Why Is “Instagram Perfect” A Thing?

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    Instagram Perfect

    Can we talk about something? Can we talk about the label, “Instagram Perfect?”

    Why is “Instagram Perfect” a thing?

    Meaning, you strive so hard to portray a perfect life on Instagram so that people envy you and wish that they had it all together like you do.

    Except in real life, you DON’T have it together. None of us do.

    So why, in this social media-driven world, are we constantly trying so damn hard to make our Instagram feeds “perfect?” A perfectly curated feed. Why?

    Let me back up because this might seem like it’s coming out of nowhere.

    I returned from my trip to Vermont last week and in the same day, I got asked two very similar statements and to be honest, they offended me. I’ll tell you why in a bit, but these were the two statements I got:

    “It looks like you had a wonderful time on your trip! I hope that is genuinely true and not just how you made it look on IG!”

    “How was Vermont? Was it as perfect as you made it look on Instagram?”

    It doesn’t seem like offensive statements, right? Maybe I shouldn’t have taken it any other way than a compliment for my awesome storytelling and photo-taking skills but I took it offensively because I strive SO DAMN HARD every single day and with every single post to be real and genuine and it made me sad/mad that people would think I would try to fake something to make it look perfect.

    This is a real problem.

    Guys! Is this what you truly think of influencers? That we all fake it? Because that is a real problem. And it’s something I’m hoping we can fix or at least starting with my account.

    Additionally, I’d like to put a blanket statement out there that I hope you know that everything I post is genuine and authentic. I’m sorry if you ever got the feeling that I was fake? Because I never have intended for ANYONE to think I’m perfect or that I travel to perfect places and never have any mishaps.

    If you watch any Instagram stories, you KNOW my life ain’t perfect and you KNOW I share with you guys the good, the bad, the ugly. If something is sponsored, I’ll tell you (but just know I don’t take sponsored work lightly. I have turned away so many and I vett every partnership opp I get), if it’s not sponsored and seems sponsored, I’ll disclaim it and tell you I bought it with my own money and just want to share the love of something.

    With that said, I’d be a hypocrite if I said I never sat in front of my phone wondering which photo would do best on Instagram or trying to take the perfect photo for Instagram.

    Trust me, I do it — we all do. It’s how society is these days.

    Your measure of success is measured by the number of likes an image receives. The more perfect the image, the more likes you get.

    I guess my question is…WHY have we allowed ourselves to measure our success by A NUMBER on a SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM that we don’t own?

    Shouldn’t measuring success be whether or not you are happy in life and happy with what you do? And how it shouldn’t always be a constant battle and frustration with how many likes you are receiving?

    I hate to say this but I feel that social media has 100% killed people’s perception of life and success. When you work with a brand, their way to measure success for a campaign is how many pageviews you got, how many clicks you got, how many likes, etc.

    When a brand chooses to work with you, they ask for numbers. How many followers, how many average pageviews, etc. They measure your success by numbers.

    Measuring your success by numbers is 100% why we are so focused on Instagram perfect. I don’t really have an answer on how we can change that and how there are other ways to measure success other than your own self-contentment and happiness.

    I wish measuring success can be based on how much engagement you get with DM’s. Oh, but the public can’t actually see that. Only the account holder can so therefore, if the public doesn’t see it, it’s not real and not a measure of success.

    Don’t get me wrong, measurements of success by numbers has always been around. That’s how any business or company sees success (profit, loss, etc.) but I also feel that, as influencers, we can strive to not let numbers define us and define what success is and start to be more real on social media?

    There’s a sort of responsibility as influencers to make a difference and change. We have the voice, we have the power. People are always watching us and what kind of message are we giving them if we are constantly showing perfection? That’s like the same concept as ultra skinny barbie-shaped models. They give the perception that this is how a woman should always be.

    And we all know how that has turned out and how many decades later, we are now flipping the switch and embracing all body shapes and sizes — something we should have done forever ago.

    Why do we do this to ourselves?

    It’s funny to laugh at the videos that people show what gets posted on Instagram and then what is actually behind the scenes but I sometimes wonder why we must strive to show our imperfect lives so perfectly.

