Written for SPOOK Mag
Instagram is the world of the seemingly attainable, yet it’s a faux-reality shown through a 1:1 square window into someone else’s life; a window where we choose to display only the good and the glamourous to validate self-worth through materialism and numbers. But this false life becomes a place of envy and insecurity for users who see Instagram as the reality, and a breeding place for negativity, spending money and hours to continually evolve and create their online image to keep up likes and followers.
We’re shown only what they want us to see, displaying lives built on ambiguous Instagram page descriptions – “Style. Positivity. Explorer of Life. Eater of Kale. Raw Life *peace hand emoji*” – photos of perfectly flat-laid brunches and numerous branded products and clothing that Instagram “bloggers” or “influencers” seem to just have. Hidden behind a haze of exaggeration as you’re left scrolling and wondering: what is it you actually do? A fake world that conceals more than what a few shadow and highlight adjustment can – and that a certain pose, outfit and material items will dictate your likes, and apparently your hierarchy in the world.
The fact that we can dictate what our followers see is already an obvious sign as to what your own followers are seeing. Why would you show them the time you ate a whole pizza to yourself when you could show them the time you spent $200 on a rad new outfit? But to younger or impressionable users part of the problem is a lack of transparency. Influencers and bloggers who seem to have fashion products that pops up out of nowhere and the vagueness of paid advertising.
Instagram envy can become a breeding ground for self-loathing over the lives deceptively ‘better’ than your own, A small window that displays only 1% of the genuine reality, the filter choice and VSCO cam edits, but the PR company, plethora of emails, money spent, sponsored advertisements and deals made between the ‘influencer’ and the product. Bloggers hardly adhere to guidelines to inform users of the weeks of preparation that’s cropped out of the square and made to be seen as ‘Oh yeah this? This was just given to me, #nbd.
Wannabe users try to chase that dream by spending above their means to flatlay an outfit fresh out of its box, only to be tossed aside onto something better in a month. That $200 sequin halter and sandals looked great in that pure white and marble flatlay, but now it will forever live in the back of your closet whilst lusting after a $200 Daniel Wellington watch that you saw a girl with 200k followers wearing just to stay relevant which becomes a never-ending cycle of validation through others.
The deception is this illusion that all the ‘cool kids’ have banded together, while those are left out of the loop to continue lusting after the idea of free cocktails, blogger friends and making money while doing… whatever it is they do.
I suppose it’s much less glamourous having a group of 20-somethings standing with their friends in a new season jumpsuit (advertising) and a wool hat (advertising), against the backdrop of a pink sunset, drinking cocktails at a bar (advertising) with the caption cheapened by ‘#SPONSORED #PAIDAD #AD #DRINKRESPONSIBLY,’ or the reality of the 40 other shots of a half-blink, or hint of cellulite that’s been posed so meticulously out of the photo – but followers have the right to know. Then again, these influencers don’t want the appearance that they’ve ‘totally sold out, man’. They want to maintain the fantasy of the edited warm-tones of the blogger life, even if it means misleading and exaggerating their image, and it keeps the wannabes continue wanting because of its illusory easy attainability – ‘cause how else are you going to keep followers?
However quixotic and star-sparkle emoji the Instagram illusion is it’s definitely easy to buy into when you consume the honey-soaked, never-ending good vibes as reality. But as your parents said back in the 90s: “not everything you see on the Internet is the truth.” That truth is the weeks of preparation and tonne of photo editing, emails and company endorsements. These people have the following to dictate what to show or not to show, and the good is always more interesting than the bad.