Released in 2010, Instagram is by far one of the most popular apps shaping the modern social media world. Although the app boasts a gaggle of communicative functions such as messaging, the primary purpose of the app is for users to edit, post, and share photos and videos of almost anything with their extended social networks.
As college students, most of us have Instagrams and follow our peers on the app; we don’t know many of our peers in real life but will interact with them on Instagram. Instagram has become a way to showcase how we want to present ourselves to this extended social circle. We edit almost every part of our lives, changing what our lives are like or how we look. On Instagram, we construct ourselves into a digital facade, not a reality.
An example of Instagram as a literal facade is the trend having an Instagram “aesthetic,” or a color scheme that is visually pleasing. An Instagram aesthetic is a visual facade meant to give off a certain vibe. An example of such an aesthetic can be seen on FAST’s very own profile. Currently, our social media curators for FAST have coordinated a greenish earthy-tone aesthetic to match the season, fall.
Life and reality do not always mirror people’s Instagram aesthetics. Becky’s universe isn’t just blue everywhere. Karen’s life isn’t black and white with a grainy texture over it. These are not real people, but they might as well be another identity. I attempted to have a blue, purple, and pink aesthetic for a period during my freshman year of college. I only posted photos that were taken in a setting that would match with the aesthetic I wanted. Once, in one of my more ridiculous moments as a person, I wanted to wear an orange blouse for a sisterhood event with my sorority, but I chose to wear blue instead because I knew it would look better in pictures I would post from the event and the color scheme I was going for. Occasionally, I would love a picture but refrain from posting it because it did not fit well with my desired color scheme.
Essentially, because of my desire for my Instagram page to look cohesive, I didn’t post the moments of my life that I wanted people to see. Instead, I would only post a supervised version of myself, my life, and my experiences on Instagram. A bit under a year later, my “aesthetic” has shifted from contrived to random because I have decided that I don’t care as much anymore and I am also lazy. Below are screenshots from my personal Instagram (the purple/blue/pink one is from November 2017 to February 2018) and (the messy looking one is from September to November 2018).
Along the same vein of contrived posting, many people are inclined only to post the happy or exciting moments of their lives. For example, there was a guy one of my friends knew in high school who only posted pictures from traveling to insane destinations around the world. He posted them to make his followers think that he was always traveling the world, but most of the photos were from old trips that he would only post over time. His classmates knew he was actually not traveling when he posted these photos because he was in school.
Not only do we edit what our lives are like, but we also edit how we look. It makes sense to post photos that you look good in. However, we have taken this emphasis on physical appearance a step further by actually altering how we appear in photos for our virtual reality self. With the emergence in popularity of the app FaceTune and others like it, many people have begun smoothing physical flaws, changing face shape, morphing themselves to look thinner, and generally editing themselves to portray the “most attractive” versions. But is there a point where one can edit their appearance “too much”? If so, what is “too much” based on?
A lot of Instagram is a facade. However, there is a trend on Instagram that presents a confounding irony. This trend is called “finsta.” A finsta is a private Instagram account where users, including myself, usually only let their close friends follow their accounts. Finsta is where people can post about the drama that happens in their lives, good news, bad news, random photos, and generally funny things. You can post whatever you want. It is an unfiltered digital projection of one’s life. These finsta accounts are where people show their true selves and are unafraid of scrutiny from others. The irony is that “finsta” stands for “fake insta.” Often, finsta users refer to their main accounts as “rinstas,” which stands for “real insta.” The account where one shows their actual self is called “fake,” where the account that projects a facade is called real. Interesting. I don’t really know what to make of that idea or how to relate it to human nature and what our generation values, but it’s an intriguing example of how the perception of our identities is based on a digital masquerade.
I am not judging anyone who does any of the things I have discussed, as I will be the first to admit that I have done all of it. Instagram was made to project an image to people in our respective social networks, so it only makes sense that so much of Instagram has become a facade. I do not necessarily think this facade is a bad thing. Although I do admit we all care way too much about what other people think of us, there indeed is merit to presenting the best versions of ourselves. Would you go to a job interview dressed in pajamas? Hopefully not. Do you really want to relay all of your personal problems to the world? I definitely don’t. Facade translates to real life. I think we all employ different demeanors and temperaments when talking to different people. People portray themselves how they want others to see them, and I do not see anything inherently wrong with that. I just think we should deeply think about how we control our Instagram personas and how it compares to our real selves.