September 26, 2018

A college student reimagines Instagram Famous

By: Abby Straub, @abbystraub, Student at Franklin & Marshall

Everyone has a favorite form of social media. Mine is Instagram. As an (almost) 20 year old college student, I love being able to share things I like and what I’m doing, as well as keep up with high school and college friends, all in one place.

Abby’s Instagram profile

You can even have multiple Instagrams if you want. You could have a “Rinsta”, which stands for “real Instagram,” but this account is usually used to portray your life the way you hope others see it. Then, you have your “Finsta,” meaning “fake Instagram.” This account is a usually more honest and true to yourself; it has the real stuff (what an oxymoron, right?). In the ‘finsta’ world, only close friends follow this separate, more real account, while acquaintances, friends, family, and the rest all follow your ‘rinsta’. This separation exaggerates and illustrates the idea of having a better alter ego upon which people can focus.

It all boils down to this: on Instagram, it’s about looking the part. Some people are better at playing and looking the part than others. These are the instafamous.

Instafamous: adj 1. a word used to describe someone who uses their Instagram as a way to show off their life, usually with one certain filter and an aesthetic looking feed. Usually above 5-10K followers.

Examples and some of the instafamous me and my friends follow include:

Back to appearance

Sitting on the beach all summer gives you a lot of time to people watch. As I sat watching, my cousin pointed out a perfectly tan, skinny, bleach blonde girl to which I replied, “Oh do you know her?” She replied with, “no she’s that girl from Instagram, I follow her because she has cool pictures.” After doing some research I discovered that this girl has 15K followers, and labels herself as a “Business”, posting pictures of herself in various designer label bikinis. Friends from home, from school, and others followed this girl just because of her Instagram.

I knew instafamous existed, but I didn’t think it would be someone normal that walks on the beach, plays high school sports, and has a summer job. How does someone get to this point? A girl who is from your small town, suddenly followed by over 10K people and recognized as “that girl from Instagram?”

There is the typical criteria that makes someone “instafamous,” almost an insta-science. Everyone knows the difference between a picture that gets 2 likes and a pictures that gets 2K likes. There are unspoken tricks to the trade. The ones that stand out are followers, feed, featured, and photo.

  1. Followers: Usually the “instafamous” circulate around 5-10K followers or more, acquiring all of by word of mouth or grabbing attention of the masses by posting. The key is to know your followers and figure out what keeps them coming back for more.
  2. Feed: An aesthetic is key. Using the same filter, the same edits, and one color scheme that flows and makes your profile look good. Many Instafamous have mastered this balance while others try their best to make their profile looking its best.
  3. Feature: How much traffic reaches your Instagram. There is such thing that my friends and I call, PIT (prime-insta-time). Not to be confused with PYT! This is the time of the day or week that is optimal for posting a picture. Posting at this time usually makes for maximum amount of likes and comments in bulk. The amount of likes at the end is key but the speed at which they come in is the goal you try to achieve and love to watch.
  4. Photo: Instagram reinvented the unspoken rule of not posting more than one photo in 24 hours with the new swipe feature. This allows people to post way more than just one photo at a time. If you swipe past the first picture, Instagram refreshes the news feed to have the second third or fourth picture continue to pop up on feed to increase traffic as well.

So, what do these unspoken rules do?

These tricks of the trade that most people seem to follow make Instagram user habits very similar. Could everyone acting the same be a bad thing? These are just observations, and not every Instagram user follows these tips to a “t,” but many of us are aware of how much thought and effort goes into each post. I’m guilty of it and I’ve watched friends stress, filter, think of a caption for hours, refilter, check likes, check comments, etc., all for one posted picture.

Instagram influencer Sophie Grey shows a behind-the-scenes look at how she captures her photos.

It’s a social media platform where everyone is a marketing major – you market yourself. Find ways through angles and filters to make yourself more appealing in order to get likes and attention from an audience. Marketing the right version of yourself, however, is what is key. Certain social media role models get maximum likes on scandalous pictures, but those do not truthfully reflect their character. Instagram famous, Sophie Gray  figured this out the hard way. As she put it, after endless efforts to look and feel the part, “I desperately wanted to be that girl. I was trying to squish myself into a perfect little instagram box.” Sophie has now found fame and happiness in being herself on instagram and making fun of those who take themselves a little too seriously.

This is where the adults usually ask themselves, why does all this matter? Who cares how many likes you get if it makes people self-conscious? In my opinion, just like Sophie Gray said, our generation is obsessed with validation and the constant reassurance that they are doing something right. In the midst of college applications, job searches, friends, stress, and so much more, Instagram serves as a place where we look like we have it all together.

But is it false validation?

Insta-fame does not necessarily have to be shown in a bad light, but it is definitely a new conversation piece. Some people just love looking at beautiful Instagrams and interesting lives. Some people love leading and posting those lives. Does looking like you have a cool life make your life cooler? Why do we only show our real selves to our close friends, but feel the need to look a different way and show a different side to the masses? It’s something we all fall into. Think about it. Sometimes it feels as if we go through life doing fun things only to post about them. We post only to show people the cool things we do and the people we are with, instead of showing them the bad hair days we have or the funniest, embarrassing moments captured on camera.

Caption this

Imagine a world where people had fun with Instagram again. If we used it like we did when it first came out, with fun filters, funny captions, posting as many posts as we wanted, we might enjoy it even more. Be classic, be quirky, be fun. Don’t worry about being scandalous or flashy, worry about being you. Imagine a world where there were no filters, no photo editing apps- just you and a camera. If the pictures were more real, maybe the friendships would be more real, too, and there would be less competition online to be the best.

Document your life as you see and the beauty where you see it.

So let’s not stress about which angle is best or which edit looks the greatest. Insta-fame has made it more competitive to be on social media, when really, social is an outlet, a fun way to express yourself, not a competition. Having a good looking feed is great, but let’s make Instagram casual again. The best instafamous are the ones who look like they are, as one of my friends put it, “livin’ and winning at life”. It’s not everyone’s goal to become instafamous; it shouldn’t be. Is there any way that we can change the way we interact with Instagram? Would taking away the filters and edits make it more real? Or is there another way? Let’s talk about it.

There is not much research on instafame, but there is tons of space to pose questions about it. Ask the generations of social media users in your life. See what they have to say.

Let’s get the conversation going.