#IWD and other Instagram complaints

Once again, I am here to complain about Instagram. If you like Instagram, stop reading this post. I swear to you that this blog isn’t just for complaining about the Internet, but I leave the insightful stuff to Hershal.

Instagram is the social media app for users who imagine an alternate universe in which they are “curators” or “brand-designers”. It is what happens when the “personal brand” goes beyond the LinkedIn level of selling one’s soul to the corporate abyss, beyond the self-deprecating Twitter joke, and into the realm of aesthetics and pseudo-marketing.

There are many things that are trendy on Instagram in 2017. Some of them I understand; some of them I do not. I’m not even sure that some of them are even trendy. In fact, my little brother and I caught up with each other in our Instagram DMs the other day and all I could think was, “is this a thing that the kids are doing these days?” Am I too young to be thinking that? As an aside, one of the few people that I enjoy on Instagram is my little brother, so I’m going to leave a plug here for him and his photography talent. I may hate Instagram, but there are really talented people out there!

One of the trends that I avoid most of the time (but admittedly, not always) is the “Instagram Collage”. There are a variety of apps that you can download in order to collage your pictures together like a cheap Walmart 4-photo frame. Instagram collages end up with a level of obnoxiousness that is exponentially worse than all of the various single photo tropes. For some reason, collages are THAT MUCH WORSE than sunset photos, latte art photos, and every possible iteration of rich girl aesthetics on minimalist white backgrounds.

Not too long ago, it was International Women’s Day. This is one of the most fun days of the year! That said, I noticed a new type of Instagram collage this year: the “Happy #IWD to all of these great ladies!” photo. It features the author’s lady friends and family members in an attempt to say “Hey look at my lazy feminism! I did nothing else today (or any day)! Also, I have lady friends!” Most of the time, I noticed that it was just a shocking look at just how un-diverse the friend groups of my fellow white women are. Am I petty?** Absolutely. Though, I’m being petty because I am pretty displeased that we’re now celebrating International Women’s Day by falling into another Bad Instagram Habit and thinking only about the handful of women in our lives, rather than what this day means outside of our own personal brand.

So, where does the #IWD collage fit in the universe of Instagram collages? I’m a social scientist in training, so I am going to be a walking stereotype and create a 2×2 typology of bad Instagram collages. On the vertical axis, we have collages that are sappy and collages that are overtly humblebrags, but less overtly meant to silently shame others (especially other women). On the horizontal axis, we have collages that are self-indulgent and collages that are “obligatory”, in that we all do SOME iteration of this photo trend.

Behold:

We all post photos to wish our friends a happy birthday and we all love photos of our pets. I can’t say I’m above either of these, but they’re especially over-the-top when a collage is needed for this purpose. That said, they’re generally harmless and sweet.

Vacation collages are a special beast. How many photos do you REALLY need to post? Is this Facebook circa 2010? How many of these photos are really that great? Did you NEED to include four or nine in one frame? Do we REALLY need to know how much money you spent today? Thank you for making everyone else feel terrible! That said, everyone posts vacation photos so these fit squarely into the Obligatory Collages category. The Top Nine is much more benign, but it is a roundup of your best photos from the year. It is to inform followers, “look how many likes I got this year” and “look at the most glamorous parts of my year!” I think that says it all.

I’m not going to go deep into the “clean eating” category because it is a beast that could use its own article, and I don’t think I’m qualified to write that article. There’s just such an uncomfortable dynamic to the photos of “clean” or “health” foods that merges body-shaming, food-choice-shaming, financial privilege, pseudoscience, and the butchering of so many types of foods. If you collage a bunch of pictures of your clean meals, you can probably accomplish all of those dynamics!

I’m sure you can scroll through your feed and figure out other collages that fit into the typology. You can probably also find single photos that fit into the typology! Go forth and use my framework! And while you’re at it, make sure to remind EVERYONE on the Internet how much you love women, but only the 10 you want to share on Instagram once a year.

**Please add “petty” to the 2017 List of Overused Yet Irresistible Twitter Words


#IWD and other Instagram complaints was originally published in HateTheInternet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Article originally appeared on Branding on Medium: Link.

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