The Instagram Aesthetic Is Over

A pink wall

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Matt Klein, a cultural strategist at the consultancy Sparks & Honey, also says he’s seen a gradual shift away from the rainbow-colored preplanned photos that dominated the platform in late 2017. “We all know the jig is up,” he says. “We’ve all participated in those staged photos. We all know the stress and anxiety it takes. And we can see through it. Culture is a pendulum, and the pendulum is swaying. That’s not to say everyone is going to stop posting perfect photos. But the energy is shifting.”

“Everyone is trying to be more authentic,” says Lexie Carbone, a content marketer at Later Media, a social-media marketing firm. “People are writing longer captions. They are sharing how much money they make … I think it all goes back to, you don’t want to see a girl standing in front of a wall that you’ve seen thousands of times. We need something new.”

Incoming College Students Are Re-creating Facebook on Instagram

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By the time many college freshmen arrive on campus this fall, they’ll have already met their roommate, their core friends, and many of their classmates on Instagram. They’re connecting through class accounts, Instagram pages set up by one or several incoming members of a college’s freshman class to help everyone meet before the school year officially starts.

These accounts have names such as @penn2023_and @AUclassof2023, and they typically feature user-submitted photos and paragraph-long biographies of incoming students, often including their intended major, whether they’re looking for a roommate, and their personal Instagram handle. “Hey!” the caption on one recent class page reads. “I am from Overland Park, Kansas and plan to major in environmental and natural resources. I love anything outdoors (hiking, kayaking, hammocking) and i’m always down to get food!!! I am definitely interested in rushing! I would love to talk to you guys, (i need a roommate!!) so please DM me about anything!:)”

 

Under the Influence of a ‘Super Bloom’

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“At the beginning of the year, if you told me this is what we were going to be dealing with, I would have called you crazy,” said Steve Manos, the mayor of Lake Elsinore, a small town in Southern California. He was taking a brief reprieve from dealing with the biggest crisis of his short term in office yet: an explosion of picture-perfect California poppies in the Temescal Mountains, just northwest of the center of town.

“The poppy bloom in Lake Elsinore is unlike anything I’ve seen in my 32 years living in Lake Elsinore,” he said. “The flowers are especially vibrant in color, they are numerous and they’re covering the entire mountain.”

The problem for the mayor isn’t the flame-orange poppies themselves, which blossom in the springtime after heavy winter rains follow an extended drought. It’s their adoring, smartphone-equipped fans, who have shown up in droves over the past three weeks, bringing with them horrible traffic and occasionally horrible etiquette when they wander off the trail to pose with, trample or even pick the poppies.

How Instagram Replaced the Contacts List

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When Chris Rackliffe, a motivational speaker in New York, met a potential friend at a bar last weekend, it never occurred to him to exchange phone numbers. Instead, the two swapped Instagram handles, and have been liking each other’s posts. Rackliffe said they’ll probably meet up in person again soon.

“It’s so much more casual to give someone your Instagram handle and keep in touch through stories and DMs,” Rackliffe said. “Swapping numbers feels so serious and stiff nowadays.”

The Captionfluencers

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Famous or possibly hoping to be, they are members of a chorus, voices resonating in supersize captions, some as long as 300 words, published not on Facebook or Tumblr, as you may suspect, but on their Instagram feeds.

Champions of the long-form post, they are confounding expectations.

Instagram, after all, was conceived as a photography app, a place to post the contents of a fancy meal, catch the play of light on a tousled bed, celebrate a professional coup, show off a bikini body or a family trip to the beach.

It’s flourishing now as one of the web’s most compelling storytelling platforms, a repository for uplifting confessions, compressed screeds, some with candidly political overtones, self-help digests, mini essays and speculative musings and, perhaps most compellingly, serialized memoirs in sound-bite form.

No question, the long-form caption is trending…

Teens Are Debating the News on Instagram

Screenshots of Instagram "flop" accounts

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Naturally, they’ve turned to Instagram. Specifically, they’ve turned to “flop” accounts—pages that are collectively managed by several teens, many of them devoted to discussions of hot-button topics: gun control, abortion, immigration, President Donald Trump, LGBTQ issues, YouTubers, breaking news, viral memes.

