What Does Your Instagram Aesthetic Say About You?

So, What Does Your Instagram Aesthetic Say About: You.

Loads, in fact.

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By James Royce


See, Instagram is a funny thing because curating the perfect profile is an actual nightmare to figure out. If you don’t come across artsy, you have to come across fit. And if that fails, well, then you have to at least let everyone know you party. But party in a “I have loads of friends who wear lots of fitted denim” way. Not a “I’m sinking bottles of tequila on a Tuesday and clearly don’t have any of my shit together as my life continues to fall apart, please reach out in the DMs soon, thanks” way.

An early pro tip: it’s best not to radiate that second vibe.  

It sounds like an impossible balancing act. That’s because it is. Of course, there are some people out here who just slag off pressure and post what they want. The good news for these people is they are: secure with themselves. The bad news for them, though, is: we hate them. We hate them because they better than you and me since they are not petty and self-absorbed. That sort of thing.

Anyway, not to be all “Jerry Seinfeld Live at The Laugh Factory” with this transition, but: what’s with Instagram aesthetics, eh? Can we even break down and rank each different one, though, am I right? I mean, come on, let’s be real, does your choice in Instagram aesthetic show what type of person you are, huh?  

Yes, it does. And, yes, we will go through all them. Every Instagram profile you thumb through. Every person you follow. It all loosely falls into one of these different categories:


The Fitstagram.

Following hard friends, you think, is good: because look at you, right? You need that inspiration. That fit inspiration. That #fitspiration. The fitstagram is your primary source of motivation. Something to look at and think, “I can be that.” Or, you follow them because you have a morbid curiosity about what a perfect human body looks like and regular mirrors don’t cut it. Maybe you just have some friend who got into creatine 18 months ago and now uses Instagram as an excuse to get his sculpted, muscular tits out. And I'm afraid he is going to do this every post, and you are not. 

You’ll follow the fistagram for a bit of time. Perhaps, you think, maybe you could focus on your diet a bit. Eat a vegetable here and there. Maybe copy that smoothie recipe that had pea or, you know, whatever the fuck protein in it that it posted about some time back. Cut out the daily lunch sandwich and go for runs. Yes, that’d be good. With a little work you could get your abs back. Wouldn’t that be nice. But then one look at the fitstagram one morning, and they’re already starting their Story Of The Day with a 6AM shake and run to the gym. They're off doing that and you’re shaking off a Bottle Of Wine Hangover, and you think: ah, actually, perhaps not. 

Anyway, just know the Fitstagram Poster is always some hyper sad-lad with immense amounts of bottled up emotional energy. Like, I think if I said: “Mate, about your caption: it’s then, not than. Have you read a book before you big fucking prawn?,” they’ll start sobbing. Sobbing because, no, they have never read a book before, actually. They’ll sob and cry and then force me unfollow them before immediately crushing my head with one hand like it were an empty beer can.


Endless food pics of dishes you did not personally make including, but not limited to, the same cappuccino from many different cafés.

You, a normal person: There’s a restaurant that you keep seeing photos of sandwiches from, or read little food blogs about. Or it’s a market. It could be burrito pop-up too. It doesn’t matter. Either way, you’ll make plans to go there in your head before knowing all the small details because, “This food,” you think. “This amazing food. I have to try this delicious food. This weekend, I will go and find it. And I will take a photo of it to let everyone know I ate this particular food.” And then you look up where the food is and realize it’s in goddamn Eagle Rock and fuck that off, right now. Absolutely fucking not. Eagle Rock? Do I look like I have time to make a hop and fucking skip over the border of Arizona? No. 

You, The Food Pic PosterTM: You do the 45-minute drive to Eagle Rock to get that open-faced sandwich. You take exactly two bites of it after posting a photo and that’s it. You spend 9-minutes editing this photo on VSCO. “It’s a sandwich,” you say to all your friends for eight to ten days afterward, “but it’s open faced. It tasted amazing.” You go to said restaurant on a Saturday so you can slip a few mimosas in as well. Drinks for the Boomerang! The best! Nothing can stop this gang! And nothing does stop it until you leave at 5PM before it actually gets fun so you can go home and watch The Office again on Netflix.

35MM picture of you wearing your favorite big coat on a rainy street with a can of Modelo in one hand and a cigarette in the other. It’s all a bit blurry and the lighting is just ever-so-slightly-off. Caption just says something like: “all the love.”


Congrats on the job at VICE.


Loads of pastel colors. All the photos that have an actual face in them feature someone standing in the corner of a bar, looking over their shoulder, and radiating a soft smile.

