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The Problem With “Make Instagram Casual Again”

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

Remember being in middle school, trying for 30 minutes to take the perfect selfie plus an extra 20 to come up with a clever caption? Then throwing your phone across the room to avoid seeing how many likes your picture DIDN’T get? Well, today’s youth won’t have to go through that, thanks to Instagram removing likes. Kind of.

In late 2019, Instagram announced that they would be taking away likes to mitigate the impact likes were having on users’ mental health. More likes = more popularity, right? The idea is that the removal of likes takes away the pressure of seeming “popular” and gives people more space to connect with others and the things that inspire them.

Personally, the removal of Instagram likes has enabled me to take part in the “make Instagram casual again” trend. The trend revolves around the idea that there should be less pressure to post on Instagram and you shouldn’t have to follow the unspoken rules that come with the platform (like only posting once a day or using the same filter on all your pictures). It’s about sharing the more mundane and forgettable moments of our lives instead of just the highlights; aesthetics and perfection are overrated because it’s all fake anyway.

With “make Instagram casual again,” I feel like I can post pictures that I know won’t get many likes, because who cares if no one can see them? It’s honestly pretty freeing. But even though “make Instagram casual again” is all about stripping away the curated feeds and filters, it in itself is an aesthetic.

Instead of trying to capture the perfect photo with the perfect pose, we’re trying to manufacture authenticity and casualness. But doesn’t that defeat the whole point? Even though we’re moving away from the polished influencer look, replacing it with seemingly effortless pictures doesn’t quite make it casual. For example, there was a trend to use the app Huji Cam to take photos as if you were taking them on an old film camera rather than a high-quality iPhone. Pictures like these seem less curated, but they really just represent a new set of unspoken Instagram rules.

Let’s face it: Instagram is a performance. A highlight reel. The word “casual” is simply ironic when talking about Instagram. You have to seem like you aren’t trying when actually, you’re trying really hard. 

Making Instagram casual does not mean rejecting the polished, filtered look for superficially authentic pictures. To make Instagram truly casual, we need to start our own trends and stop posting as if we have something to prove.

English/Journalism major at UNH! Lover of almond milk lattes, The Office, and books
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