Has Instagram Come Full Circle?

(This is my favorite photo from 2017. It’s blurry, grainy and was taken in the dark with my phone … but it’s our first morning waking up at home with our daughter and I’ll cherish it all my life.)

As we’ve been blogging for over 10 years now we’ve seen a lot. Trends come and go. Ethics get debated, and new standards and best practices evolve all the time. Many things stand the test of time as well. Overall, it’s interesting to watch and we’ve learned not to take any of it personally, and to roll with the punches.

Lately, a topic that has been on my mind is the pressure or standard to create a highly curated Instagram feed. I think so many people compare their own photos to those that are highly curated, yet aren’t willing, aren’t able or don’t want to do the large amount of work it takes to achieve this look. It’s like an unspoken standard for bloggers, but is it really benefitting us?

So I want to open this topic up today! I want to share my opinions and even some thoughts I am still working through. And I want to hear what you think. I’m definitely guilty of overthinking a lot of this stuff!

First, let’s back WAY up with a little history of Instagram from my perspective. I’ve used Instagram almost since the beginning, for almost seven years now. It has changed SO MUCH in this time. When I first started posting on Instagram, it felt so random! I would post photos of the most random parts of my daily life using the built-in (very heavy) filters and borders that IG offered at that time. It quickly became my favorite social media app (I don’t really use Facebook and I haven’t logged onto Twitter for years).

As the years went on, I and many other people started to put a little more effort into what we posted. I would sometimes post a photo from a blog post that I really loved or a professional photo here and there. But, for the most part, I mainly shared photos I took each day, throughout my day. I didn’t care about how well my grid matched. I didn’t use the same filter for each photo. I really didn’t put that much effort or time into it. But it was was growing like crazy. I would often get thousands of new followers in a day.

The other big difference was I posted a LOT more. Six photos a day was totally normal for me back then. I never felt self conscious about anything I posted. I never checked back to see which photos got more likes. And although you couldn’t edit captions and my feed was littered with typos, I really didn’t care.

Much like the beginning of blogging was for me, it was just FUN. It never crossed my mind that I was building some kind of important asset for my business or that we could eventually use this platform to make money.

Over the years, so many phases and stages have completely changed how we use IG. I remember when people started to do sponsored posts and everyone flipped out. I remember when it suddenly became a big deal to keep your grid looking nice and create a theme (matching filters, varying compositions, etc.). Most recently, the big algorithm changes shook a lot of people up and completely changed what type of content thrives for many accounts.

Over the past few years, we’ve all noticed a trend towards HIGHLY curated feeds. I’m talking about photos of real people at real places, but that feels more like a photo from a magazine than a photo from a person’s life. These extremely curated feeds are polarizing to many. I am truly torn on how I feel about it all. From a creative standpoint, the aspirational style of these photos is inspiring to me. Yes, they are more perfect than anyone’s real life could possibly be, but that’s also what makes these photos interesting to look at. I consider many of these photos art and feel truly inspired by a collection of work like this. I can see how much effort, time, money and creative passion goes into creating these feeds, and I respect the hell out of that.

At the same time, everything starts to look the same. It’s becoming more and more common to find these stunning, perfectly curated Instagram accounts and at times they do start to blend together.

And lately I started to wonder if having a highly curated feed is actually making it more difficult to stand out. Are these epic photoshoots that people are creating beginning to have diminishing returns because too many other people are trying to do the same thing? As it becomes common to have professionally photographed, magazine-quality photos as an entire Instagram feed, does that devalue it for the people who invest so much to create them?

On a personal note, before we left for China, I was feeling discouraged and bored with my own Instagram. I was making new mood boards for myself nearly every month but continually feeling burnt out and unhappy with what I was creating. I was feeling really insecure and uninspired.

As a personal experiment, I decided to not care AT ALL about how curated my feed was for a while. Since our trip to China was the opposite of a blogger vacation, I didn’t have the option to try to create the kind of photos I normally would anyway. I didn’t even take my camera with me and I didn’t bring any cute outfits to wear in photos.

I just decided to take a break from feeling guilty about it for a while.

