When we think about Instagram and the content on it, a colour scheme or set of styles instantly presents itself. It’s the ‘Instagram Aesthetic’. It’s bright white with accented pastel pinks and blues. A beach, flowers, and photos of food that take far too much work during the golden hour. These are things that are all expected when you are doom-scrolling through Instagram.
We have learned to make note of these popular trends. Everywhere we go, we see someone posing against a picturesque wall, a landmark, or much-loved ‘IG destination.’ The same pose. The same shot. Time and time again. For some, the Instagram aesthetic is impossible to resist. But it is killing individuality.
Unless Elon Musk plants chips in us all and we march toward climate disaster as cloned cyborgs, then things need to change. We must look to a future that is less homogenised. Less SAME SAME BUT DIFFERENT. The Instagram influencer should become a thing of the past, and we should look to ways that we can re-embrace our own personalities.
So, kids. When so many are telling us how we should follow trends, how to utilise Instagram bot and how to achieve the ‘best results for optimum followers’, let us look at why we should NOT worry about the Instagram aesthetic.
De-unify Your Feed
One of the key concepts of Instagram aesthetics and trends is the appearance of a unified feed. We’ve all seen the pink-hued or sandy-orange images of much-followed Instagrammers. From influencers and celebrities down to the common folk, the unified feed has become ubiquitous with the Instagram aesthetic.
Business-wise this is also much-used. Think about heading to the Instagram page of your favourite nail art technician, for example. You will likely see consistent photographic angles. There will be a chorus line of nails as you look left and right down the feed. Perhaps an adoption of the same filters or graphic design elements used for promotional posts.
This is all a concerted effort to create a brand image. It’s for visitors and potential customers to know where it is they are as soon as they see a post.
This technique is also applied by some celebrities too. Emma Watson is one notable example. She framed all her posts with a square outline, creating a ‘Polaroid’ styling. This, however, was mishandled during the #blackouttuesday campaign, drawing criticism from fans and commentators. Again, it’s an effort to be recognisable, but, this time, inappropriately so.
Instagram feeds are different things for general users. They needn’t be unified because they aren’t creating a cohesive experience for visitors. It’s a space for sharing moments and memories with friends, existing and prospective. There is no need for ‘Polaroid’ stylings or bubble-gum colourings. You are doing it because it’s a trend. Snap out of it.
Embrace Ephemeral Trends
Ephemerality forms a key component of Instagram and other social media sites. Posts can be fleeting, deleted and forgotten. Instagram and Facebook’s Stories feature leans into that, as did Twitter with their recently ceased Fleets, copying Snapchat’s whole modus operandi.
Due to the sheer quantity of content being posted and interacted with daily on various social media sites, aesthetics, memes, and cultural reference points emerge from users themselves. Only the greatest memes stand the test of time. And everybody is already done with the vintage photo filters. The ‘top’ influencers are deleting archive photos at a rate of knots. Don’t be so precious. As is the case with de-unifying your feed, embrace the dysfunctional irregularity of social media. Embrace the ephemeral.
Everyday users, much like the high-profile users and multinational companies, participate in trends that fade as fast as they appear. It can be fun, and it can be inspiring. It can be moving. Whatever the reason, users engage. Because it is fleeting, there’s a fairness. It’s open.
Instagram’s aesthetics and trends are part of the social aspect of not just Instagram, but any platform. They can be artistic, social mobilisers, or just fun, whether a user has five followers or five million.
Our Instagram feed can resemble an old-fashioned scrapbook or photobook of dusty old 35mm pictures arranged haphazardly. Your photos are memories, don’t allow them to become part of a homogenised record of a time where you wanted to be just like the next influencer. Furthermore, in an age where vinyl records and printed magazines are in resurgence, you can use your IG feed to create a lasting photobook that is tangible; click here for an example.
Furthermore, in embracing the ephemeral nature of social media, your account can represent a haphazard reality. It’s good to be different. It is cool to shy away from trends and norms. When we think about Instagram, it should be less about what others do with it, and more about ourselves.
Don’t worry that you didn’t achieve the same lighting as your favourite influencer, embrace the differences. Sought out the IG hotspot; the much-photographed mural, or that particularly pink Art Deco building? Why not turn 180 degrees and capture something completely different. Most importantly, be yourself.