The rise of unpolished, uncurated, 'ugly' Instagram.

I was swiping through someone's Instagram 'photo dump' recently (what a horrendous term, right?) when I found myself judging their lack of... filter.

Each photo was either blurry, awkwardly angled or just a downright ugly image of a dirty Sydney street. In hindsight, I can see how it looked like real life. Chaotic. Messy. Completely and utterly unphotogenic.

The fact that I was initially judgemental of it says a lot about me, but also about Instagram. Over 12 years, the app has grown to roughly one billion monthly active users, most drawn in years ago by the picture-perfect, carefully curated aesthetic of lattes, avocados and neon signs. Things were designed and created 'for the gram'. Floral walls, pancakes with fairy floss, photo booths, cutesy product packaging.

It was obviously manufactured, and we bought it. Because for a long time, Instagram was about trying to fit in. It was about showing off a 'highlights reel' of beaches and brunches, just like everyone else, and at its most extreme, about looking like everyone else too: with plump lips, high cheekbones and thick brows.

There were Instagram rules, but scrolling through a feed featuring Cara Delevingne's blurry selfies, Rita Ora's stripy socks and a weird chalk message an acquaintance saw on the footpath, it feels like they've been done away with.

I would argue there's an element to the pandemic in this shift. As cliche as it has become to attribute cultural changes to COVID-19, it's also hard to argue that it wasn't difficult to keep up the traditional, over-thought, staged Instagram aesthetic when cafes were closed and the only events taking place were on our couches.

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