It’s something that would have sounded utterly outrageous only a few short years ago. And while there are arguments for why you shouldn’t build your business on rented land and how many people have gone about it the wrong way, it is possible to make a very comfortable living as an Instagram influencer. You partner with brands, you post pretty pictures, and you smile and filter your life all the way to the bank.
But are attitudes shifting? Have careful curation and photo editing gone too far, and online audiences are demanding a return to authenticity? And what does this mean for your budding career as an Instagram influencer?
Perfect Little Squares
A big part of Instagram’s initial appeal was that, through the use of filters, just about anyone can post a “pretty” picture on the Internet. Up until then, many people were hesitant to share their pictures, especially when placed next to the pictures posted by professional photographers. But filters changed that. More and more, people gained confidence in posting their perfect little squares. And in the moment.
This quickly led to what became known as the Instagram aesthetic. Lives that are perfectly curated, remarkably shiny, bursting at the seams with a manufactured positivity. Instagram was no longer the place for spontaneous, authentic posts. It was a place to share the absolute best moments, demonstrating to the world at large how you’re “living your best life.” And with that came an intense pressure to perform.
Keeping up with the Joneses is hard enough. Keeping up with the perfectly curated life the Joneses post on Instagram is downright impossible.
Fake News for the ‘Gram
The rise of this so-called Instagram aesthetic with its perfect little squares has also sparked a whole new industry. In addition to individual influencers seeking out graffiti walls and buying props and backdrops just so they can achieve a certain look in the photos they share (fake news!), businesses have sprung up specifically for the purpose of taking photos for posting on Instagram.
In Toronto, for instance, there’s a place where you can pay to take a picture on a fake private jet. There’s also a fake gold vault, a fake nostalgic movie rental shop, a fake cherry blossom canopy, and even an emerald castle at the end of a yellow brick road.
But that private jet exhibit has been getting the most attention, because it is used specifically to show off the glitz and glamor of a high-end lifestyle for people who don’t actually live such a life at all. To this end, users on Instagram are constantly questioning what’s real and what’s not. Is this the uncanny valley?
The Real Slim Shady
While the super shiny, extra perfect little squares are still a thing on Instagram, a response has been quietly (and not so quietly) brewing in the background for other Instagrammers. Running completely counter to the extra shiny false positivity, this new cohort is seeking to share a more authentic representation of their lives in all of its messy glory.
Maybe it’s about their perfect imperfections, and perhaps the candid portrayal is still a bit of a lie, but it does appear more authentic, more real, less filtered.
These new influencers are abandoning the Instagram look, going back to the #nofilter days when you could actually put the “insta” in Instagram (though most of their posts are probably still latergrams). This is real life… sort of. Shared on the Internet for fun and profit… whether it involves a walk in the woods or sharing the house that Internet marketing bought.