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Authenticity + Instagram

Last week, I was catching up on my Feedly when I came across my friend Rachel’s most recent Links + Loves post. She always shares insightful articles which I would’ve otherwise missed, so I’m always excited when I see a new one pop up in my feed.  In this particular post, it was the third article from Darling that caught my eye.  It’s entitled, “On Living Without Regrets,” and it shares six common regrets many people experience.  The first one really resonated with me and it’s what I want to talk about today.

“I didn’t live an authentic life.”  This really got me thinking about instagram (shocking, I know), and the way my usage and relationship with the platform has evolved over the past few years.  I’ve talked a little bit about my feelings on fashion and lifestyle bloggers in the past, namely how disheartened I feel by the severe lack of authenticity.  I’m obviously not saying that every single person is inauthentic, nor am I condemning and blaming instagram for having influenced me in the past.  I’m just thankful that I’ve been able to adjust my mindset and question why I want to do something before I make any decisions.  In the past I might see someone in a cute dress sipping coffee at a quirky Brooklyn cafe and think “I want that!”  Whether I was purchasing said dress with a photo in mind (I am totally guilty of this), allowing myself to believe that I would wear this dress out more than once (I wouldn’t), or just aspirationally daydreaming about having an experience other than my own in the current moment (such as sipping tea at a quirky Brooklyn cafe on a weekday afternoon when I would realistically be sitting at my desk at work), I certainly fell victim to the seemingly “authentic” people marketing them to me.

Two July’s ago for my long birthday weekend, Andrew and I went to Rose Mansion which is the epitome of a superficial instagram pop up.  I had seen such cute photos in my feed so I bought tickets for us and while it was an experience, it was far removed from the experience I had been anticipating.  This is when I first got thinking about my relationship with instagram.  Sure, Rose Mansion was very pink and adorably laid out, but I can honestly say that Andrew I were the only two people who read the facts on the walls about the making of Rose.  The majority of our “experience” involved waiting on lines so everyone could attempt taking instagram photos with their colorful backdrops, life size props and atrocious lighting (seriously, for an experience that promotes photos, the lighting in the space was laughable).  I posted my photos anyway because for $50 a ticket, you can bet I was going to make the most of it.  Ever since then, I’ve stayed away from all of the gimmicky pop ups that have surfaced in NYC.  There are certainly the one offs that catch my attention, but I always think back to Rose Mansion and then immediately refrain from wasting my time.  This to me is the exact definition of an inauthentic experience.  I went. I waited on lines. I smiled when it was my turn. I left feeling totally jaded. I posted my photos anyway.

Back in May when I talked about feeling inspired again, I did a thing.  I unfollowed pretty much every lifestyle and fashion blogger that I followed on instagram with the exception of friends and two or three who are New York based, though I did mute their stories.  After a few weeks of my digital detox, I was really surprised to find that I was shopping less.  Both consciously and subconsciously, I had been letting instagram infiltrate my life on an unhealthy level.  I think it was a combination of this revelation and Andrew putting so much work into setting up a budgeting system that works for us that allowed me to readjust my mindset. First and foremost, having a budget is a total game changer because I now feel like I need to check spreadsheets before I buy anything to begin with.  Secondly, anytime I’m looking at clothes online, I think about the shapes that flatter my body type most, the fabrics that I find most comfortable (I am not here for anything that doesn’t at least a little bit feel like pajamas), whether I realistically see myself reaching for the item on multiple occasions, and what I can’t buy if I choose to buy the thing I’m looking at (opportunity cost! Thanks economics!).

The three sentences that spoke the most to me in the article say:

1) “It’s so easy to let the priorities and values of other people guide us and therefore lose track of who we really are and our own needs and dreams.”

2) “It’s important to pause, be mindful and consider the “why” behind our actions.”

3) “You don’t want to regret not living your life being who you really are.”

In today’s world, I think it’s really easy to get confused about what truly makes you the most happy.  Instagram feeds are inundated with people who’s literal full time job is to sell their followers a very specific lifestyle.  It can be tough to separate what you see making other people happy from what you will actually appreciate.  I think it’s important to reframe your lens and examine decision making and emotions from all angles before deciding on what’s best for you. “Influencers,” (a term that makes me cringe when people try to apply it to me), get sent tons of free product and their job is to take one photo in it and then they put it up for sale in their Poshmark or Depop and move on to the next project.  I am not demeaning what they do.  It’s really hard work to come up with photo concepts and plan location shoots, mentally draining to be “on” all the time, and photo editing is forever a learning process.