This sounds unique. This sounds different. This sounds like something you would do to make yourself stand out. The bad news, though, is: it doesn’t. Don’t believe me? Well, read this: You work as a fashion blogger/influencer/designer/model/DJ. You put that last photo of you in a daisy field wearing tiny glasses through ten filters before posting. You also made sure you were in the exact light so just one (one.) beam of sun fell halfway across your face. You have a collection of magazines you’ve posted an extensive amounts of photos about despite having never actually read one. Look, the color scheme and all, it’s nice. It’s fine. It’s easy on the eyes and we like it. But there are only so many photos of a book on the ground with your feet in the corner we can take before hitting you with a hard unfollow, sorry. 


You can not deal with life and you will never be able to deal with life. Imagine when the admins of these accounts grow older, have kids. Just picture them explaining to their children what they did? “I curated pictures of little inside jokes from the internet, son. Did it every day. Got some numbers on one with a picture of Drake making a silly face. That one led to my blue tick, in fact.” Or: “Kiddo, I got my start making Vines. Had to pivot to Instagram after that went down, though. Made a couple K after I wrote a funny caption about tequila and sold it Jose Cuervo. Always liked that brand banter on there. I called it brandter. Heh, yeah. Those were the days.” How grim. How incredibly grim. We do appreciate the occasional laughs, thanks.

Every photo is taken either at a music festival or outside a music festival in some decrepit campsite. 

Hello, it’s me, the music festival attendee. This is the seventh consecutive music festival I have gone to this year and it is only April. All of my friends also go to music festivals and wear face paint, short shorts, and black combat boots. A little about me: I’ve got 6,500 follows, have to get a new phone every three months, and prefer to spend my weekends getting shouted at by a man in sunglasses as he plays music in a big tent. I [shooting-star emoji] just [lollipop emoji] can’t [butterfly emoji] get [rainbow emoji] over [alien emoji] that [space-invaders emoji] one [UFO emoji] weekend [CD emoji] I [flower emoji] had [eye emoji] fun [eight-ball emoji].

Everything involves people playing sports, like doing a fadeaway on an outdoor basketball court or doing a big kick of a soccer ball. And there is always an insane amount of saturation applied to every single photo. 

This says: I do sports. “I do sports,” also happens to be about the beginning and end of any conversation you ever have. Well, any conversation that isn't about where you work and how work was today and how work is going and what you might want to work on in the future.

An underground magazine or photographer you follow because you genuinely enjoy them. Their off-beat photos and captions are an inspiration for your own creative endeavors. Chances are you follow multiple.

The only good content left on Instagram.

The young couple feed where every photo features the poster’s significant other.

These are always fun to thumb through because they follow a certain pattern and that pattern is: one person never looks quite as into it as the other. There’s a decent piece of advice that everyone who uses their significant other as their only source of content should follow. That advice is: don’t do it. I know that sounds cynical. Who among us has not said, “Oh, this is cute,” about a photo of their three-month boyfriend/girlfriend and them in the corner of some cocktail party? We’ve all said that. But I promise you, posting that is a terrible idea. Why? Well, one of these following things will definitely happen. 

One: you will get cheated on. Then you will have to go back and delete and untag every photo of you two which is an enormous nightmare.

Two: you will cheat with someone. After that, every photo on your feed will be this harrowing source of guilt. And that’s if you get away with cheating. If you don’t, then you have to go through and delete every photo which, again, is an enormous fucking nightmare. 

Three: You will maintain an effortless relationship, friendships and feed. You’ll do it in a way that makes everyone who sees your content feel jealous and incapable. You’ll move in together, get engaged in your early-twenties, and get married soon after. You’ll continue to post on Instagram as you always did but this time with combined family holidays tossed into the mix. Two years and five-hundred uploads later, each of you will panic whisper to a friend about “doubts.” Then there's that, “feeling of listlessness," and that concern about how, "They're just never that eager anymore." You push on but the posts start dropping off. You stay together forever but stop taking photos and your feed becomes a wasteland of what once was. You spend every unoccupied minute of the rest of your life scrolling through the barista who works at the café by your office’s profile. Still on Instagram, yes, but fantasizing about running off with him.

All your photos are just all over the place. Everything has a different filter or no filter at all. Hand holding a pint, Bumble portrait taken by a friend with a real camera, the family dogs. A nice beach with cobalt water washing up on a bone-colored sand. A day at the park with friends where everyone looks genuinely happy. A nice actual photo of a big building you snapped on vacation captioned: ‘Think I’ll stay.’ There’s no pattern. There’s no consistency. There’s no foundation in general. You don’t have an agenda because sometimes life is good and sometimes life is bad and you don’t quite know how to deal with all of it. Everything’s all over the place because you’re all over the place. You don’t know if that’s a wonderful thing or a very bad thing. And that stresses you out more often than you’d like. Which makes your profile subtly radiate a low background hum of stress. But that's fine because, to be honest, presenting a singular image of yourself through an app is stressful. Or at least that's what you keep telling yourself.