a Final Boss? 

By Jason Concepcion

The lasting image of the 2015-16 season will be Golden State stepping on 29 other teams’ necks, one after another, as the Dubs climbed the steps to the NBA Parthenon. Right now, though, the Warriors stand on the precipice of history. A lot can happen over this final stretch of the regular season: a landscape-altering injury, a cryptic social media outburst. But the only thing that really matters is getting to 73 wins.

To do that, Golden State will need to finish the season 6-2 against the T-Wolves, Jazz, Celtics, Blazers, Spurs (twice), and Grizzlies (twice).

Let's rank the Warriors’ final enemies.

Level 1, Minion: Minnesota Timberwolves (April 5)

The Goomba of the Dubs’ last stretch. The T-Wolves own a tantalizing collection of young talent, a .338 win percentage, and a seven-game losing streak to the Warriors dating back to April 2014.

Level 2, Grunt: Boston Celtics (April 1)

Brad Stevens is a master chef working without top-shelf ingredients. He’s crafted a top-four defense without a rim protector — a Quickfire Challenge wonder. But the C’s have been steadily leaking points of late. Their March defensive rating of 104.5 is five points worse than their pre-All-Star-break, “WOW LOOK AT THE CELTICS!” mark.

Level 3, Elite: Memphis Grizzlies (April 9 and 13)

Memphis’s players have missed 260 (and counting) games because of injury this season, and the team is running out four players on 10-day contracts. Yet this knockoff version of Grit and Grind might be the Grizzlies’ most impressive jujitsu yet: They are somehow sitting at fifth in the West (.554 win percentage) despite a minus-1.6 point differential.

Level 3, Mini-Boss: Portland Trail Blazers (April 3)

One of this season’s delights has been the Blazers not being trash after losing LaMarcus Aldridge, Wes Matthews, Nic Batum, and Robin Lopez. Damian Lillard and (future Most Improved Player Award winner) C.J. McCollum power a Warriors-lite offense that’s already done the improbable by laying a 32-point beatdown on Golden State in the first game back after the All-Star break. (This, combined with the Dubs’ loss to the Lakers at Staples after two days off in L.A., makes it clear that hangovers are a Warriors weakness.)

Level 4, Super-Boss: Utah Jazz (Tonight)

Utah has a sturdy top-10 defense predicated on smothering opponents’ pick-and-rolls and gumming up the transition. The Jazz are playing at the slowest, most stultifying pace in the NBA for the second year crawling. Not only do they take the air out of the ball, but Salt Lake City’s location, high in the Wasatch Mountain Range, steals their opponents’ breath like the troll in Cat’s Eye. Related: The Warriors go to Utah on the second night of a back-to-back.

Level 5, Final Boss: San Antonio Spurs (April 7 and 10)

Who else? The title favorite in any other season except this one, the Spurs may be all that stand between the Warriors and history. With playoff seedings essentially locked up, though, will Pop rest his starters and cede the home-and-home to Golden State? My gut says, Nah. He respects the game too much to let the Dubs walk to 73. If given the chance to put the brakes on a historic season, the Spurs have to take it. That's what final bosses do.

Empire on Fox
Fox

Alert: Tonight’s Empire Goes Full NPR&B

By Allison P. Davis

Any unemployed A- to B-list celebrity you can think of either has been on Empire, is asking to be on Empire, or will be on Empire. So far, in just two seasons, guests have included Courtney Love, Naomi Campbell, Rosie O’Donnell, Chris Rock, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson, Marisa Tomei, Cuba Gooding Jr., Gladys Knight, Snoop Dogg, Juicy J, and Judd Nelson. Even President Obama made a cameo. (OK, Terrence Howard just pretended to make a personal call to Obama in Season 1, but you know POTUS won’t stop bringing it up with Malia and Sasha.)

Frankly, I didn’t think it was possible to top Tomei’s turn as the “lesbian b-tch in the red suit,” but tonight’s cameo manages to outdo even that. This one might be an all-time, hall-of-fame great. It is certainly the best moment from tonight’s episode (except for that thing with the cat, but let’s talk about that tomorrow). Can you handle this? The very special, back-from-winter-hiatus guest star is … NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert, the yuppie-beloved series in which artists such as Ben Folds, Wilco, and Adele record intimate sessions right at the desk of All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen.

A character (I won’t say which one) has a very dramatic story arc (I won't say what happens) that ends with a pivotal scene in what looks like Boilen’s office. (Boilen himself does not appear in the episode. It also might not even be his actual office.) Too much has been said already, but just know that the iconic NPR tote bag figures prominently into the scene, and you may feel a sudden urge to call in and donate.

The Media v. O.J.
Bryan Curtis hosts a feature podcast examining the media element of the Trial of the Century.
Jam Session
Juliet and Amanda do their darndest to decipher Miles Teller's decision-making.
Episode 2
Geoff and House recap the WGC-Dell Match Play at Austin Country Club and look at the PGA Tour.
 
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