Antithesis to Aesthetic

Instagram users have switched from posting overly curated content to more casual content.


Art by Sam Mutz


Over the past couple of months, Palo Alto students, and teenagers alike, have been taking a new approach to one of the biggest social media platforms— Instagram. This social media app has been known to pressure users to present “picture-perfect” versions of themselves, restricting Instagrammers with social rules: don’t post frequently, make sure all your photos are cohesive, and keep captions brief. However, some students have started showing uniqueness by posting more casually and using the app without following Instagram’s “unwritten” social norms. 

Up until recently, many Paly students have felt restricted while using Instagram. The social media app’s social pressures have caused students to be more aware of their posting habits and activities on Instagram.

Paly senior Tessa Ehrlich first became aware of these “rules” when she joined the app in middle school. “A friend of mine told me that people only post once a week max,” Ehrlich said. “I was annoyed because I had all these photos I thought were so cool but had nowhere to put, and I wanted all my friends to see them. But to avoid seeming annoying, I listened to her and posted maybe once a week.” 

Ehrlich’s experience is a very common one; because all her peers were following these “rules,” Ehrlich had to align with the norms of Instagram, creating even more pressure.

Fellow senior Jeremy Huang also felt affected by the pressures of the app. “For the first week I had Instagram, I posted whatever I wanted,” Huang said. “Later, I felt pressured to not do that anymore, so I started to post only when I had a ‘real’ event to post about.”

While many people felt the expectations to post a specific type of content, senior Sydney Pang describes the pressure she felt to edit her posts on popular editing applications, such as VSCO, to maintain an aesthetically pleasing feed. “I vividly remember going through the VSCO C4 filter phase that was pretty common at the time,” Pang said. “My oversaturated photos sought to match those I saw on the accounts of influencers I followed.”

Many Palo Alto teens have started to ignore these unwritten rules to share “aesthetic” photos on social media and return to posting more authentic and candid pictures. Ehrlich made this switch at the start of 2020 after finding her passion for photography. 

Art by Sam Mutz

“I started posting more casually because I never really liked posting myself,” Ehrlich said. “I found there to be too much pressure to look perfect, and I would stress myself out not wanting anyone who saw the post to think I looked ugly, so I quit that and started using Instagram to share things I found joy and beauty in.”

Pang also started to post more casually once she found the source of her social media stress.“I realized that there wasn’t really a point to having social media if I didn’t feel comfortable posting whatever I wanted,” Pang said. “For a while, posting felt so restrictive, so I just let go and decided to post random photos I took.” 

Posting casually has not only positively changed Instagram’s culture, but it also has had a great impact on the users like junior Cate Dyer. “I post what makes me happy without stressing what others will think of it,” Dyer said. “I don’t feel pressured to take and pick the ‘perfect’ photo anymore.” 

Without the pressure to pick “the perfect photo,” users are able to happily enjoy the app while showing their true personalities on the social media platform. The positive effects of casual posting have challenged the uses of traditional posting. 

By breaking free from social media’s norms, these unwritten rules are losing their power as fewer people adhere to them. Because posting casually serves as a small form of rebellion, users feel a greater sense of freedom when posting. Instagrammers are finally able to express their unique personalities, creativity and their exciting daily adventures. 

However, not everyone must start posting random photos to feel free on Instagram. Whether a user chooses to post casually or follow the norm, the app is a place for self-expression and creativity.  

“Everyone should use Instagram in the way they really want to,” Ehrlich said. “Instagram should be a happy place, where you can go and look and see your friends’ awesome weekend in Yosemite, their new eye makeup look that they tried, a selfie with their dog, pictures with their sister at the beach, or whatever else brings them joy.”