But as flop accounts grow by the thousands as teens seek refuge from the wider web, many of the internet’s worst dynamics have begun to duplicate themselves on Instagram. Some flop accounts are rife with polarization, drama, and misinformation. All the while, an increasing number of teens are turning to these types of accounts for news, seeing them as more reliable and trustworthy than traditional media.

The accounts post photos, videos, and screenshots of articles, memes, things, and people considered a “flop,” or, essentially, a fail. A flop could be a famous YouTuber saying something racist, someone being rude or awful in person, a homophobic comment, or anything that the teen who posted it deems wrong or unacceptable. Some of the teens who run a given account know one another in real life; more likely, they met online.

Airbnb customers are booking photoshoots to #vacation like Instagram influencers

Cherry Blossom tourist

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n LA, one 3.5-hour tour (transportation included for $39!) allows you to hit up all the iconic spots: Hollywood Sign “without spending hours hiking”; the Beverly Hills Sign; that classic view of a street lined with palm trees; a pink wall on Melrose Avenue; and a mural of angel wings to stand in front of. At each location, the guides will take your photo, making sure to get your good side, with your own device.

Their Street Is Famous on Instagram, and They Can’t Take It Anymore

People stand on Paris's Rue Cremieux

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It’s easy to see why Paris’s Rue Crémieux is such a hit on Instagram.

Filled with small pastel-painted houses, weathered cobblestones, and blooming window boxes, the car-free street near Bastille has become one of Europe’s most popular spots to strike a pose, with the hashtag #ruecremieux now linking to over 31,000 images.

We don’t need to take his word for it. A local resident has hit back with the Instagram and Twitter accounts Club Crémieux—tagline “shit people do Rue Crémieux”—which reveals a street thronged with dance crews, bachelorette parties, and even, for some reason, Japanese municipal mascot Kumamon. Filled with people attracted to a setting that looks idyllic with the right filter, a resident entering their home becomes an unwonted exercise in photobombing.

How Letterboards Took Over America

A letterboard with an important question

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Wynn Galbraith is only 3, but she already holds an important distinction: At 6 months old, she was, as far as anyone can tell, the first baby ever to be Instagrammed in a now-familiar style, a “flat lay” from above, with a then-novel prop: a felt letterboard that announced her age.

This photo setup is a common one on the app these days. You’ve no doubt seen and maybe even double-tapped at least a few of these shots, which are posted by the dozens each week. The typical sign is black with a wooden frame, and comes with a collection of white plastic letters to be endlessly rearranged into the pithy message of your choosing. The reason we can isolate Wynn as the probable pioneer of the pose is that her mother and father, Johnny and Joanna Galbraith, say they invented it. Inventing a certified Instagram pose is a rare feat, but rarer still is what the Utah-based Galbraiths did with the company they started in 2015, Letterfolk. They didn’t invent the felt letterboard, but by most accounts they are the people responsible for transforming the signs from a forgotten industrial relic to something like a nostalgic décor essential.

Confessions of a Selfie Addict

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…many Instagrammers have, in an effort to add gravitas to their feeds, turned their backs on self-evident charms of the selfie in favor of more sincere genres. Examples include flowers ’n’ sunsets, and, my least favorite, those screenshots of text, usually platitudes of the what-doesn’t-kill-you-will-make-you-stronger variety. Also a bit worrying: those heartwarming pictures of (nonconsenting) pets and children. These make me nervous. I have visions of these unwittingly Instagrammed brats decrying their parents in therapists’ offices in years to come, claiming toddler privacy violations.

I make no apologies for being an unapologetic selfie-apologist. The same boring people who decry the selfie are the ones who used to insist on shoving their TVs inside a French armoire. That is so ratchet! (Am not exactly sure what ratchet means, but the Chainsmokers use it in their “Selfie” song so it must be groovy and au courant.) Selfies are fabulously stupid. Selfie vanity is life-affirming. There’s a manic pouting tween inside all of us. Set her free! Long live the selfie!

While dragging my eyeballs across these endless images of pets and peonies, I made a critical discovery: The most enthralling Instagrammers are, paradoxically, the ones with the most superficial occupations. Nuclear physicists and politicians are a big yawn, but models and makeup artists, are, whether intentionally or unintentionally, quite bizarrely entertaining.