I started posting whatever I wanted, at weird hours of the day. I didn’t vary my content at all, I just let my feed go and posted about what I was happy about from each day, which was my new daughter. And it grew SO MUCH. More than it has in years. I was expecting a lot of people to unfollow me because I feel like there’s an unspoken rule on IG that if you only post photos of your kid, you’re boring. But then the opposite happened and I had thousands of new followers who felt personally invested in our story.

I can’t tell you how refreshing it felt to know that people were interested in my life and that they didn’t care if my feed looked “good”. I felt a sense of community that I hadn’t realized I had been missing for years.

I realized that for me, caring too much about following these “rules” was actually holding me back. I realized that trying too hard to use matching colors or post a variety of different things would have taken away from our story in China, not added.

But, most of all, I just felt such a huge relief to let the pressure go. I had been feeling like I was failing for a while. And that was my choice. No one was forcing me to overthink all this—it was just an unhealthy habit that I didn’t even realize I had. I cared too much, but about the wrong things.

While I was trying to create a better, more aspirational IG account, I was actually creating a more boring one. And when I stopped caring and just posted from my heart, I found a way to finally feel creatively satisfied because I started to focus solely on the stories and memories.

I do believe that Instagram is coming full circle, at least for me. I have no doubt it will continue to evolve and change. As we overdose with one thing we crave the complete opposite—it’s human nature.

The main takeaway I have from my recent “not caring” experiment is that I am ready for a shift toward caring far, far less and just having fun with my Instagram. And I’m also feeling a need to focus more on memories and moments and less on the quality of my photos. It’s all relative anyway—an imperfect photo becomes perfect the moment you decide it does. I am feeling so refreshed by this simple shift in my goals and approach.

The purpose of this post is to just share some food for thought. Maybe you’re needing a shift of your own and maybe you aren’t. Maybe you think analyzing this so much is ridiculous and I can’t argue with that at all. Haha! But I wanted to share this because it’s been on my mind lately.

I would love to hear your perspectives on all this. I always think there is room for all different types of creative expression, but it’s also fun to analyze what I’m currently drawn to and why. Just please don’t use this comments section as a way to bash other people. As I said above, I respect the hell out of people who work so hard to create a curated Instagram feed. I even consider it art. And if that’s what’s making you happy, lean into it.

I also think that for many of us, the goal of a curated feed is actually holding us back from being creatively satisfied. And if that’s you, maybe try your own experiment of just letting all those expectations go.

xx. Elsie

Please note: I wrote this post from the perspective of my personal Instagram, not my businesses. I realize that different accounts have different goals and I am not meaning to paint them all with with same brush. In this post, I am only talking about accounts that are sharing photos of daily life.

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  • I totally agree! I find myself just scrolling through the perfectly beautiful pictures now because there are just sooo many of them. I come to a stop when I see a personal picture with a story behind it. I’ a photographer and I will only post a picture that I’m particularly proud of. I don’t care that there is no rhythm to my feed, or perfectly edited. It makes ME feel good to scroll through it!

    • I would much rather have an authentic feed to scroll through. I hope ‘uncurated’ is the way to go!

  • this was a refreshing post especially coming from a blog that has such beautifully curated images ( i know you said you were referencing more personal accounts but still) I recently started documenting my art/craft using instagram separate from my private account, and ive reached the same hurdles where you want to create a theme etc and it actually hinders your creativity and makes you over analyze and as a result, I’m not sharing everything , but in time id figure it out. I too started following your private account and your life with your daughter, for the very same reason that i noticed that it was more carefree and it was refreshing to see that you more caught up with the happiness of the new stage in your family, (that shines through in all your posts) versus creating a pretty ‘matchy’ account. Great food for thought!

  • Love this post because I had been feeling inferior with my photos due to exactly what you are saying! I only post random photos of my life and if I even use a filter it’s just the IG ones. This momma ain’t got time for anything else! But several times I’ve tried to create a perfect photo one someone might want to share or like because it’s perfect and they always turn out terrible! Creativity and photography are not my strengths. I have been working on appreciating those who take awesome pictures and not comparing my real life photos to theirs.
    On a separate note insta-stories have become one of my favorite things I look forward to watching everyone’s and am slowly figuring out how to make them myself ☺️

  • I know exactly what you are feeling. I’ve been having a lot of the same thoughts over the past 6 months to a year or so. I use my Instagram for business. And one of the things I found was that I was spending ALL my time on curating my feed and not creating the connections that were going help me grow my business because by the time I’d sourced or taken the images, filled up the #perfect caption and got the 3 posts a day scheduled I needed a break from it. And then I would have to do that every week. I’ve been taking a step back from social media as a way to talk at people and focus more on talking with people. Which has meant a lot more to me than finding the perfect images. I’m not sure what my new Instagram strategy is going to be yet but I’m really excited about breaking out of the perfect box to find something fun and unique.

