An overstyled marble countertop and the perfectly caught off guard aka caught perfectly on guard brick wall shot. You’ve probably seen these photos in your Instagram feeds. If you’re like me, you’ve even taken a few yourself and proudly posted them on your account...multiple times. The problem with these types of photos isn’t that they’re completely staged, otherwise we would despise every page in every magazine ever. The problem is, they’ve become so commonplace, we don’t even realize we’re contributing to a copycat lifestyle.
When did we stop caring about being original and revert to our middle school-selves, craving not just the attention associated with fitting in, but the act of doing so? Many of my favorite feeds on Instagram look and sound nearly identical. Coffee perfectly placed on a sun-drenched tabletop without even one sip taken out of it. Empty couches with throws and pillows that look like they’ve never experienced a Netflix-binge before.
Captions consist of words and phrases like, “You guys…, Swoon, Dreamy, Obligatory ______ Pic, FTW, I Die…”. Freshly cut flowers and donuts make appearances every now and then, usually on a Monday with an inspirational phrase or funny way of saying “Monday...You’re the worst”. And, hardly ever, a few real-life moments are sprinkled in.
There have been lots of articles about what's real and what's not on social media, but I think the deeper story revolves around getting ourselves back to creating, not replicating. It doesn’t bother me that many feeds resemble a magazine, in fact, watch out professional stylists! People are getting seriously good at recreating what you do for a living. What I’ve realized is that with every look-alike photo we post to Instagram, we’re missing an opportunity to create. Creating is messy. Creating is fun and loud, like not caring if your button is undone as seen in this photo from Gal Meets Glam’s, Julia Engel.
I loved when that photo came up on Julia’s feed, but, from what I've seen, it’s completely uncharacteristic. The difference between her and myself is those photos are her livelihood. She’s done an incredible job of building her blog into a mini-empire; I have less than 400 followers on Instagram, mainly family and friends. So why do I feel the need to post photos similar to a blogging rockstar on my own feed? Because, copying is safe. It takes no courage. We know what types of photos will garner more “likes”, but sadly, in the end, we don’t get much else out of it besides that little heart we all care so much about. I actually still get a nervous knot in my stomach when I share anything about my work or personal achievements on my Instagram.
Each time I post about having a new article out in a magazine, I wonder if anyone cares or if it looks like I’m bragging? The crazy thing is, I wouldn’t think twice about posting a photo of a great dinner or a glass of champagne.
See -- I told you, I'm a copycat too! How can we find the courage to create when copying is much more widely accepted? I’m clearly not the expert, but I don’t think a messy living room photo or no-makeup-selfie once a year is the answer.
If you want someone to do something, praise them when they do it, right? So, maybe if we give positive feedback to others creating and sharing real, raw moments in their lives, they'll be more likely to take that little risk again. Recently, the author of Rabbit Food For My Bunny Teeth, Catherine, took a break from her blog.
The response to her honesty was refreshing. She received hundreds of comments from people applauding her courage and begging her to keep at it on her blog. The scary thing is if she hadn’t posted that particular blog, nobody would have known what was really going on in her life. She continued posting normal, happy-looking photos on her Instagram, like these:
It probably would have been much easier for her to just continue creating the comfortable facade that everything was going great. Catherine rose above what was easy and published something real. You’ll notice most of the photos on Catherine’s blog feature food meticulously placed on a marble countertop. What can I say? It does look good! Plus, styling recipes is part of Catherine’s job being a food and fitness blogger.
This isn’t about bashing anyone. It’s not about how filters are ruining the world and it is not a pledge to never post a super-staged photo ever again on my own Instagram. My only hope behind writing this is to open a conversation about how we can copy less and create more. I thought about writing a list of ways to inspire creativity, but the truth is, I’m right there with everybody else looking for experiences that will help shape what I put out into the world.
Here’s where I’m going to start: read more, write more, scroll less and share things that matter.