What Your Instagram Aesthetic Says About You
Image by Emily Bowler
Curating the perfect Instagram profile is an impossible balancing act. If you don't come across fit, you have to at least come across cool, or like you have your shit together. You have to pretend you have other interests beyond going to the pub and scrolling through Instagram. You have to seem like you party sometimes in a "I have lots of mates with different haircuts" way, and not a "I clearly have a ketamine problem and can barely hold my life together, please reach out in the DMs" way. The grid has to have decent colours; no one wants to scroll through sludge. Or hashtags. Or emojis.
Of, course there are people out there – nice, regular, genuinely secure people – who opt out of these pressures. This piece isn't for you. Go back to IG-ing your dog walks and #dinnersfortwo. As for the rest of you: please read on.
Really, everyone's IG aesthetic can be loosely divided into a few basic categories. Tag yourself.
LOTS OF PASTEL PINK, DYED ARMPIT HAIR, PHOTOS OF YOUR DIGITAL ART ZINE ON SILK OR FLUFFY FABRIC
You write "beauty standards r boring" beneath a close-up of your flat stomach, because it has three hairs below the bellybutton. "cellulite is cute" you write, beneath a mirror selfie of your perfectly round, sculpted arse. "if ur in brooklyn tonite, come down 2 my show" you write, beneath a pic of you and someone from PC Music in baby blue puffa jackets. Your show is a large white room covered in your own nudes, with recordings of you reading WhatsApp chats aloud. You have probably been on the Dazed 100. I think you came 24th.
ENTIRELY MONOCHROME STREET PHOTOGRAPHY WITH WHITE BORDERS, NO PICS OF YOU APART FROM ONE TWO YEARS AGO WEARING A TINY BLACK ROLL BEANIE
You are a straight white dude called Charlie who got a Nikon DSLR from your nan for Christmas.
YOU ARE IN BASICALLY EVERY POST – LAUGHING, LOVING, LIVING – ON HOLIDAY, AT MUSIC FESTIVALS, IN CAFÉS...
You're one or more or all of the following: fashion blogger/influencer/activist/model/DJ. Each image of you looking over your sunglasses has been through ten filter and grid symmetry apps to get to this point. Most captions are either full of hashtags – "Wow what an unforgettable gig at #TheO2. Have always been a massive fan of having a caffeine boost – thanks @Alpro! – before a show and thank god I could see thanks to these new cat eye frames #ShouldveGoneToSpecsavers #ad" – or start or finish with a vague Queer Eye or Drag Race reference.
You wonder if a paid partnership post with KFC is problematic when you're a UK size 6, but they're offering a grand... so, probably fine? Most of your low-level anxiety centres around the three As: Authenticity, Algorithms and Alfie. You and the boyf have scheduled sex once a month – dependent on DJ sets and early morning brand breakfasts in Central. You spend most of that 20 minutes relaxing by thinking about how you’ve nearly saved for a mortgage. Yes, queen, work it!
ALL THE ABOVE BUT WITHOUT TAGS
Wannabe blogger/an average woman.
FILTERLESS, UNSMILING MIRROR SELFIES OF YOU IN A TURTLENECK WITH SLICKED BACK HAIR, OBSCURE PHOTOS OF RANDOM OBJECTS, A SCULPTURE THAT LOOKS LIKE A PILE OF GLOOP
You studied Fine Art at Goldsmiths. You got a first. There was a rumour going around that you knowingly tried fentanyl. Someone else said you used to DJ at Berghain under the alias "trashy bb". Apparently you are in a non-monogamous relationship with a 37-year-old woman who is always "out of town". No one has ever heard you speak – apart from one person, who said you had an American accent, but it could have been Scandinavian. You are filthy rich.
You've never applied a filter. Feed is all post-post-post-ironic memes involving early-90s cartoons, American household brands and spelling mistakes. Someone not in the know would think they’d stumbled across a Facebook Mum let loose on the gram. In a Shitposting 101 class they’d show your front-camera selfies, horrible pasta and back catalogue of "Ugly Things You've Seen in the Street".
You haven’t had sex in a year, and lash out when women don’t want to go Spoons with you. Older than you seem, you work in ads or branded content, but wake up face burning in the night about the time no one clapped at your spoken word reading. You have an alt Twitter account that only the lads know about. You hate astrology and anything that women like.
UGLY CLOTHES, VINTAGE DESIGNER SUNGLASSES, PROSECCO AT GALLERY OPENINGS, NO FILTER AESTHETIC
You're a north London fashion girl with a moderate coke habit. Strangers spend minutes trying to understand why you look good in mid-range designer clothes put together in ugly combos before realising for the nth time it’s because you’re very thin. Aha! A lot of effort goes into looking this uncaring. You smoke Marlboro Reds and say you went to a state school, but really it was selective and politicians' kids went there.
You could be any gender, the aesthetic is everything. Each post has been through VSCO twice. Every time you get a new tattoo you Instagram it. You take photos of all your vegan food and your knees in the park next to a book on theory. You thirst trap relentlessly and hide Instagram stories from your bosses. You swing between sobriety and being a massive madhead. You love old pop punk and try to listen to new music but hate it. You probably work in east London, like, maybe at VICE or something. Mummy/Daddy issues. As miserable as the normies.
Live with your parents in a semi-detatched home in an urban centre; get told off by mum for eating family packs of snacks she’s bought for the week. You think women with pubes are gross but your long suffering girlfriend has to remind you to use cotton buds.
You smoke weed all day because you are on a year out (for mental health/life reasons) from a half-finished sociology degree. You masturbate with very expensive vibrators and spend most of your freelance money on expensive underwear and novelty vapes.
UNBELIEVABLE CHEEKBONES, STRING VEST, SEPTUM PIERCING, HOT MEN HOLDING CUTE DOGS, STICK N POKES OF OBSCURE CULT FIGURES LIKE TAMMY FAYE
ALL SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT FILTERS: HAND HOLDING A PINT, TINDER PORTRAITS TAKEN BY MATES ON 33MM, A CRÈME BRÛLÉE, PARENTS' DOG, RARE PHOTO OF YOUR GIRLFRIEND AT RESTAURANTS WITH THE CAPTION 'THIS ONE'
Bless, you are trying your best. Bit all over the place. Just Peep Show references and a stream of seaside landscapes and pub gardens with mates. Pretty pleased when a holiday happens because it gives you a chance to smash out a load of IG pics before a month of silence. Modern masculinity, NOT easy.
DAYS OUT AT THE PARK, SOME NICE RISOTTO THAT YOU MADE WITH A SMUG/HORNY FACE EMOJI, PHOTOS OF YOU SWEATING AFTER GOING FOR A RUN
You have no agenda, you are comfortable with yourself. You are 35 and own a dog. Career on the go. You smile with teeth in pictures. You’ve never done a thirst trap. Imagine.