    Is it because it gives people a sense of security or is it just a break from the chaos in their own life? I’m trying to figure that out myself too. I look at interior designer Instagram accounts all the time and think, “omg, that living room is perfect” or a fashion blogger’s account and say, “omg, how is she so put together all the time even when traveling?”

    Let’s discuss!

    I’d love for you to share your thoughts below. Do you think influencers are fake 100% of the time? Or is it more like 50/50? Why do you think they’re fake or what are they doing that makes things seem fake?

    Why do you think we like looking at “Instagram Perfect” photos? What feelings does it evoke in you? What do you gain? What do you lose?

    As an influencer, how do you measure success? If it’s by number of likes or numbers in general, why do you think that is success? Should we be trying to change this? Is it always going to be that way? Does it bother you? Do you think there is room to change this or do you think we’re too far gone in this numbers game to ever turn it around? Do you think we could ever convince brands that we aren’t all about numbers and what they see publicly? If there are no numbers to measure success, how do you think one would measure success?

    I definitely have good and bad days. Some days, I laugh at how “little” likes I get for the amount of followers I have and then some day I’m like why do I fucking care and just post whatever I want. It’s a stupid game and I’m honestly sick of it. I think if influencers stuck together and created a community for imperfect Instagrams, we would all start to see that everyone is just about the same in life. Imperfectly perfect.

    Julie Wampler of Table for Two
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  • Sherri says:

    I’m certainly guilty of this. Some days I care, some days I don’t. I’m finding more and more that most days I just don’t care anymore. That said, I’m no social media influencer. But we are all influencers in essence.

    Everyone has something to say and share. I try to bring a positive vibe to my social media accounts and blog. My photo’s aren’t magazine perfect nor is my life. I’m okay with that.

    For instance, last year when I was thrown from a horse and suffered a traumatic leg/knee break that required plates and screws, it kept me from walking for 4 months, then relearning to walk again, I shared that experience on my blog. I know for a fact that it has helped others suffering the same traumatic injury.

    I usually follow someone because of their personality or content. I can weed out the fakesters fairly quickly. I rarely follow new accounts anymore. Who has time? There are so many more important things I could be doing with my time, like reading or improving my photography skills, than pretending to be perfect for SM.

    I also find myself reading more blogs these days. If you really want to get to know someone, it’s done through their writing style, IMHO.

    • Julie says:

      I totally agree with you! It really is through someone’s writing that you can get to know someone. It’s how it was “back in the day” when blogs/journals existed. We didn’t have all this social media. Thank you for your insight and thanks for sharing about your traumatic injury. I definitely would’ve wanted to share that too.

  • Brianna says:

    I don’t think what you post on social media or your blog is fake. One of the reasons I continue to follow you is because you keep it real.
    I just recently started blogging again, and honestly I don’t care how many people read it (usually zero). I started writing again because I love it. The same goes for my instagram. I really don’t care how many followers I have or how many likes I get.
    I think the amount of pressure people put on themselves due to social media is silly. No one has their shit together and often times the people who look like they do are the worst of us all.
    Thanks for this honest post and continuing to keep it real!

    • Julie says:

      Thank you! Yeah, it’s just the perception these days and what is getting posted that is really disturbing sometimes. I hear it all the time with friends and whatnot and I don’t think it should be a norm. I don’t think we should try to achieve perfection but be happy where we are.

  • Krysten says:

    So many thoughts !!! I love looking at pretty things- who doesn’t ? I think as long as you are being authentic and what you post is real- it’s fine. Recently there was buzz about these instagrammers who buy indulgent foods, photograph it then don’t eat it. That’s inauthentic. I recently took a trip and posted many a beautiful photo. I went to some gorgeous places and those photos were for me to remember this trip as much as it was to share with my audience. I also shared about the blisters on my feet and missing my dog . Common travel issues haha. I think we all have a BS meter and if someone is not being real – it comes through. I also take issue tho with the numbers game and the have to share. I recently stopped focusing on it and things have moved in a positive direction. A watched pot never boils? I think so. My husband and I celebrated our 11 year anniversary Saturday. We already went on a trip for it. We do not post mushy Facebook posts to each other on holidays or birthdays. We make it a priority to tell each other face to face the old fashioned way. That’s for us and no one else and that’s how I keep it real. Great post ! As usual – authentic and true!

