Scroll through Instagram right now, and you're bound to see at least one series of candid photos posted to your timeline with the caption “photo dump.” This laid–back brand of content is reflective of Gen Z's newest social media movement: “Make Instagram Casual Again.”
This fad encourages users to post whatever they want to their social media platforms. Whether that's a photo of your home–cooked meal from last night, a blurry picture of city lights, or a mirror selfie of you crying while flashing a peace sign, Instagram has purportedly become a place to publish whatever your heart desires. From college students to influencers to celebrities, the "I–do–not–care–about–what–I–post" persona is spreading fast no matter the follower count.
But what does it mean to truly have a casual Instagram? Can these posts even be described as casual if they're curated to appear so? Is this movement merely the rise of another manufactured aesthetic?
Granted, this new trend of laid–back posting provides a welcome contrast to the previous aesthetic peddled by social media influencers: heavily filtered pictures, saturated feeds, and perfect, model–like poses. Making Instagram casual again seems more like a nostalgic reinvention of the app's earliest stages. Gen Z is attempting to enforce a culture of normalcy online—and our favorite celebrities are leading the charge.
Take Emma Chamberlain, with her 14.2 million Instagram follower count, as an example. The queen of the crying selfie, Chamberlain exemplifies how our favorite tastemakers are curating an unguarded—and more relatable—online persona.
As "trying too hard" becomes increasingly unfashionable, the pressure to hop on the casual trend becomes more and more prevalent—shedding light on its underlying toxicity.
This movement pushes you to portray yourself online in a way that comes off as careless as possible—all while remaining aesthetically pleasing. Users are expected to be effortlessly cool rather than intentionally so.
It's all unbelievably ironic: A trend that claims to encourage users to be genuine on social media is ultimately making authenticity an act. The "casual" content we see on our feeds is hardly that. Behind the scenes, many individuals are anxiously over–analyzing whether their posts give off the easygoing vibe that they're hoping for.
What's more, this trend also makes the distinction between what is real and what is fabricated more dubious. While planned makeup, hair, and poses have gone out of style, now Instagram is all about coming off as naturally stunning and effortlessly fun. Before, there was a greater understanding that the influencers clogging up our feeds worked hard to portray their life in a certain way. Today, we aren't so sure. We compare ourselves to snapshots of life that we're led to believe are unadulterated—yet are still ultimately curated.
The concept of a casual Instagram is unrealistic. We can't hope to have a healthy relationship with the app until we stop posting as if we have something to prove. So follow whatever trend you want. Or even better, start your own. Filtered or unfiltered, planned or unplanned—it should be up to you.