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“Casual” Instagram is Back… But is it Casual?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

As fellow avid Instagram and overall social media users, I think we’ve all picked up on the fast emergence of the “photo dump” trend; the casual nature of posts, the supposedly candid shots of your supposed day-to-day life. Because of course, you are waking up at 6 am, doing yoga, drinking a kale smoothie, going to a museum, and shopping at a local farmers market every single day.

But why don’t we talk about the fact that these so-called candid series’ are just as, if not more, performative than the Instagram that we used to see? Everything was so posed and premeditated, yes, but at least it was admittedly so. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love the aesthetics of the photo dump. I love that not everyone is still using that horrid blue-tinted VSCO filter on everything, and people are actually just having fun with it and capturing moments of their lives. 

But who’s to say these moments aren’t still perfectly curated and ordered to appear carefree, seamless, fun, and playful? I have no doubt that there was a true moment behind each photo, but I at least know that when I’m posting a “January photo dump,” I’m sitting through my camera roll for quite some time to find the most aesthetically pleasing and impressive photos from recently, some from way before January. 

Why do we do this?

Well, in a way, any form of posting on social media is performative. So no matter how candid your photos actually might be, you’re still actively choosing to select that photo you took, present it to your audience, and effectively way more people than your intended audience, considering how public everything on the internet is.

You’re still actively trying to perpetuate the identity that you want people to perceive. You’re still producing a certain image, whether you like it or not.

All consistent posters and creators fall victim to this, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just important to acknowledge and remind ourselves that Bella Hadid’s photo dump from last week was probably carefully looked through/analyzed about 20 times by her PR team before posting the final draft. 

So what’s next?

Maybe, by this trajectory, Instagram may actually be casual again. You know, like when the app first launched and we all used those automated filters on our dogs, none of which were actually pleasing to the eye. Maybe your dog is cute, but that grainy overly saturated filter sure isn’t. But it is kind of endearing to remember that none of us cared about our “aesthetics” back then–just eager to share our experiences.

Logan Mahan discusses the positive aspects of the photo dump trend in his article “Why Photo Dumps Are Taking Over Your Instagram Feed.” He observes that the emergence of the trend, using Instagram carousel function, came from the pandemic, when everyone was eager to make social media less toxic:

“We’ll likely never be able to go back to the truly carefree days of the ‘gram, most of us will always be a bit self-conscious of what we post. But when it comes to Instagram specifically, our relationship with the app could be changing for the better.”

Hello! I am a Senior English major at LMU. I enjoy writing about topics ranging from health and wellness, fashion and film to social justice issues.
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