    • Julie says:

      Yeah, I know several bloggers, whom I have traveled with, that do this. It is really disgusting and so much waste and talk about inauthenticity. I was really glad to see your trip without all the filters and just what you saw through your own eyes. Yeah, I’m starting to hear that everyone is starting to recognize the BS and whatnot but it also kind of hurts the ones what ARE being authentic b/c it blurs the lines a bit, you know? Glad you are keeping it real and doing what you love and not focusing on the numbers!

  • Blu says:

    I think many influencers like to show a more polished life. Being vulnerable is a lot and people seek praise. I haven’t received a lot of negative backlash, but some followers can be disingenuous and give non constructive criticism.

    I think in nature people seek validation and that’s spilled from self validation to validation from strangers. I truly praise those that are honest and I think sometimes when you get questions like “… is it as perfect as you made it look on instagram”, it’s either snarky, pure curiosity or someone looking to fill a void in their life and social media makes them feel like they’re missing out on an experience.

    http://www.liveloveblu.com | wellness & healthy living

    • Julie says:

      Good insight, Blu! Thank you!

  • Sam says:

    Hey Julie! I respect and love the way you show up on instagram! Keep doing you!

    • Julie says:

      Thanks Sam!

  • Tammy says:

    Love this and love your blog!! Wish more people would be more real!

    • Julie says:

      Thanks Tammy :)

  • Natasha @ Salt & Lavender says:

    I’m kinda surprised you got those comments about your trip, because you’re probably the most “real” person I follow on IG. I don’t actually follow a lot of peoples’ stories, but I know I can always count on you to speak your mind, which is one of the reasons why I find you engaging. I like hearing about your house’s plumbing issues or your neighbor’s tree issues lol. And Winston. Duh. As someone who, like you, has a food blog and makes money off pageviews and sponsored posts (on IG too), I would lie if I said numbers didn’t matter to me, but I agree with the sentiment that it gets ridiculous and frustrating at times.

    I’m a fairly shy and private person in real life, and I actually think I’m quite boring, so that’s one of the reasons why I am generally silent on stories. It’s not so much that I am worried I won’t seem perfect, it’s more that it takes a lot to put myself out there anyway, and when I feel like I don’t have anything interesting to share, I just don’t do it haha. But I know that I like the day-to-day (exciting or not) snippets into the lives of my fellow bloggers, so I am sure some people would appreciate that. Maybe I will work up the nerve someday to go on camera myself in stories more regularly.

    As far as my feed goes, it’s definitely turned into a super-curated one. I don’t mind since I really like looking at curated feeds too, but I also like feeds that have a mix of curated and regular everyday stuff (like yours). To add to what I said above, for my feed it’s easier to just post curated for now… getting engaging enough “real” stuff in the feed would actually stress me out at this point in time, so at least I’m being true to myself in that regard. :P

    The thing that REALLY bugs me about this whole IG thing is when people do the follow-unfollow. This is probably my #1 pet peeve out of everything blogging-related. It makes the numbers even more of a ridiculous thing to get upset about because it adds that extra layer of fakeness. I have never engaged in any of those techniques to grow my following. The 18K I have may be small compared to other bloggers, but these followers are 100% organic.

    I think people who do this or buy followers are going to be the eventual reason that brands may stop taking influencers seriously. The New York Times recently did a very interesting exposé on buying followers. It was quite eye-opening.

    Sure, follow-unfollow is a way to grow your following fast, but it’s also a great way to tick people off. I’ve had so many fellow food bloggers do this to me, and I’m left scratching my head. Yes, I know it’s automated. No, I don’t take it as personally as I used to. But, anyone who does this to me gets an automatic unfollow. Also, I rarely follow people back these days (a shame – isn’t that the whole point of IG?) because I feel it’s probably not genuine and they’re going to unfollow me right away. I generally remember who uses these tactics. Maybe I’m not a big player in the blogging world yet, but our blogging circles are actually quite small, and networking matters. Brands are getting more savvy. I would not want to follow-unfollow the wrong person or brand and get blacklisted. It’s just too risky to slightly speed up growing your following IMO. Yet so many people do it. Anyway, I will get off my soapbox now…

    • Julie says:

      Thank you, Natasha, for your kind words! I really do strive hard to be real and tell it like it is, no matter what audience, haha

      I used to be really shy too and not want to be in front of the camera. Once Snapchat came around, I got more comfortable so I think it’s just forcing yourself to do it that really gets you into it. But you totally don’t have to if you don’t want to!