  • Instagram used to be beautiful but now I feel like everything is so curated, shot with professional cameras, so impersonal… It completely lost the “insta” factor and standing out is everyday more difficult, most of all for small accounts, business and so on.
    I’m so afraid it’s becoming like Facebook!

  • I loved this post!

    I have never found your feed boring but I completely understand what you’re saying. I was also feeling very uninspired that last few months and posting was becoming a dreaded chore. It used to be fun! We just built a new house and moved in right before Christmas and that’s what I was excited about in life but I was feeling like I couldn’t post about that because that’s not what my feed is about. I decided to say screw it and post a bit about our life and what’s been going on and I felt really happy and inspired about that. The fire got going again! Now I’m trying to find a way to balance my feed out with more things im inspired by that just posting about my work life.

    Thank you for writing about this about this!
    -Amber

  • I don’t have a business and just have some friends that follow me and I still feel this. Things that aren’t pretty don’t feel worthy of posting and I over analyze the crap out of them. “Is this even worth posting?” “Do people even care to see a picture of my adorable cat?”

    I’m glad I am not the only one feeling this. I’m 31 and this is such a great season of life for me and I feel like I should feel confident enough just to post whatever the eff I want. Who cares what people think? The over analyzing is honestly such a waste of energy and I am happy to start making a change toward the fun side of social media again.

  • I completely agree with you! Don’t get me wrong people with these amazingly themed feeds are clearly hard workers, and the photos are BEAUTIFUL. But I stop at the photos that are out of the ordinary and have a story behind it. I do not have many followers at all, but I post what I like, and I don’t care about my feed. I would rather scroll through my own feed and look at all the happy times and memories, not the staged photos. Its all about perspective though! xx

    http://zoe-ware.blogspot.ca

  • The thing about curated instagrams is that you can’t really get a sense of what the people behind them are like. They start to feel like a business, and they probably are. I don’t really care about following over 10 bussiness accounts just because they’re pretty. I like content and feeling like the person in charge is just that, a person.

    I’ve been following you for YEARS, so I know who you are and I love the things you share, no matter if they’re super personal or not, because I have an attachment to YOU, as a person (you’re awesome!). Now that Nova is in your life, of course I want to see her (and cry my eyes out when she smiles because she’s adorable!), we all want to.

    What I’m trying to say is,I’m glad things are chaning again, I’m glad these non-curated pictures are back, I prefer pictures with feeling than something super pretty and stylish.

  • I also overthink things a lot, so I totally agree. I tend towards following accounts that give a more realistic impression of daily life, and how that looks to me. I’ll also follow accounts that are artistically beautiful, but if I’m following a person, I love to see real life, and I find it tremendously refreshing. Even logically knowing these are curated feeds, it’s hard not to make subconscious comparisons, so I always appreciate a dose of reality, and it makes me feel more connected to people. (Like your journey with Nova, I’m not even ready for children but it has me interested in adoption, and exploring journeys of families made in this way, it’s a real element of life and I love it – so thanks for sharing!)

  • This is a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot lately! I’ve been pretty neurotic about Instagram for a long time because I only like posting really happy colorful photos, but I do it for ME. I turned off all notifications for Instagram because I don’t want to ever measure my life by how many likes and followers I have on an app. I think it’s a “to each his own” scenario- if you want to be curated, go for it! If you want to only post unedited pictures of your cute kids, that’s great too! As with most things in life, the important thing is to remain true to yourself. I’ll continue to follow you (Elsie and the rest of the ABM team) because I think you are all great people.
    Love,
    @SayNiHay

    • I too have notifications off. About a year ago I was getting caught up into the ego part of the app (how many likes and followers am I getting?). It really does make for a more enjoyable experience imo when you aren’t constantly getting push notifications of every little action on there.

