Instagram Trend Emphasizes Authenticity
For many years, senior Christie Legate’s social media routine was the same: dress up, hang out with multiple friends, always check the lighting and positioning, edit to perfection, then seal the deal with a cute and relatable caption. That is, until things changed last year.
“It was just stressing me out how much I cared about my looks, likes and follows,” Legate said. “The only way I could break that down was to not care. It started off by posting a selfie, and after that, the pressure was lifted.”
Legate said she found herself isolated in her own company during the stay-at-home order after the initial spread of the pandemic, and she indulged in diversifying her fashion sense and internet presence. Now, she has become comfortable with herself enough to post “casually” on Instagram.
The trend to #makeInstagramcasualagain unofficially started to gain traction during the social isolation that followed the spread of the pandemic, where people were forced to get creative with their social media presence, Legate said.
Instagram has about 1 billion active users, all of which observe the consistent software updates, according to Statista. One of the recent updates that confused users like Legate, was in July of 2020 where the “Activity” tab was moved to the top corner instead of the bottom toolbar, and was replaced with a “Shop” tab. There, users can discover products from featured brands and creators.
It was then that Legate and her friends observed the app becoming commercialized.
“My friends and I were in the car one day and we were talking about how we wished Instagram was casual again, and I was like ‘why don’t we [just post]?’” Legate said. “So, I went and selected the first photo I could find and posted it.”
The initial post received immediate feedback. Legate said she saw a drop in followers and likes, but her close friends continued to interact with her.
“This was my most authentic side, so I didn’t really care for who didn’t like that,” Legate said. “After I started posting casually, I didn’t care what attention it was getting because it was fun for me. That’s all that really mattered.”
When she was younger, Legate said she observed her older sister Katie, now 25, being active on social media, but also focusing on creating memories without the pressures of manufacturing a smile.
Katie has been a YouTuber for about 11 years and posts lifestyle, makeup and fashion-related vlogs, which have garnered her upward of 100 thousand subscribers. Because of Katie’s online presence, Christie grew up in an environment where social media was used as both expression and a career.
“I saw that my sister and her friends didn’t care about likes and follows,” Christie said. “They captured the moment and didn’t try so hard, and I wish we were like that.”
Juliet MacMurray, senior, sees the positives in the #makeInstagramcasualagain movement, but she sees it from the perspective of someone who likes to post formally on Instagram.
In her elementary years, MacMurray made videos on Musical.ly and Video Star, and she loved to edit those clips. Then in middle school, the avid editor discovered VSCO, the photo-editing and sharing platform, and LightRoom, which allowed her to develop her interests in photo editing.
She developed her passions for editing and filtration to the point that she started to create presets, or custom filters, her sophomore year and sold them on Etsy because many of her friends asked her to edit their photos.
“A lot of my friends send me photos to edit at the exact same time, and I actually don’t get annoyed,” MacMurray said. “I love editing photos. It makes me so happy.”
MacMurray said she uses editing and filters as a form of creativity and self expression, and she finds joy in it. At the same time, she disapproves of using Photoshop and FaceTune to heavily change one’s look, as she said the individual doesn’t look the same anymore.
MacMurray said the trend to #makeInstagramcasualagain is beneficial for people to increase their confidence in their everyday appearance and disvalue the importance of putting on a show, even though that has its fun for MacMurray.
She hasn’t participated in the trend as of yet, and she attributes that to working on her confidence and gathering the nerve to post a selfie someday. She awaits the time she goes to college, where she said her confidence may increase along with a new environment.
Joshua Hyde, sociology teacher, understands both Christie’s desire to break down societal barriers and MacMurray’s desire to use the barriers as self expression. From a sociological viewpoint, Hyde said it all comes down to socialization agents.
A socialization agent is one that influences a group of people to act in a group, Hyde said, and one such agent is social media and celebrities and influencers on it. If a famous person exhibits a behavior, others are inspired to emulate it. Hyde said in that same regard, trends are popularized because people want to be one with the crowd.
“Technology is an extension of what has already been [a socialization agent]”, Hyde said. “With social media, you can reach more people in a shorter time, and get instant gratification.”
Hyde said, for now, society doesn’t know the significance of the #makeInstagramcasualagain movement because it hasn’t been around long enough to see an effective change. That contradicts both Christie and MacMurray’s belief that the movement will lead to more body acceptance online.
“We will just have to see how long individuals stick with it,” Hyde said.
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