I think it would be fair to say that most of us have a love hate relationship with Instagram. Usually I post multiple times a day, micro-vlog my escapades on my story and spend time (usually when I should be sleeping!) scrolling through my feed and seeing what everyone else has been up to, too. Other times it makes me feel completely inferior, as though I’m five steps behind the crowd and like I probably need to get my roots done. The problem with Instagram – and any form of social media – is that it is a highlights reel. I want to shout that from the rooftops on a daily basis “INSTAGRAM IS A HIGHLIGHTS REEL!” and in my own little way I try to, without actually pissing off the neighbours.
It’s so easy to scroll absentmindedly through glossy feed after glossy feed and assume that life behind the ‘gram is equally as white-washed, clarity-enhanced, VSCO-filtered. I’m more than happy to admit that at times I’ve actually resented people I don’t even know because I’ve been jealous of their insta-fabulous lifestyle. In my head I’ve conjured up mean personalities because surely it’s not possible for someone to be so pretty, so talented, well-travelled AND nice? Well, for a start, boy are there thousands of beautiful people out there who truly are as genuine as their ‘gram and exposing myself more and more to the blogging industry has allowed me to see that, and at times it’s truly humbling. However, life definitely isn’t permanently insta-worthy for any of us and even those with the most polished of feeds and aspirational of captions experience shitty times too. On a recent trip to New York I felt the need to explain in a caption on a professionally shot lifestyle image that actually, it hadn’t been the trip of a lifetime. It was a trip filled with a lot of family drama and quite a lot of pain too and to pretend otherwise would be dishonest to the followers who are essentially to thank for any of the successes I’ve had from my presence on social media. It was only a small reminder but I was quite surprised by the breadth of the reaction which including people actually thanking me for the honesty. It really got me thinking about the individuals behind the squares.
For a start, each and every person on Instagram (even you, Kimmy K) is just that. A person. We all eat and sleep and poo (soz) and cry at the Andrex puppy adverts. We all get insecure and change outfits six times before leaving the house and go to bed with toothpaste on our spots. We all have to do mundane stuff on a day to day basis that doesn’t make it so far as our camera rolls, let alone our feeds, like washing up and taking the bins out and popping to Tesco with no bra on (just me?). Okay, so maybe Kimmy K doesn’t do all of the above but she definitely has to go to the toilet so it ain’t all pretty. Instagram features the absolute best bits and the reality is that for the most part that’s what people WANT to see. Relatability, honesty and ‘real-ness’ are all incredibly valuable attributes and are no doubt what I strive most toward on my little slice of the internet, but do you really log on to see a snap of someone hanging out their undies or eating beans on toast at 11pm? There’s a constant struggle between being genuine and being too genuine.
I would be absolutely lying if I pretended that I don’t pour hours into that little app. Sometimes I upload a quick iPhone snap of the flower stand on the way home and other times I spend a long time chasing the perfect lighting, finding props, setting up a shot, testing out the best angles, exporting it into Lightroom and then editing it with my own preset that I equally spent a lot of time creating. That’s before I even consider opening up Instagram. First it makes its way into my feed planning app so I can check that it’s the right image for the look I’ve worked so hard to achieve, then I finally click upload and spend time composing a caption and adding the right hashtags before finally hitting publish. Maybe that sounds like a hell of a lot of effort to you, some people even think it’s a little bit sad and haven’t been shy in telling me so, but quite frankly I am proud of the platform I have created. I enjoy practicing the art of photography and improving my editing skills each time. It makes my heart happy when I see the same names reappear time and time again to respond to my content and engage with what I’m putting out there. I will never be ashamed of the effort I go to to put my life on the ‘gram but I’m going to go back to being the crazy lady on the rooftop now – INSTAGRAM IS A HIGHLIGHTS REEL.
Thankfully caption writing comes naturally to me. This is where all the filtering ends and usually I pour my day and my thoughts into those characters with total honesty. I talk about being on my period and that time I had to go commando at the races after forgetting to put a tampon in, I talk about how a pair of great looking earrings actually stayed in all of 30 minutes because they made my ear lobes sag down to my knees like a pair of ancient boobies, I talk about the days when I struggle with my mental health and I talk about the days when I feel fucking fantastic. Doing so feels easy and it feels right but I also appreciate that sharing – and often over-sharing – isn’t for everyone.
Whether you follow feeds that you can relate to and laugh a long with or ones that are comprised solely of flashy travels and designer handbags that you probably can’t afford but love to lust over anyway, or all the gorgeous arty farty ones in between, it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that you never, ever, let an app make you feel like less of a person or as though you are inferior.