  • I’m new to Instagram, but personally prefer candid, unscripted moments that let me “in” on someone else’s life.

  • Hi Elsie! Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this! I have been thinking these things (less articulately) for years. I have so much respect for your curated work, but I 100% agree, real, imperfect life is never boring. There’s something artful about graininess, and the rarest thing of all on IG these days — truly candid photos! My favorite IG posts of my own are old, grainy, over-filtered, and have 2 likes. And lately I’ve got all these “perfect” looking European landscapes, but like…who cares? Boring. Where’s the life in them? My all-time favorite, inspiring blogs and posts are from like, 2008 “the rockstar diaries” (now LoveTaza) and ABM. Still a huge fan, but more so now that you have been sharing such authentic, candid feelings. Thank you so much, hug Nova for me, hug your precious dogs, and take care of yourself!!! Love, Katie

  • This was so interesting to read. I recently shifted my personal account to just my business one, Namastay Traveling, since I was straying from posting my actual life online. It’s been really hard to keep up the image I’m trying to make and I feel like I overthink every post! Whether it follows the theme, the quote is fitting, and colors match etc. etc. I think I need to loosen up a bit (actually, I definitely do) to bring the joy back in! Thanks for this thoughtfulness. And your picture is so sweet! Sending so much love to your family <3

  • Couldn’t agree more Elsie! I think it’s because like you said people’s accounts are all blending into one and nothing is really original anymore. I think with your story and new path in life with Nova is something so different we as your followers want to go on that journey with you. I literally LIVE for seeing your posts in my newsfeed Now. If I’m honest they actually never appeared in my feed before but then I kept going back to your account to see if you’d posted something I’d missed and IG finally got the hint and started putting you at the top of my home feed. I’m sure I speak for thousands of your followers there. Anyways love the candid shots you post of your family and life in general <3

    All the best,
    Jess xxx

  • This is funny because just yesterday I unfollowed SEVERAL accounts that only post curated food/home/clothing pictures because I’m just…not into them anymore.

    While I highly enjoyed your feed pre-Nova, I think it has improved exponentially post-Nova. 🙂 Nothing like seeing a happy family – its not boring, its beautiful.

  • Elsie, thank you for sharing your perspective on your personal Instagram. I feel the same way. I’m not a blogger but I follow many and I too have noticed that over the last year accounts all seem to meld into one. There are very few “original” posts any more. I prefer Insta over Facebook as well. I don’t post every day and feel like I have to make my photo look pretty. I think shifting my perspective might be in order. Perhaps if I start looking at my Insta feed as a journal, it will feel different. I don’t HAVE to post every day, or every week even. I need to share what’s inspiring to me and not do it to see the hearts and comments, of which I get very few compared to most. Plus, I’m the type of person whose phone is not an extension of her arm so there are times when I’m watching my kids play in the evening after work and my phone is in the other room and honestly I can’t be bothered to get up and get the phone because by the time I do they will have moved on to something else (not to mention I’ll hear the “Mommy, what are you doing on your phone?” line). I don’t know what I’m trying to say here, other than I appreciate that you’ve opened up a pathway of communication about a topic I was thinking about as well.

  • I’m so glad that someone with your standing in the blogging world wrote a post like this. I hope people will see this as the “official” permission slip they need to just chill out on Instagram and not worry about it so much. I know I will!

  • I totally agree. I look at the grids of the curated Instagram users and think it is truly a work of art, and see how much time and effort went into that. But the problem for me is that the grid is so much more interesting than the individual photos. I unfollow them very quickly, within the same day in some cases, because the photos are all so similar and there is no real soul behind them. They’re so so gorgeous, but as they show up in your feed everyday, every picture is no different from the last. I am loving all your pictures of Nova, and in fact didn’t even realize that she’s been in every post until you mentioned it. I have an 8 week old and you love them so much and your entire day (life) is so consumed with them, everything else seems unimportant compared to them. All that to say, I think Instagram becomes more interesting when it is personal. It’s a special thing to connect with someone personally (sometimes, in the case of bloggers, people you have and will never meet) but it happens all the time on these platforms, and that’s what I think is so amazing about social media and why people of every age are on it.