There are certain influencers that really inspire me and I always look forward to their content.  There are other influencers that I’ve unfollowed because I just don’t trust their opinions.  And there are more that I’ve refollowed who I do see as inauthentic, but I follow because they might alert me to a new NYC place to try.  It’s taken me time to actively make these distinctions but I’m glad I’m finally here.  I can look at photos and think “wow! that’s a super cute dress and it looks great on that person, but it wouldn’t fit my lifestyle.”  I can appreciate their post for being aesthetically pleasing and then move on.  When someone says something is their new favorite [insert item of clothing / homeware / accessory here], I always pause to consider if I actually have a need for the item.  From there, I think about how it would pair with what I already own, if I might already have something similar, and if I can realistically see myself reaching for it more than once.  I also think it’s really helpful to wait a few days before impulsively purchasing anything.  More often than not, I find that I’m less excited once the initial thrill has passed and I’m able to reallocate my budget toward something that better suits my needs.

I do hope this post didn’t come off as me being completely negative toward instagram.  It’s meant to be a criticism of how I’ve let it influence me in the past.  I really enjoy using their platform and I’ve learned a TON about photography since I first made my account (which is evident in the quality of photos I used to post versus what I post nowadays).  It’s such a fun escape from the day and it’s a much happier place than Twitter.  It’s helped me discover some hidden gems in NYC.  It’s led to countless ice cream cones and books that ended up being forever favorites. And most importantly, it’s allowed me to capture memories with the family and friends that I treasure above all else. And for that, I am very thankful!


7 Responses to “Authenticity + Instagram”

  1. Dude, I LOVE this post. So many of your thoughts, especially about whether I NEED to buy something or not, are my thoughts about insta – and about fashion/lifestyle blogging in general. I used to be a fashion blogger before there was Instagram, or even Twitter, and even then, I was always struck by what the reality of meeting people or being at Fashion Week was. It always looked so pretty from the outside, but the inside was catty and full of people I didn’t like. And I feel like sometimes that’s true of Instagram, too. I don’t follow as many fashion people, but even with bookstagram accounts, I sometimes wonder whether people actually love the books they’re photographing, or whether it’s just “for the gram”. Don’t get me wrong – I love beautiful photos of books, too, but do I think all of these book are “the best book ever?” Nope. How much of the content is real? How much is selling something? Anyway. Appreciate your post that articulates all this in a much better way than I did. =P
    Tiff @ Mostly YA Lit recently posted…The Friend Zone, Superfan, The Unhoneymooners & More! | Recently in RomanceMy Profile

  2. B says:

    I love this post! Sometimes I feel like my IG isn’t “good enough” when I see some others that are out there but guess what, it’s fine and it’s mine! No one else really cares about my account but me and I think keeping that mindset helps with the FOMO.
    B recently posted…The Sacrifices Work! I Secured SDCC Badges!My Profile

    • Kristin says:

      I totally get that feeling! I used to feel like my photos weren’t good enough either because there’s always someone who does it better! Now I just try to have fun and post what makes me happy and not try to fit a feed aesthetic. It’s so true, I’m probably the only one that overanalyzes my feed and no one else even looks at it lol

  3. Cate says:

    I totally feel this, I’ve been taking more and more breaks from posting on my blog and Instagram I felt like I was just doing things for the content and not actually enjoying it myself so now I try to focus on what I want to do, living in the moment and less on the posting unless I feel really compelled to share the experience. It’s so easy to become consumed by it all but I’m glad you’re finding a healthy balance again xoxo
    Cate recently posted…Wishtrend: Cruelty Free Korean Beauty & Skincare ReviewMy Profile

  4. Rachel says:

    This is SO well said! I love me a good Instagran feed or photo, but it can be exhausting to keep up with it! Totally agree about the authenticity piece of things too. It’s crazy to think about the evolution of the platform!
    Rachel recently posted…How to Pick the Perfect Wedding DressMy Profile

  5. Alexa S. says:

    You already know how much I share your sentiments, but I wanted to say that I appreciate so much that you were able to put it into words and write this post. It’s so interesting to see how Instagram (and my usage of it) has shifted over the years! Finding my balance in terms of what/how I use it has been filled with ups and downs, but I think I’ve finally gotten to a good place.
    Alexa S. recently posted…Festive Fun Day with Rachel & KristinMy Profile

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