First Click: I miss Instagram's photo map

October 18th, 2016

I updated my Instagram app on iOS a couple of weeks ago. I can’t remember why I did it, but I really wish I hadn’t.

When I reopened the app, I realized that my photo map had disappeared. The feature used to be located just above my stream of photos, and I loved it. It mapped out every shot I had ever posted to the app, scattering them across a map that I could zoom in on down to the street level. For four years, it acted as a sort of visual diary of my life. Now, it’s gone.

If you never looked at the photo map, it seems like you’re in the majority. Instagram said the feature was "not widely used" when explaining the decision to gradually phase it out last month, and I can kind of understand why. If you post photos regularly, and often from the same city, your map probably wouldn’t be visually interesting or valuable. There may have been privacy concerns, as well; until recently, you could view other users’ photo maps, which is a bit creepy.

But for me, the photo map was a big part of why I posted to Instagram at all. If I was traveling for work or fun, I’d find any excuse to snap an image just so I could add a new country or city. Whenever I was bored, I would zoom in on Paris, where I live, and relive parties or walks from years ago. It sometimes acted as a mile-marker for my life, as well. I still remember the moment, shortly after I moved in 2012, when my map’s center of gravity shifted from California to Europe.

All isn’t completely lost. Apple’s iOS 10 has a similar map view for all of my photos, which I suppose serves as a more meticulous record of my life. But posting to Instagram is a far more deliberate action — one that, in my case, was usually predicated on memorable trips or important moments that I wanted to share. Location tags still show up on individual Instagram posts, so that data is clearly being stored somewhere. I just wish I could see it again.

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