  • I think that InstaStories have really helped bring things back down.
    I’m loving your Nova-filled feed!

  • I relate to this so hard! I took a few months off of regularly posting on IG at the end of 2017. I didn’t feel inspired. I was frustrated by the algorithm b.s. I felt like my feed vibe didn’t fit the popular white-washed perfectly curated and professionally photographed feeds that everyone seems to love. I needed a break.

    When I got inspired to start posting again about a month ago, I shared more Stories of my daily random life stuff. And I relished posting pics on my feed that truly reflect me and my style. Deep, vibrant colors. Texture. Shadows. I’m just doing me. And the response has been amazing!

    I feel that we get back the energy we put into this crazy social media microcosm. When you share what inspires you, it inspires others. Just like you writing about this! Thanks for the honesty. 💓

  • This post was SO needed in my life and I didn’t even know it ’til now! I started my business IG about a year ago and it was all BUSINESS – I’d agonize over how my artwork didn’t have a good flow on my feed, I’d get discouraged by my low number of followers, I’d wig out over likes (and internally scream at my 14 year old cousin who was getting triple the response for a grainy selfie over my heart-and-soul art).

    I haven’t touched IG for months now after posting rigirously every day/feeling like a failure that I missed a day. I’ve actually totally ignored promoting my art in general and it’s actually been incredibly liberating. Your post has inspired me to revisit IG and just have fun with it the way *I* want to (because there are aspects I miss and I REEEAAALLY need to get back into promoting my business, after all, but now it will be genuinely ME). So THANK YOU! You continue to motivate my little life. 🙂

    P.S. My husband and I have been considering adoption for years and your incredible journey has fueled that flame tremendously. <3

  • Love your thoughts! When I found out I was pregnant I decided to separate my personal away from my business and I’m so glad I did. I love that with my new baby I can post pictures that make me happy! And you quickly learn with a baby it’s hard to “curate” and it’s better to just enjoy the moments. Love your feed!

  • Long time follower, first time commenter 🙂 I’ve actually enjoyed your Instagram more since following your adoption story. I think seeing your every day life makes you seem more like a “real person” instead of this “celebrity blogger” type person, If that makes sense. I love seeing Nova on your feed.
    Also I wanted to comment that you’re definitely not alone in feeling frustrated with Instagram! My husband who is a photographer, actually just deleted his entire Instagram because he felt like it was stunting his creativity. I totally get why. Everything looks the same. I have become more picky about who I follow because I just kept seeing the same stuff over and over again. Anyways, thank you for you’re insight and for sharing more of Nova!

  • One trick I have used to make Instagram more enjoyable is to never post “in the moment” right after taking a picture. I always wait to post until I have downtime…or at least I try to. That way I can enjoy the moment and not be thinking about which photos will look best in my feed, or writing a caption in my head while something is going on right in front of my face. Same rule for vacations: I post afterward, when I’m back home looking through the pictures. We have all been in a room of friends while everyone is on their phone Instagramming that photo you just took together—hitting pause on sharing is a way to maximize the time we have with the people in our lives.

  • You are totally right….But in case you wanna make a change again,DONT LET NOVA out of it 😛 😛 I will unfollow you immediately 😛 xo

  • The Instagram feeds I am most drawn to are the ones where people are sharing their personal stories, feelings, and thoughts. The photos don’t even matter to me that much anymore. I think what I’m looking for on Instagram are people that I can either relate to or who show me a different perspective. From reading people’s personal thoughts and looking at their daily photos, I either feel less alone because I can relate to their story, or I learn something important or am exposed to something that makes me reflect on my own life. I LOVED following your adoption story and trip to China on Instagram. The photos were beautiful because they were snapshots of a real life happening somewhere.

  • I am so glad then that I have no idea what “curated” and “grid” mean. Instadummy in the house!!! I do find that at first, I began following people who had “pretty pictures”, but then as they all started to look the same, unfollowing those same people for the same reason. Life is imperfect and it is beautiful in its flaws. I am trying to embrace that these days and comparing myself to all of the beautiful, yet seemingly perfect lives was both alienating and disheartening. Just an outsider, nonblogger’s view.

