Model Bella Hadid’s Instagram is a mix of casual and chic. Courtesy of Instagram.
SADIA KHATRI | OPINION COLUMNIST | firstname.lastname@example.org
Think about it: how carefully curated is any social media persona? Within the past few years, there has been a rise in the use of casual social media. Where Instagram was once populated with highly professional photoshoots and posts, there are now casual and laid-back collections of photos colloquially known as photo dumps. The rise of BeReal, a relatively new social media platform, has only further contributed to this.
Casual social media is focused on depicting the more relatable aspects of one’s life. It is primarily characterized by photo dumps, candid pictures, ironic selfies and lots and lots of pictures showcasing one’s life. It is a digital diary of sorts, except for the fact it is completely online and not at all private. Many people regard casual posting as a method of rebelling against the strict standards of what is and is not socially acceptable to post on social media.
Summer Adkins, a first-year entrepreneurship and marketing double major, shared her take on casual social media.
“I think casual social media is still a form of filtered media,” Adkins said, “It’s less edited … ‘[more] candid,’ would be a better word … You’re still creating an image; it’s just a specific type of image you’re creating.”
BeReal is a newcomer in the casual social media landscape. As new as the app may be, it has quickly risen in fame and popularity. Since the beginning of the year, downloads for the app have increased by over 300%. The app is unique from other social media platforms in one major way: BeReal is totally filterless and sends a notification to all users at the same time to notify them that it is “time to be real”. Ideally, all BeReal users post at the same time, allowing for fellow users to see what their friends are up to in real time.
Amelia Collier, a sophomore entrepreneurship and innovation major, is a fan of BeReal and the rise of casual posting.
“I’m following [about] 500 people on Instagram,” Collier said, “[My BeReal is] my seven closest friends to me and we see what’s going on throughout our day… I think it’s fun. It’s something where we all check in with each other with whatever we’re doing. Especially in the summertime, when you’re away from your college friends, it’s cool to see … what they’re doing.”
Leah Shields, sophomore arts and design major, shared that she too was a fan of the app, but also mentioned that there are potential negative aspects of using BeReal. She spoke of the pressure that can exist when it comes to making sure that a BeReal is posted on time.
“Personally, I think BeReal is really fun,” Shields said. “It kind of gives you a look into people’s lives at random times, but sometimes it can get really addictive.”
BeReal strives to emphasize the importance of living in the moment through social media, which is a fairly new idea. Where social media once consisted of exclusively well thought-out and planned posts, it has now fostered a space that is more relaxed and focused on the present. Rather than focusing on posting the best version of yourself on social media, there is now a focus on posting the most authentic version of yourself.
Photo dumps and Instagram
On Instagram, meticulously planned posts have increasingly been swapped for more laid-back and casual photo dumps. As recently as a few years ago, photoshoot-style posts were the norm. Planned outfits, perfect poses and Photoshop were the primary pillars of an Instagram post. However, there has been a major shift recently, where Instagram posts have become remarkably casual and nonchalant. Larger influencers and celebrities often post such content, with President Joe Biden having previously posted a photo dump.
Content creators like Emma Chamberlain are notorious for their casual use of social medias, especially Instagram. Chamberlain’s Instagram is especially interesting, considering her hybrid feed; Chamberlain simultaneously posts extremely casual content alongside highly professional photo shoots. Collier believes that this change has allowed people to be more comfortable online.
“When you say casual, I think of how Emma Chamberlain was,” Collier said. “She made it really cool to post maybe not the best pictures on your phone … I think people are starting to be a little more real and a little more open to others seeing different parts of their lives.”
Renowned model Bella Hadid is a major celebrity who also frequently posts both highly casual and highly professional content. A quick scroll through her feed includes pictures of Hot Cheetos, nature and professional Vogue photoshoots, all posted within the span of a week.
Seeing celebrities and influencers posting such casual content changed Collier’s idea of what social media really is.
“It definitely changed my perception because with them it’s supposed to be cool,” Collier said. “I think it’s a good message to send to the younger generation.”
Curating a casual, candid appearance
Seeing celebrities post content that is luxe and emphasizes their status and wealth has been known to have negative effects on the average social media user. Do the casual social media habits of celebrities have such an effect as well?
Shields believes that seeing celebrities post “casually” has both a positive and negative impact within the sphere of social media.
“I think it’s good to see that some of these celebrities do have normal lives, and they do have normal jobs,” Shields said. Things can get messy, however, when privilege comes into play; Adkins emphasized how even though these posts are often curated and planned to come off as being casual and candid.
“I think that parts of it can be negative if they are still curating their photo dumps along with their super posed, branded content,” Adkins said. “It can give a false image of what life is actually like … It can have a negative impact if they’re using it in a way to make their life look perfect.”
As the average person, most social media users do not have access to posting highly professional photoshoots of themselves. However, seeing influencers and A-list celebrities post casual content can negatively impact the perceptions of their audiences. It’s one thing to see one’s friends or fellow mutuals post a photo dump; it is a completely different thing to witness Kourtney Kardashian post a photo dump.
Although casual posts may have the intent of being perceived as relaxed and nonchalant, these photo dumps are still calculated. Regardless of who is posting casually on social media, there is always some level of planning involved. It arguably takes more work to show the world a carefully selected group of pictures than it is to post photoshoot-style photos that were the standard a few years ago.
Posting something that is inauthentic, and passing it off as authentic, can give people – especially younger girls – the wrong impression. Adkins spoke of the potential harm that casual social media can cause with respect to authenticity.
“I think it can be slightly dangerous”, Adkins said, “If you’re posting those casual Instagram posts, and you’re making everything in your life look perfect that can give young girls especially a very false idea of what their body should look like and what their life should look like.”
Shields spoke of how trying to maintain a casual, yet cool, appearance on social media can be a bit tough at times, considering the amount of pressure that often exists in order to uphold and maintain a certain type of appearance online.
“I have this certain appearance on campus that I need to uphold. If that doesn’t come off, then I feel like I’m not showing my true self, or I’m being someone that I’m not.” Shields said
Social media has always been a performance, and the question that arises now reflecting the advent of casual social media is if maintaining a casual presence is as easy as it may seem. This unique sphere of the internet is constantly evolving, leaving users scrambling to keep up with trends; only time will tell what new trends we will all fall victim to. Adkins reminds social media users that when used properly, it can have a remarkably positive impact.
“When it’s used correctly,” Adkins said. “It can be a positive way to make change and bring awareness to certain issues.”