October 28, 2017
By Jody Hume
STYLE OPINION: IS INSTAGRAM RUINING FASHION?YOU SHOULD STILL FOLLOW US
Instagram was already my social media of choice, but now that Snapchat has been obviated by Instagram stories and Facebook seems to exist mainly as a reminder that the world is falling apart, I’ve been spending more time there than ever. And it’s kind of a problem. For all the reasons, of course, that the general time suck of social media has been decried, but also more specifically because at some level, it seems to take the joy out of the very things that are fun to follow there — in my case, that would be fashion.
On the one hand, Instagram is positive — it connects people who may otherwise never have met or collaborated creatively, and it’s had a hand in democratizing fashion. Anyone with a phone can now document and disseminate their creative vision, eschewing the elitist gatekeepers of the past. And while I do think that’s valuable (and entertaining to watch), it’s also led to an explosion of content. Maybe too much content. Sometimes, after scrolling for hours, I emerge from a fog of visual absorption to realize that in the past 30 minutes, I’ve thumbed through creative output that’s taken countless hours to produce. Am I really giving it its due by pausing for two seconds to hit the heart? Am I really even understanding the ideas a designer or stylist or photographer is trying to communicate?
Sometimes I feel like a sponge, trying to soak up every cool, beautiful thing in the world only to realize that I’m at my saturation point. So many worthwhile things that people have put hard work and creativity into are spilling out of my brain never to be fully comprehended or appreciated, which leads to yet another strain of social media anxiety. It’s like appreciation FOMO — in this case I’m not scared of missing out on some awesome vacation a friend is on or that exhibition everyone is at, I’m scared of missing out on something beautiful I’d like to contemplate, remember, refer back to. Trying to take in everything and worrying about not being able to is exhausting.
The Instagramification of fashion also doubles down on consumption. Inevitably when you follow brands or designers at least part of the point is to make you want to buy. It’s easy to see how that can contribute to the endless cycle of consumerism, which takes a toll on the environment (another reason it’s meaningful that The RealReal is part of the circular economy). But aside from that, it’s changing our patterns of purely visual consumption. What once may have stopped our gaze in its tracks we now glaze over. What once we may have torn out and pasted on our walls for inspiration we now save to a rarely visible folder, if we save it at all.
The result? More and more fashion content gets churned out to feed the endless scroll, with less and less appreciation. Which leads to another Insta-issue: homogenization. Do you ever notice that everything is starting to look the same? All of a sudden every model in every image is wearing those shoes. Every influencer is carrying that same bag. Every background is the same color (yeah, it’s pink). It becomes eerie, or worse, boring. I wouldn’t cast blame on anyone in particular, and I’m certainly not immune, but I think it’s something that deserves attention. It makes sense to keep posting what people respond to, especially in the case of designers and brands, because we’re all caught up in the tyranny of likes and followers. It’s enticing to only post the things that people are indicating they like and want more of, especially if the bottom line is partly dependent upon it. But it can lead to a vicious cycle of sameness and a lack of experimentation.
So what’s the solution? Well, given that it’s a not a straightforward phenomenon, and that it’s likely to differ based on your own social media diet, I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all remedy. But here are some ideas I’m toying with.
Take time off
The less time you spend on social media, the more you might appreciate it when you come back. Think of it like a tolerance — if you scale back, maybe a little will be enough when you come back to check in and you’ll be able to more fully appreciate what you see. Perhaps the same could go for designers. Even though there’s relentless pressure to keep up a social media presence to engage fans and drive sales, there may be a real benefit to stepping away for a while if it allows them to steep in their own creative world instead of being constantly influenced by the masses on Instagram.
For me, seeking out print magazines has been one antidote to social media overload (I have a magazine collection problem, but that’s another story). You’re still consuming fashion, but it feels different, more purposeful and slower. For me the experience of looking at something in print just has different dimensions. It feels more permanent. More like something you’ll pick up over and over again. Something that contains ideas and images worth giving physical form to.
An additional benefit is that you’re supporting smaller to medium-size (or these days maybe even larger) print magazines and editorial. This sends the message that there’s an appetite for something other than just Insta-tailored images. Plus, when you support print, you’re supporting the publications, the creatives they work with, and possibly the independent shops that carry them. I see it as an excuse to patronize my local specialty magazine shop which brings my interest into real life instead of solely behind a screen.
Gram for you
This one’s for your own feed, because most of us aren’t just consumers but creators on the platform. Trust your own weird inner voice. Post the things that speak to you even if you’re the only one who thinks they’re beautiful or funny, likes and follower drop-off be damned. If fashion on Instagram is going to be interesting, we need more of that.
We still think you should follow us here.