Instagram was launched in October 2010. Originally, it was just a sweet little app to upload photos of your dog smiling, or a cake you made for your nephew’s birthday. No one cared too much if you just uploaded it, or put a cute ‘Nashville’ filter over your photo. When I joined Instagram in 2013, it was still this happy, jolly place. I was 15 years old, and all I did was share photos of me eating peanut butter, and of my friends all posing for a group photo. Back then, I didn’t think too much about what I posted. I just uploaded pretty much whatever photos I had taken recently that weren’t out of focus. This was a time when getting double figures in likes felt like such an achievement.
Let’s fast forward to 2018. 5 years have flown by and I’m still using the app. But it’s looking very different. Now I have to pick and choose what I post on my Instagram. Gone are the days of taking a selfie in my new Paramore Tshirt. Instagram has become a carefully curated platform, and I’m not going to lie… it’s not as fun.
Apps such as VSCO and Afterlight have been created so that we can edit our photos to perfection. The Instagram filters aren’t enough anymore, we need filters and dust effects to make sure there’s a theme to our feeds. Every photo needs to be linked in some way. The improvement of phone cameras has also enabled us to have better quality pictures as well. If the light isn’t quite right, or it’s looking kinda grainy, it doesn’t make the cut. You have to give the impression that you’re having fun EVERY minute of the day.
But I think this needs to change. I have to hold my hands up, I’m yet another person who edits my photos to oblivion just so they fit a ‘theme’. Even if it’s a photo I like or a moment I look on fondly, I still only post things that fit into a set ‘aesthetic’. However, where this used to be a fun activity to express myself creatively, it’s now putting pressure on me mentally.
Instagram puts so much pressure on everyone, young people especially, to always look like they’re having the best time ever. We are all expected to fit a certain mould, to always look totally immaculate. Women should be wearing makeup all the time, men should always be groomed. But are people having as much fun as they make out?
I posted a photo recently (with the caption above) briefly discussing how the app has been damaging me personally. Scrolling through people’s posts, everyday I see photos beautifully edited and showing people smiling with their friends. This has made me feel incredibly lonely and isolated because instead, I’m sat alone reading in my garden with sudocrem all over my face. I’m uploading content during this time, but some of these photos were taken as far back as a couple of weeks ago. Behind the photos, I’m not having the amazing time I’m pretending to.
The response I got to this post was amazing and it showed I wasn’t alone in how I felt. People were reaching out to tell me the app was having a similar effect on their health as well. I feel like this is only the beginning of this discussion.
A blogger I follow by the username @lydiajanealice posted some photos on her story showing behind the scenes from a photo shoot. These were of the photos you don’t see, and the ones that get deleted because you’re blinking, or the lighting isn’t right. The photos aren’t ‘perfect’ so we don’t get to see them. In her story, she used the hashtag #instagramvsreality. I believe there’s a lot of significance to this hashtag, and if others use it then hopefully we can break some of the stigma surrounding the Instagram platform.
People need to realise that they’re not alone, and it’s okay not to always act like you’re having a great time. We are all human and we all struggle at times to feel confident and loved. To anyone reading this post, I’d like use to share on your stories or in a post some of the photos that you wouldn’t necessarily upload usually. The photos that aren’t ‘Instagram ready’. When you do this, please also put the #instagramvsreality hashtag on at least one of your photos so we can kickstart this discussion properly. You can also tag me at @_amberlance as I would love to see some of these posts, and see the response to anyone that has read this article as well.
I hope we can make Instagram a positive and supportive environment to be a part of, and learn to look beyond the photo. The reality is normally very different and as a community, we need to look out for one another.