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Making Instagram casual

Photo grid from Amelia’s Instagram

“Make Instagram casual again.”

If you have been on social media recently, you have likely heard of this collective movement among teens to present ourselves on Instagram more casually… but what does this really mean? 

Until just a year ago, Instagram was an active source of stress in my life. Each time I scrolled through my feed, I was essentially looking through a catalogue of perfectly posed and meticulously edited pictures of my peers and celebrities. I often gave into the pressure to appear perfect on my own social media too. Each post required a photo shoot and the criteria for which pictures made the cut were very strict. There was a significant focus on the number of likes and comments one received. All of these factors made viewing and posting on my own social media profile genuinely stressful.

Over the past year, however, I have witnessed one of the best social media trends: Teens are minimizing the pressure to appear perfect online by making Instagram casual. This is best represented by the addition of “photo dumps” to our social media feeds. Photo dumps are essentially a single post in which you “dump” a collection of pictures taken over a period of time (from one day, a vacation or the whole summer for example). These often feature food, friends, views, outfits, pets, plants, books, buildings and much more. For context of just how widespread these posts have become, as of Aug. 22 there are over 556,000 posts under the tag #PhotoDump. Some teens have even created separate “photo dump” accounts on Instagram dedicated solely to share these more candid and personal posts. Celebrity influencers such as Emma Chamberlain have participated in the push towards casual Instagram, as her profile now features photo dumps including pictures of everything from her morning grocery run to the books on her bedside table. 

These photo dumps which have taken over my feed in the past year bring out the best of social media: self-expression, connections, creativity and fun. Yes, I’m aware that some people have always used Instagram “casually,” but it is clear that recently the app has become more carefree and personalized than usual, a trend that I hope continues in the years to come.

Here are some of the benefits of a “casual” Instagram:  

  1. Self-expression. These photo dumps typically include the things people enjoy, moments for their everyday life and memories with the people they care about. This makes each person’s feed more unique and representative of who they are (as opposed to the same meaningless selfie over and over again). Instagram can and should be seen as a form of self expression which can help make/maintain virtual connections.
  2. It’s not about the likes. Casual Instagram use has reduced the emphasis on physical appearance alone because things beyond just our looks (nature, objects, friends) have become the focal point of posts instead. As a result, the number of likes and comments one receives feels less personal and is overall less important. Some have even turned off the “likes” feature on their profiles altogether. 
  3. More frequent posting. People have started posting more frequently and including more photos in each of their posts. The larger quantity of posts and photos helps alleviate pressure on any singular picture to be perfect.
  4. Increased creativity. The posts I see on my feed have gradually become more creative and engaging as people start to feel more comfortable experimenting with editing techniques, photography and artwork in this more casual online setting.

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