If you’re a social media user, today’s post is for you. Specifically – Instagram. And I promise, this isn’t another blog post about social media algorithms and how to beat them. Sorry – I have no clue! If you’re not into social media, maybe skip this one 😉 There’s been a lot of buzz lately about the curation of social media feeds and how that impacts users. This week in particular, I’ve seen a lot of huge bloggers utilizing Instagram stories to talk about how they are often afraid to share their less curated sides of life, because they’ve been showcasing “picture perfect” lifestyles for so long. Other users stand firmly in the “this is my highlight reel, so like it or leave” camp, but all seem to be on the same page about one thing – longing for that sense of authenticity that seems to have been lost amidst consistently styled life portraits. And in the same breath – most of us agree and understand that Instagram is a visual platform intended for inspiration.
Before I go any further, let’s first clear something up – a curated social feed means that the person or persons behind it have a very calculated formula for what gets posted, a color scheme, and/or planned posts that tie into the overall aesthetic or brand. For example, my feed is curated, but my captions and Instagram stories are not. See also: a lot of what my day-to-day life looks like without pretty filters and/or making sure I’ve done my hair. Heck, most of the time I’m still sweaty from a run! My reasoning behind this is two-fold – 1. It follows my own personal preferences for using Instagram – I prefer to look at pretty photos, but enjoy thought provoking captions. After all, it’s a visual platform! Hate to say it – but I don’t feel inspired by someone’s dirty dishes or piles of laundry (just my personal opinion of course!). 2. When I do crave a dose of someone’s real life or a peek behind-the-scenes, I’ll watch their stories.
While all of this was brewing, I had the pleasure of sitting down with a local journalist to talk about it a little bit more in depth and why being an “open book” on social media is so important to me. You can read the article here. I won’t twist your arm, but Jaimie did a real great job shaping the piece and my favorite quote is: “I try to be as genuine as possible online – the same type of experience you would get if we hung out in person, so I’m always very real on social media even when it’s not necessarily pretty. I’ve gone through some pretty heavy stuff in my life and shared most of it online, which, if I’m being totally honest, I think people appreciate. We live in a weird culture where a lot of people only show the pretty parts of their life, like new clothes and puppies, so when you share something raw and real (like my fears during the false missile messaging or healing from sexual assault) people are like – whoa, I can relate. It adds a dimension of humanity to your online presence, which I think has been lost a little bit along the way.”
On top of the article I was quoted in and all the buzz on social media itself regarding Instagram, I saw the topic pop up again this morning in the Washington Post and you can read that here. Without re-hashing it all, the journalist writing the article seems to point fingers at social media, Instagram in particular, as the reason behind unrealistic standards and the comparison game. It’s a great read and I highly recommend it. After I read it, I reached out to a blogging mastermind group I’m part of and we all agreed that it’s definitely a hot topic of debate right now, so I took a poll on my Instagram stories about how people felt about the platform in general and asking if users preferred a curated feed that doesn’t necessarily show clogged drains or piles of laundry or prefer feeds that are less curated and show the messy and sometimes visually unappealing slices of life.
I learned a couple things – most people didn’t think my feed was curated, which I suppose is a huge compliment, so thank you to those folks. I wish I could say I was consistently flying our drone or sipping cocktails at the beach. I WISH! 😉 But they also said that they appreciated looking at my stylized photos and didn’t lump me into the “curated category”, because my captions + stories are always a glimpse into what my “real life” is like.
“I actually love that your feed is curated, its so pretty! But at the same time you are still very authentic and fun to follow because you are so open and share a lot while also posting gorgeous images.” – Jane
But more importantly, it sparked an amazing discussion among the Instagram community that engaged with my poll. The final totals were 31% curated, 69% not curated with 501 total voters in 6 hours. Lots of people had lots of things to say! Interestingly enough, most of the people that I heard from voted for a curated feed, even though non-curated won by more than double. I’m a little bit perplexed by this, but I truly believe Lisa is on to something…
“I’m especially interested in whether people who say they want to see uncurated feeds actually follow “normal” people who post that type of “real” content. (Especially because you have a gorgeous curated feed so your followers must like that sort of content, whether they realize it or not!). I mean think about it…’I want to see a noncurated feed of all gorgeous pics that have a distinct look and display well in a grid and that shows authenticity but only the prettiest stuff that I can aspire to but is also completely relatable.'”
