Instagram turns eight in October and with a hundred million active users for each year of its life; no-one can argue the immense success of the channel. More astonishing, 95 million posts are shared every single day, all competing for that perfect ‘Insta shot’. Value is placed on engagement with these images – in the form of likes, shares and comments. Then, every now and again a trend is born, where someone strikes social media gold and gets it just right. The trouble is, everyone is striving for an identical ideal, meaning the content can become a little repetitive and predictable. These are Instagram cliches.
We have spoken before about social media bubbles and echo chambers where built-in algorithms and mainstream media lead to limitations of the content that is both created and in turn that we are shown. As a brand, business or even a personal profile it’s hard to decide whether value and exposure lay in going along with the crowd by creating trend led content. Or by breaking away from the dominant style and putting something out there, that’s fresh and unique. Of course, the ultimate goal would to be a trendsetter yourself – followed by a myriad of imitations, eventually becoming the original in a line of viral posts.
With a personal profile, this choice is less threatening to your success as you aren’t looking to sell products or services. The pressure is still real though, to be shown approval and fit in with the congregation. For young people, it’s even an expectation of being ‘normal’; it’s just what you do.
Did you eat out this weekend? Really? You didn’t Instagram it.
This desperate seeking of ratification can get out of hand. Something we have discussed in an earlier post which addresses the importance of educating our children in social media and its safe use. This article though has an altogether less serious tone, so let’s take a humorous view of Instagram and its most popular types of the image posted.
The Circle of Feet Shot
Usually posted when hanging out with a large circle of friends… excuse the comparison. On a sandy beach, at a muddy festival, or even just your mums carpet with matching novelty socks. I think the aim here is to appear ‘arty’ and like you have a sizeable entourage. Though some people may just assume you and your friends have ugly faces.
@marlayj | @jaibee900 | @bank_xavi
Russian photographer and his wife Nataly created the ‘Follow Me To’ photography series in 2012. Inspiring, sharp and beautiful shots of numerous gorgeous locations. Thus, have been named the couple as top travel influencers. They made it big time, going viral with their breath-taking scenes of Nataly leading her partner to amazing locations around the world. Staged and dressed as they may be, the posts are visually stunning and have led to a mass of impersonation pictures appearing on Instagram. Right now (and more when you read this) there are 387,907,000 posts which have the hashtag #followme on there, most being reproductions of Osmann’s work. Whether mocking the popularity of the photos or as a sign of admiration – these are everywhere. Although your tipsy girlfriend dragging you down the Magaluf strip doesn’t quite have the same effect.
@havepumpwilltrave l @muradosmann | @geetakhona
Food Glorious Food
2017 was the year of the pizza according to a study of 100,000 Instagram images by Photoworld.com. But this is just a slice of the #foodporn pie, with every meal imaginable being snapped and posted on the channel. The most Instagrammed foods around the world include sushi, steak and bacon. There are regional variations too, with London being the top city for burger pics and pulled pork. Whereas Germany does not surprisingly take the biscuit for currywurst.
Food photography is an art in itself, but it seems everyone’s a ‘pro’ now when it comes to documenting their favourite dish. Respected website sites like Elle , The Independent and BBC Good Food offer their top tips on creating Insta worthy food shots. The usual points are present – good lighting, composition and of course a delicious looking subject. However, a current craze (well, it’s been around for a while now, but it’s not budging) is to take your picture from above. Yes, this has led to many an individual took to standing on their stools for the perfect shot. I imagine there have been plenty of food Instagramming accidents too!
Decorative crockery? Check. Nice work surface? Check. Latte art. (Serious Insta points for this one) Double check. And oh, better if you manage to make it symmetrical too!
@jaibee900 | @symmetrybreakfast | @katbalm
Hot dog legs
There are over 42 thousand posts with the hashtag #hotdoglegs that exist on Instagram at this moment (again, this increases every day). Coming about presumably from illustrating the point of view of the photographer while relaxing, most commonly sunbathing. A desire to make others jealous (what else is new) of their location or activity. Usually, an idyllic beach setting, the knees and thighs of the shooter resemble that of hot dog sausages.
Now hot dog leg mania hit big time back in 2013 when shiny, tanned legs (or are they sausages?) we’re being dished out all over the social platform. The trend took a whole other turn when people began creating parodies, substituting real-life legs for actual hot dogs. This got everyone guessing, which was great for engagement. Hot dogs? Legs? So. Much. Fun.
@lotteklomp | @nolwenn_creme | @carolinethesmall
The above instances have all been interesting to the viewer – even if only vaguely. The difference with this one, why are we bothered? This fad reared (or perhaps rested) its head a few years ago now, with many a celebrity snapping their ‘snoozes’. Beyoncé, Kendall Jenner and Anna Kendrick all contributing to the wave. Quite naturally, a selfie, where the person relaxes their head, closes their eyes and captures their forty winks.
Some even go as far as to pretending someone caught them in the act, so the phrase ‘Bae caught me sleeping’ was born. Unlike Beyoncé, the average Joe doesn’t have a publicist (or more probably a personal photographer) on hand who can advise them on their photo before posting. They would also spot the unfortunate circumstance of ‘Bae didn’t catch me sleeping, as I don’t even have a girlfriend, and took this photo myself – look that’s me in the mirror’. Spawning hilarious memes and mocks alongside the ‘serious’ sleepers of Instagram.
I find these photos infuriating, and I am not alone – Hattie Gladwell of The Metro was so annoyed by these pictures she wrote a whole article about it.
@almuqaatila13 | @snowbcooks | @kardavis
Instagram has become an integrated and integral part of a lot of people’s digital social lives. So, will no doubt continue to develop its visual trends and set standards for you to aspire to on your social sharing. Fear is that we may turn into a nation of ‘basic bitches’ (or bros!), with no unique experiences or insights to share. We do have individual intrigues, of course, just expectations associated with social sharing cause us to judge our own reality as inferior. What I find fascinating though, is that these clichés are becoming an art in themselves. Imagine the collection – enough to rival any serious culture exploring the exhibition.
My examples are just a few of the crazes to hit the platform since its launch and gain in popularity. I haven’t even mentioned the typical ‘out of the aeroplane window’, humorous coffee shop, motivational tube stop signs, workout mirror selfies and oh good lord CATS. Don’t get me started on the hashtags and buzzwords attached to these posts… are our oral skills regressing with every perfectly hipster smashed avocado? Watch this space.