  • I think you are totally on to something here. I much prefer to watch people’s stories than look st their Instagram posts because they feel much more authentic. I used to worry about how my “grid” didn’t look good enough/match until I realized that I hardly ever look at/think about others’ grids so why would people be thinking about mine? I definitely care more about and stop to look at photos that feel like a real part of someone’s life and not just a magazine quality photo.

  • I love this so much. I have a smaller blog and use an IG account for it, but I use it a lot for more just glimpses into my life than worrying about it every theme picture is the same. I may not have a ton of followers like huge blogs do, but that’s okay. I’d rather have people following me because they like the reality of my life, not the themes and cohesion of my photos.

    http://aneducationindomestication.com

  • You say it best, Elsie 💓 I’ve been struggling with this whole personal-and-curated balance for a long time since I was put under the suggested list radar from Instagram. I spent too much time to think of what pleases my followers and whether I should just stop caring (about them, and the dropping engagement 😬) I’m really happy for this new chapter of you with Nova – both online and offline!

  • I do have a love of these highly curated IG accounts for the way they can be inspiring and uplifting. However I do find a point where I feel burnt out of the high you get when constantly faced with visual perfection. I think more often than we realize , followers really crave authenticity.

  • This was a great read! I have been on Instagram too for about 7 years and have seen tons of changes (I totally forgot about borders!) I agree that it is nice to see pictures from “real life” and know that that is what I post on mine. That being said… as you mentioned the uniform look and filters, I thought to myself immediately of how I always end up using only one or two filters or slightly adjust certain elements of some of my posts. It is by no means me doing it for a uniformed “blogger” look- I just scrolled through my feed and let’s face it, nothing I do is ever uniform, but, I just naturally veer towards these settings because I just like them.
    Anyway, once again, lovely post to read. Makes me want to experiment a bit with what I am posting. Cheers!

  • I have followed you for years after subscribing to your ‘happy mail’ subscription. Since you’ve started posting more photos of your everyday life (that are more relatable) your account went from one that I stumbled upon occasionally from a beautiful photo- to a top 5 in my Instagram search feature. I think you’re onto something! Keep doing what you’re doing 😘

  • Wonderful post and conversation. For those of us trying to build a community or just be ourselves and share our creative ideas, its very disheartening that it’s not authentic and organic anymore. I enjoy beautiful photos but not at the expense of seeing the things I love, knowing creatives (and seeing their work) in the spaces I like to explore and expanding my own creative journey.

  • I don’t know that the highly curated feed will go away, it’s prettier to look at—but I think that traditional Instagram is losing steam and people are using stories more than actually publishing, in part because it feels more authentic (and “insta”) and because the algorithm gets worse and worse. No matter how many times I hide “recommended for you” from my feed, it pops back up.

    A while back I unfollowed almost all inspirational/ppl I don’t know accounts. I did this in part because I was tired of missing posts by my actual friends due to the algorithm, and in part because those ‘aspirational’ accounts made me feel bad. It’s embarrassing to admit how much certain fashion influencers have driven me to consume, and I consider myself to be fairly aware (fab for fun, skinny tea, etc ads are transparent but many ads are more insidious).

    I used a different account to follow those I deleted, in case I changed my mind, but I haven’t missed them. The few accounts I have missed I refollowed. In general, the less personal a feed is, the less interested I am in it. I don’t follow abm on Instagram (though the blog is in my reader) but I did recently follow you, Elsie, because I’m interested in your adoption story.

    I also think it’s easier for someone who already has influencer status to decide to be authentic and still grow their following, but I think that for people who want to break into the (perhaps diminishing) cash-cow that is Instagram influencer, there’s still a format that is more successful—and that is generally pretty curated. I understand the desire to want in on this (I mean, hello, hotels please invite me to stay at your hotels!). I think most wouldn’t scoff at that opportunity.

    • Interesting points. I do agree that it’s easier to grow a curated feed for a lot of people. And I don’t mean to put anyone down AT ALL (like I said- I follow tons of ultra curated feeds and love them) but I do feel like I get more personal connection out of their stories…. Good food for thought.

