While scrolling through Instagram anytime in the last year or so, it’s very likely that you’ve witnessed your feed start to change from the traditional posed, curated and filtered photo streams that were common pre-pandemic to seemingly random arrays of raw images from a variety of moments labeled as “photo dumps.” The movement, labeled “Make Instagram Casual Again” (led by a hashtag with the same name), has amassed over 47,000 posts since it originated in 2018. Though this may just seem like a passing trend or a way for users to share a more “authentic” glimpse into their lives, this shift may have other implications in the way we perceive our friends, celebrities, and how social media translates to reality.
In 2020, everyone started spending much more time at home and most “Insta-worthy” events were canceled due to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This caused a quick rise in posts from home portraying more of users’ “real lives” instead of performances of extravagant lifestyles showing only the most polished parts of their days. Before the pandemic, the upsurge of monetized celebrity influencers through Instagram led many of the app’s users, including myself, to become disillusioned with the platform as it seemed like every post looked the same: overly edited with the goal of earning the most likes. The casual Instagram movement, on the other hand, features people sharing collected moments from their everyday lives from their point of view, with less focus on showing their enviable appearance. This implies a shift from the potentially harmful use of the platform to compare yourself to other people based on the self you choose to present online.
But while the aim of casual Instagram may have been to promote authenticity the way the app was originally intended, it still has the underlying problem of users posting to garner a larger following rather than for their own enjoyment. The curated sense of reality that was present in posed Instagram has not faded with the phase of mirror selfies and blurry “candid” photos; instead, it is now harder than ever to distinguish what is really someone’s everyday lifestyle or if they’ve still pre-planned photos to appear a certain way when posting.
To that end, it is still necessary to think about the truth behind posts you view on Instagram and other social media platforms. Even when posts are presented to look as though they’re randomly selected and not carefully planned out, most of the time that is not the case. Take these seemingly authentic photo dumps with a grain of salt and avoid comparing your offline reality to the posts that you see on Instagram, because the effortlessly perfect lifestyles that are now commonly seen online might not show the whole truth.