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The Illusion of the ‘Casual’ Instagram

In recent months, Instagram has seen a rise in so-called ‘casual’ posting. Our feed has been dominated by ‘photo dumps’: compilations of candids, landscapes, and miscellaneous objects. This style of posting has been championed by influencers, such as Emma Chamberlain, who are able to compile random assortments of photos into visually appealing posts. 

Posting on Instagram can be incredibly stressful, even anxiety inducing. Although this casual outlook can provide a refreshing approach to social media, the reality is that ‘casual instagram’ can be just as much of a performance (if not more) than ‘performative’ Instagram because its intention is to post in a way that provides an illusion of being effortless and nonchalant. The effort put into making a post seem effortless practically equals that put into posting in a manner that is aware of being performative.

It is simply impossible to participate in social media in a way that is not performative. To post is to curate a perception of oneself for another’s consumption; a filtered post and an unfiltered post are still posts all the same. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we post with the knowledge that our content will be seen, and our decisions about what we post are informed by our intended audience.

I personally love this stripped back aesthetic that has become popular as of late, but it is realistically nothing more than that: an aesthetic. It is important to acknowledge that nothing about Instagram will ever be truly authentic since we share the version of ourselves that we wish to be seen. Buying into the notion that posting can provide an accurate depiction of daily life can distort the way we view the world around us, leading to harmful comparisons. We must acknowledge that all social media (no matter how ‘casual’ it may seem) is performative to a certain degree. 

Kalohe is a second year Literature and Writing major with a minor in Communications at UCSD. She is a surfer from Laguna Beach, CA with a passion for books and music.
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