Goodbye filters, hello authenticity: the influencers embracing a grittier, satirical style of content creation

Posted by Caroline Edwards in Comment

3 months ago

Instagram and the term “highlights reel” have become synonymous with each other over the past few years. Since its inception, Instagram has been the place to showcase a bite-size, rose-tinted reality, but post-pandemic people are tired of seeing a perfect edited life and creators are fatigued from “Instagram anxiety”. Influencers – who were once affiliated with over-saturated, glossy photos filtered with orange-hued Lightroom presets – are now mocking the idea of what an “influencer” is by embracing the “anti-aesthetic” trends of photo dumps, unedited selfies, outtakes and memes to bring a much-needed dose of authenticity to social media. 

To combat the desire for a flawless ‘gram, people (mainly Gen Z creators) started finstas (that is, fake Instagrams) in 2015/2016, which are dedicated second accounts designed to store the messier, unfiltered bits of their lives. Then in 2019, digital culture reporter Taylor Lorenz’s article for The Atlantic titled “The Instagram Aesthetic Is Over,” reported Gen Z influencers such as vlogger Emma Chamberlain and Instagrammer Reese Blutstein were opting to share unedited (but still glamorous) photos from their camera roll – introducing traditional finsta-type content on their real accounts. At the same time, US influencers like Isabelle Estrin were posting grainy, pixelated photos and The Messy Heads founder (think a Cali-cool Rookie Mag) Emmanuelle Czerwinski’s Instagram read more like a Tumblr page than a regular Insta-worthy feed with memes and videos of them pouring condiments on her chips. The anti-trend was a bit of a “stick it to the man” movement of what a traditional influencer looked like and posted, but only a select few embraced it.

Fast forward to 2021 and more influencers are choosing to share the messier realities of their lives online. Earlier this month, Refinery29 declared that “social media is eating itself” due to the “meta selfie” (that is, a selfie within a selfie – selfie-inception). The traditional mirror selfie is gone and instead, people are taking photos with noughties cameras, CCTV-style photos, selfies at the grocery self-checkout and using their laptop screens to take selfies as part of the ongoing Y2K phenomenon. Model Simone Murphy’s photo dumps are a collection of memes, funny tweets and selfies whilst Flossie Clegg films videos using Mac’s Photobooth software and out of focus selfies. Millennials might still be embracing flat-lay avocado toast brunches, but Gen Z is now fully embracing grittier, more satirical content.

This new “shitposting” trend seems chaotic and uncalculated, but I doubt that’s the case. The photos might be blurry, but they’re still scrolling through their camera roll to find the best of the bunch. It’s not the usual Facetune-d selfie taken with a ring light, but the anti-trend movement is yet another way for influencers to connect with their audiences. It’s the same reason why influencers like Georgie Clarke and Emily Clarkson create “Instagram versus reality” content or why Scummy Mummies and Sophie McCartney share the hilarious, unfiltered realities of motherhood – it’s relatable.

The anti-aesthetic movement feels very Tumblr circa 2014. It’s a growing community that is resisting the usual fluff of filters and mirror selfies to create perhaps “edgier” content. In 2021, caring about your Instagram feed is uncool and being spontaneous and casual with your posting is the new it trend.

By Caroline Edwards, staff writer for CORQ. Picture credit: Kaludia Kedziora via Instagram