Adapting to Instagram Trends: Publicly Engaging a Changing Audience


The public art installation has me pondering on how to engage a public audience through art. While perusing the news headlines, I came across this interesting article by The Atlantic technology staff writer Taylor Lorenz. Lorenz details a peculiar trend about the end of the “Instagram Aesthetic” and the shifting trends of moving away from manufactured to raw (and objectively aesthetically terrible) Instagram posts.

Though I’ve never particularly paid close attention to what is”Instagram-worthy,” reading Lorenz’s description of the Instagram aesthetic has confirmed subtle cultural attributions to the popular social-media app. Instagram is unique in that it prioritizes square photo posts with a caption, emphasizing the importance of taking a nice photo. With immense competition on the Internet to vie for everyone’s attention, Instagram-savvy people figured out that visually appealing photos effectively engages the social media audience through increased likes, comments, and followers. As people refined their Instagram skills, many have amassed a significant amount of digital followers to create a profile that influences social media users, hence the term: “Instagram Influencers.”

Weeks before, I watch and read to The Verge‘s article and accompanying video about what it takes to be an Instagram Influencers, which I believe to be a testament that Instagram Influencers are not a fad, they’re a cultural phenomenon. Here is the example influencer that the article interviewed to learn more about it:

@jnaydaily | Youtube comments on The Verge’s video article on the process behind this influencer felt uneasy about how far Janea Brown goes to manufacture an Instagram Influencer profile.

Both articles pushed me to ask myself: “Am I also trying to jump in on the Instagram game?” Though I consider myself as a more casual Instagram user, having been on my high school’s yearbook photography team, I do push for a visually appealing look. Over time, I have adapted what my profile looks like based on what photos best maximize like/comment engagement from my followers.

My personal instagram page

Reading Lorenz’s article then actually surprised because she explains that Instagram users younger than me now seem to prefer a “messier and more unfiltered vibe.” She accurately describes that my generation, “Millennial influencers hauled DSLR cameras to the beach and mastered photo editing to get the perfect shot,” while “the generation younger than they are largely post directly from their mobile phones.” Lorenz, describes this creating the effect of a pendulum where the current generation is focused on very manufactured posts but the next generation is swinging to the opposite direction on raw posts.

““Adding grain to your photos is a big thing now,” says Sonia Uppal, a 20-year-old college student. “People are trying to seem candid. People post a lot of mirror selfies and photos of them lounging around.””

-Quote from “The Instagram Aesthetic is Over” by Taylor Lorenz
The next up and coming influencers on Instagram ditch DLSR’s and post photos on a whim.

“Everyone is trying to be more authentic,” says Lexie Carbone, a content marketer at Later, 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.”

-Quote from “The Instagram Aesthetic is Over” by Taylor Lorenz
Her followers appreciate her authentic and almost rebellious approach to Instagram

After reading Lorenz’s article, I did notice some my peers on Instagram posting arguably terribly looking photos, but have this aesthetic of being raw, unfiltered, and real. It is liking seeing very subtle realities that we all know and understand, but would never share publicly finally coming out in the light. Lorenz’s conclusion from interviews with several marketing experts explains the driving force behind the trend is “influencer overload” and a user base that increasingly wants to be able to relate to what they see. Lorenz’s article provides convincing evidence that the “Instagram Aesthetic” of photos manufactured to visual perfection is “no longer viable.”

 Eaton says, “people are just looking for things they can relate to.” And “the pink wall and avocado toast are just not what people are stopping at anymore.”

-Quote from “The Instagram Aesthetic is Over” by Taylor Lorenz

Tying this back to class and my artistic ventures on Instagram, I have learned the importance of understanding and adapting to my audience of my art. What may have worked before in the past does not guarantee it will work again in the future. Overtime, humans change, and so do their tastes. With these articles in mind, I hope to be more thoughtful of my audience when creating an artwork.

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