Casual Instagram and Why I (Finally) Like Using the Platform Again.

I was in high school when Instagram first started to take off. I got to experience Instagram before it was a major social media platform. Before the amount of likes you got determined your worth, and before it was plastered with ads. As you can imagine, it was a simpler time.

Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

Since then its definitely gone through its phases. I was in college when Instagram was at its peak with Youtubers, Bloggers, Insta models, sorority girls, etc. This era is what lead me to go through the lowest self-esteem I’ve ever had.

When I was in Middle school, there was once a special day when all the girls got taken out of their classrooms and herded into the auditorium to have a guest speaker come in and talk about self-esteem in young girls like ourselves. She warned us about the dangers of comparing ourselves to the girls in magazines, and other media. How they’re all airbrushed to oblivion and that even the models themselves don’t even look how they do in the pictures.

At the time, I was confused on why we were even having a special speaker. None of the things she talked about had ever applied to me and I had never given any mind to how the girls in magazines looked. I never had any magazines when I was a kid. I grew up with two older brothers and since we were poor, I rarely had any feminine toys or even a feminine influence around. I was interested in more traditionally feminine things, such as makeup and dresses, but I was quickly bullied out of those interests by my brothers. That feminine side of me didn’t really come out until my later teens.

Because of this, I think I skipped over that part in every tween girls life when they go through crippling self-esteem. It wasn’t until I got all the way to college that I finally understood what that speaker had been saying so long ago.

I had never minded models in magazines, or beautiful actresses, or celebrities because they were models, actresses, celebrities. It’s literally their job to look stunning.

However seeing my peers looking perfect, beautiful, popular, and witty online? That was something else completely.

Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash

I knew these people. They were just like me. Grew up beside me. Had classes together, did track together. Now, the online comparisons have set in. Having a powerful online presence where you look beautiful, popular, and witty was now what determined your social status. I just couldn’t hold a candle.

When it comes to your peers on social media, its not even just about their looks, we’re comparing whole lives. Does yours look perfect? Do you take multiple vacations to the most gorgeous places on earth and look good while doing it? Did you make the deans list? Did you get a massive scholarship?

Now that I’m older and wiser, I know that social media is just the highlight reel and nobodies life looks like how they portray it online. However I was younger and dumber at the time and it truly felt like everyone else’s life was so much better than mine and I was somehow doing something wrong.

Photo by Deon on Unsplash

After a while, I just couldn’t bare it any longer. It just seemed liked everyone’s life was doing so much better than mine. I tried to fit in and play along but this was just something I was not good at. Instagram was causing me so much stress and anxiety that I started to get ulcers and styes. Eventually, one night I came home and was so overwhelmed by anxiety that I just sat down and combed through all of my social media and deleted every single one.

It stayed like that for a good while and I had no online presence. Eventually my anxiety lessened and I was able to function in the real world again. I don’t think it was until after college that I started to grow a new sense of confidence and security in myself.

Instagram also changed during my hiatus. Finstas were the hot new thing and people were being more real on Instagram than they probably had ever been. I think people had grown tired the “perfect” Insta. So they started to be more real.

Instagram’s users have gone through many cultural shifts since it was first launched back in 2010. I think that the biggest shift happened somewhere along the pandemic. We all had time to look ourselves in the mirror and self-reflect a little bit on what matters to us. We started to take our lives a little less seriously. This, coupled with the new avant-garde generation joining the platform, has lead to what we now know as casual Instagram.

Photo by Mike Von on Unsplash

Casual Instagram is exactly what it sounds like. Users care less and less about how they are perceived and artistic expression is the motivation.

The platform has also added new features so you can choose to no longer see other people’s likes or your own. It’s not a perfect solution, but it takes away the motivation to gain likes or compare yourself to other peoples’ likes.

The Instagram of old is finally dead. I now actually enjoy using the platform to express myself to my friends in an artistic way that I have never been able to before. Have you ever expressed yourself to your friends in just sounds and images that only really make sense to whoever’s in on the joke? It’s absolutely beautiful.

I’ve grown out of needing everyone to like me. Social media no longer occupies my thoughts and I am encouraged to be as artistic and expressive as I want. No platform is perfect, but Instagram has become a place I want to be a part of.

I can (finally) say that I like using Instagram again.

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Kathryn McCarville

Kathryn McCarville

I’m really just at the mercy of my own perspective. Instagram — @katie_mccarv