      YES, my 17K followers is tiny compared to most but I have not paid for one follower or like so I am proud to be 100% organic too. The bots and the follow-unfollow is a sure fire way for me to REALLY not follow you.

      Yeah, but that’s the problem though, isn’t it? People think that the measure of your success is the number of likes and followers and that’s why they engage in this sort of behavior and invest in this sort of thing. If there was other ways to measure success or other ways to really want to work with someone (like their voice or the way they develop recipes, their creativity)…then I think more people would focus on content and not the numbers. I feel that content IS your success, you know? But it’s so hard these days to see beyond numbers and it’s really sad.

  • Susan says:

    It used to be much easier to define one’s own measure of success. Thanks to social media and BIg Marketing, it’s far more difficult now. Julie, I applaud you for inviting and encouraging people to have these conversations. Let’s try to measure ourselves and others by what we are, and not for what we aren’t.

    • Julie says:

      Thank you, Susan. I love that insight.

  • Lynette Aoki says:

    I live on the Big Island of HI (where the volcano is happening now)
    I read a lot of about social media and what it’s doing to what you have just said. As far as fake? unsure? But when it comes to You, this I know for sure, You’re Not! You are the Real Deal, and for that, I love everything about you; your stories, recipes and the likes.
    In truth, I don’t appreciate what social media has turned our world into ( pre-teens, all the way up to our politicians!) Keep up the good work.

    • Julie says:

      Thanks Lynette. Appreciate your words of encouragement!

  • Cissy Young says:

    You are absolutely correct, Julie. I’d like to go back a bit when we were happy with how we looked, happy with what we had. Nowadays it’s all BS. The young girls are striving to look like these blank, skinny models and Hollywood bimbos. Not happy to just BE!! It’s really sad. Social media has really screwed up a lot of folks.

    • Julie says:

      YES! Exactly. :(

  • Julie says:

    I definitely think you come across as super real here and on your IG posts and I love it. Keep on keepin’ on.

    • Julie says:

      Thanks so much!

  • Kristin says:

    Well, you KNOW my thoughts on social media, Instagram specifically! I travel 200+ days a year, and I never get comments like that (probably because I’ve worked as a travel journalist for nearly 15 years), BUT my best friend did tell me her sister recently said, “does Kristin actually like everywhere she goes? It sure sounds like,” to which my friend replied, “no she does not! She’s good at faking it.” RUDE! The way I see it working in travel is that there’s something good to find in every destination you go, even if it isn’t your favorite. So I set out to find those good bits and promote them, rather than focus on any negative experiences. Doesn’t mean my life is “Instagram perfect,” but rather I’d create useful content others can use in planning their trips rather highlighting parts I didn’t care for.

    • Julie says:

      I 100% agree. And totally rude for someone saying that you’re good at faking it! Not cool. Sorry that happened to you too! We can only just keep telling ourselves that we are truly being authentic and let the haters think otherwise.

  • Kristin says:

    I keep getting pulled toward the allure of having that perfect curated Instagram feed, but real life keeps intruding – and the funny thing is that when it does, my interactions go way up, even if I lose a few followers. It’s a decent trade off as far as I’m concerned. I’d rather have people laughing at and commenting on the ridiculous cat-with-my-pregnancy-belly photo I posted than mindlessly tapping like for a photo that probably took way too much effort to stage, take, edit, and post.

    • Julie says:

      Yep, I’ve noticed the same thing. Haha, when it’s curated and a beautiful photo, people are less inclined to engage but then when it’s a random photo taken off the cuff..people love it! Goes to show I think it’s shifting a little bit…where people want to see REAL life.

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