I believe there were some laughing emojis in there, but she’s right! So, let’s dive into what others had to say…
“Curated feeds. Raw instastories. It’s the perfect mix.” – Laura
“I have mixed feelings about what I have seen on this topic. I have seen so many people say people should put their whole lives on social media, the good and bad. I don’t necessarily agree with that. I wouldn’t walk into a grocery store or my office and announce the fight I had with my husband the night before or our financial status. There are somethings that are just personal. Just because someone has a curated feed doesn’t make me think they have a perfect life, or make me feel bad about mine.” – Laura
“So I was thinking about it…. if your feed is considered curated, I like it. I try to incorporate both into mine. But ultimately what I do like about Instagram is if one is making their pictures more curated on their feed, then stories is a great way to show you “typical” “normal” life. Does that sound crazy?! That’s what I like to do with mine- bc my everyday attire is not always pretty or makeup isn’t always perfect, etc. so I like that you can hop on stories and connect with your viewers.” – Meredith
“I like pretty pictures when I can see their real life via Insta Stories.” – Michelle
“I like pretty pictures. I think it shoes the artistic side of blogger. I watch Insta Stories for the real unedited mess of life.” – Hallie
Team Non-Curated or On The Fence
“I think people think they want uncurated but don’t necessarily know the difference.” – Steph
“I’m on the fence. I LOVE feeds like yours – curated but still real and you. I’m sick of the accounts that just show themselves off with the same type of edits in every photo. I’m happy for their successes but their feeds aren’t relatable or real.” –Brittany
“I want something in between Like pretty pictures that go well on a page together, but still real and authentic sharing.” – Heather
Others didn’t fall into one camp or the other. They really just think people need to be themselves and there will be an audience for everyone – curated or not.
“Social media should be for whatever the person wants their feed to be! I like beautiful pictures and real commentary. My feed is a mix of both.” – Kelsey
“I think curated feeds are businesses. I don’t really see them as personal, but commercial. I think people should do whatever they damn well please with their account! – Mallory
So where do we go from here? And other thoughts I thought were very relevant:
“I feel like this discussion that’s going on is great and has brought up so many good points, but I feel like the solution is not for everyone to suddenly have an uncurated more “real” feed. I feel inspired when I look at your photos and I think you do really well.” – Jane
“I don’t look at curated accounts and think ‘wow, they must have such a great life.’ They just know how to clear their shit to take good pictures.” – Mallory
I’ll be honest – comparison and “keeping up with the Joneses” is an easy trap to fall into on Instagram and social media as a whole, I sometimes catch myself teetering on the edge of comparing my body, life, shopping trips, etc. BUT WHY? We can all be ourselves and find success.
My friend Chelsea put it so well that I can’t help but quote her here: “It’s been said before, social media is a highlight reel. I think that’s just where we are as a society. There are a few brave souls out there that share the nitty gritty messy stuff and it works for them but it doesn’t work for all of us. Not all of us feel comfortable with that. I have a hard time going on stories with no makeup on. I can’t imagine telling the world about my parenting struggles. Also, the internet has shifted so much – people don’t want to read long blog posts anymore. They want to get to know you by looking at pictures and videos and reading short captions. It’s not bad or good it’s just the evolution. As for me, I like something in between a curated and non curated feed. I like to see a mirror selfie every now and then but I also like pretty pictures. I DO NOT like when every picture has the same colors/filter and there is no variety. But at the end of the day, there is an audience for everyone.”
Does being authentic mean posting photos of an unfiltered life or is there a balance you can strike? Do you feel that Instagram or blogging has become too curated? What is your social media preference? I would love to know your thoughts on this in the comments if you feel strongly one way or the other, or have a happy medium!