If you have an Instagram, I’d bet that you have faced yourself with the question, should my Instagram have a theme? Or if you haven’t asked yourself that, I’ll assume you’ve encountered a large handful of Instagram’s with an “Instagram aesthetic.” Aesthetic is defined as “Concerned with beauty” however when it comes to Instagram aesthetics the phrase obsessed with beauty is more deserving. In her article “The Joy of Instagram”, author Megan Garber argues that capturing experiences does not detract from them but rather amplifies the enjoyment. However what’s the point of capturing a photo of the moment if we are going to alter it to correspond with our Instagram feed? Instagram aesthetics are achieved through staged candids, excessive filters and an alarming amount of time invested into editing the perfect photo.
The harmonized and color coordinated photos seemingly allude a sense of order, falsely representing our chaotic lives. Societies obsession with Instagram aesthetics is contributing to superficial tendencies, creating an unrealistic strive for perfection that has a deliberate and lasting effect on individuals mental health. As I scroll through my Instagram feed I’m bombarded by photos of skinny girls on vacation, couples kissing and avocado toast, all captured in perfect light and enhanced with various editing apps. These posts are artificial and curated but depict a genuinely contended life. Users are so obsessed with portraying themselves flawlessly that they resort to photo editing their face and body. According to new research bybeautyheaven.com.au”57 per cent of women admitted to altering their own images for social media.” (Noble) Further to this almost two-thirds of women surveyed force friends to show them photos for approval before they’re posted online, and 60 per cent untag themselves from images they aren’t happy with. (Noble) Conveying a message that Instagram users post photos seeking approval from society rather than viewing Instagram as a platform for self expression. On top of editing bodies, filters are applied to photos to make the photo look more aesthetically pleasing than it originally was. In fact “filtered photos are 21% more likely to be viewed and 45% more likely to be commented on by other Instagram users” (Bakhshi) There are even Instagram aesthetic apps that will filter and enhance your photos for you to create an appealingly coordinated Instagram profile.
Apps such as “Plann,” “Preview,” “Unum” and “Plainly” will curate the perfect Instagram feed, if you haven’t quite perfected Instagram editing. Yet with millions of users all using the same app you create an unoriginal aesthetic; not truly representing yourself but rather societies perception of beauty. To understand the true affect of photo editing, I posted a photo on Instagram of just the original picture, no photo editing at all. I normally use the app vsco to brighten, clarify and saturate my photos to make them more lively and visually pleasing. The photo is of me at the beach with friends and is representative of an authentically joyous captured moment. However the unfiltered low quality photo wasn’t a hit to my Instagram followers as it received significantly less likes and comments compared to all my other posts. I was left with the conclusion that ironically there’s an inverse relationship between high quality photos and high quality moments, our Instagram’s are beautifully staged curated depictions of our lives. Life isn’t all trips to Hawaii and selfies at golden hour. With the rise of Instagram Aesthetics correspondingly came the creation of the “Finsta”. “Finsta” stands for fake Instagram and is a platform for people to post the relevant things consuming there lives to a smaller and more intimate audience. It’s utilized by Instagram users who would like to share a more honest version of themselves but feel uncomfortable sharing on their real Instagram because it conflicts with the constructed perfect persona they have achieved through their Instagram.
To the generation raised with social media and smart phones Instagram has developed into somewhat of a personal resume, users fear self expression and consequently subject themselves to conformity. To many a Finsta is necessary because the infatuation with aesthetics and approval has forged Instagram profiles to be deceit and misleading of individuals true identity. However I’m not saying that users don’t like real Instagram. In fact “data from the United States shows thatabout 76%of this age group use it regularly.” (Orlando) But many users feel an overwhelming sense of pressure and Insecurity because of the app. Essena O’Neill, an Australian teenager with more than half a million followers onInstagram, made headlines after announcing that she was quitting the platform because it is “contrived perfection made to get attention”. (Gajanan) This perpetual sense of Insecurity can have severe ramifications on individuals mental health. Serious mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, FOMO (fear of missing out), and eating disorders are associated with Instagram use. In fact According to a 2017report by the Royal Society for Public Health(RSPH) in the UK, Instagram was ranked the worst app for young people’s mental health. (Macmillan)
As a young women who frequently uses Instagram I am constantly feeling as if my body isn’t good enough or fits societies perception of beautiful because of Instagram. I regularly feel anxious and unconfident because of the unrealistic expectations Instagram has produced. The utilization and application of photo editing ones body is promoting an unattainable and impractical standard of beauty. The inevitable insecurity that comes with being a young girl is overwhelming to begin with, but coping and comparing ones self to edited unrealistic images is toxic. The popularity of Instagram aesthetics has cultivated a culture in which users portray a near perfect life. No one’s life is as perfect as there Instagram, so when you compare your life to someone else Instagram it’s common to feel inadequate or a low self esteem. Instagram has the potential to be truly detrimental to users mental health. As well as conveying the stigma that your actual body or life will never be enough. It’s not hard to shape a seemingly perfect life through an abundance of square photos, however this false portrayal of yourself detracts from individualism and creates an unattainable desire for perfection. Instagram isn’t going anywhere, and neither will it’s harmful effects. We need to take a more genuine and personal approach to the app, shifting our values from beauty to self expression.
Transforming our desire for approval to praising and accepting others for our differences, imperfections and uniqueness. Unfollow accounts that make you feel insecure and post things that represent you. Instagram aesthetic can be defined as an impractical strive for perfection that promotes an unrealistic lifestyle. The societal imposed stigma that we must conform to societies interpretation of beauty in order to be accepted is unhealthy and destructive to the beauty of individualism.