  • I loved reading your thoughts on this topic. A while back, I deleted all my posts off Instagram because I felt they were boring, terrible, or poorly edited. I wanted them to look pretty, but it’s so much work when you’re trying to find the right picture and filters. I’m not too worried about making it look perfect now. I do follow models and blogs/business and while they’re pretty to look at, I enjoy when they post real life. It feels more genuine.

  • So on board with this – I’ve actually stopped trying to use instagram as a personal thing at all. Which is even weirder? Part of me wants to ditch it entirely but I do think it has merit in helping creatives be found, being a platform for people who make art (like me!) to throw their work out there and get feedback, and also like you said, for building community!

    “an imperfect photo becomes perfect the moment you decide it does.”
    – I think this is the best quote ever. Everything is so dang subjective anyway, and there’s a whole section of instagram that doesn’t give a crap and actually intentionally posts pictures that are “ugly”, unfiltered, low-brow if you will. It’s a cool social sphere to think about.

    and of course, I’m one of those people who has just been loving your instagram. It makes me smile regularly!

  • I was just talking with my sister about this exact thing the other day! I enjoy real life posts so much more than curated ones. Sponsored posts really changed everything. You do a great job of your Beautiful Mess account, though! I feel like you’re one of the few legit ones out there with a long history of original ideas and great content. You’re not just in it for the likes!

  • I noticed the change in your IG feed, and I LOVED it. I will say, a big part of this was being interested in your adoption story; I’ve always wanted to adopt, and I knew you would share your raw heart about it, so I paid close attention. Also, I visited your profile regularly to make sure I wasn’t missing anything, and while you mention that you went with “not caring,” the feed was still very color-cohesive, and subject matter was clear and consistent, and it maintained more of a curated feel than you may have thought. While I could not agree more that “perfect” profiles all sort-of start to blend together, yours still looks very polished and branded. It simply stands out because of the story holding it together. I don’t think just anyone could stop curating their feeds and achieve the results you did. Although I would love that! I feel a lot of pressure to keep my feed looking just-so.

  • I concur, Elsie. If you’re passionate about something, you’ll share it and it’ll be apparent to everyone how you feel about it. And I love that and think it brings more views too, but in the end, isn’t about making ourselves happy? 💓

  • I am definitely feeling the fatigue from following too many curated accounts. Glad to hear you are too. Love your content and so excited to follow your new chapter as a mom to little nova! Thanks for this breath of fresh air. ~Megan

  • Instagram is my favorite social media platform above all others and I LOVE your personal Instagram feed! It is absolutely my favorite to visit. Number one!!! I enjoy Instagram so much because it often is so much more about people’s lives. I do enjoy some of the curated Instagram feeds but mine is definitely not like that, and I love the photo journal that my very personal and uncurated feed does for me. The posts that are from the heart are beautiful and heartwarming and connects humanity. I have loved watching your adoption journey and I share photos of Nova with my 12-year-old son who thinks she is so adorable as do I. Please keep posting these family posts. Those are the type of posts that keep me coming back to view social media in the first place. I enjoy those from you and all others who choose to post them. 🙂

  • Elsie, thank you for posting this and sharing your perspective! The past few months I’ve found myself on a similar wavelength. Feeling uninspired and quite honestly, bored. I would go to post a “perfect” photo with caption and then delete it. I would mindlessly scroll and take in nothing. I noticed this month, that the accounts I actually follow and gain from are those that post their random thoughts and daily life, uncensored and it’s given me the inspiration to get back to that. I didn’t realize how much I missed it. The curated feeds, although beautiful often leave me feeling blah. I’m much more invested in people who share from their heart, candidly. I also have LOVED all the photos and words you’ve so openly shared with us about adoption, Nova and your time in China.

  • Hey Elsie, thanks for this post. Its nice to know that people like you feel this way too! I recently unfollowed all the curated feeds I used to because they felt fake at times, or at least a bit boring, and yet I still compared my life to them. I started following your account when I read about your pending adoption (after years or reading your blog) and I love your account precisely because it feels real. There is substance to your posts and not just a pretty photo. Thanks for being so real in a land of so much planning and editing… it is called “instagram” not “planandeditogram” which is what is fun about it for me and I hope is a change back for others too.

  • Thank you so much for this! I am in the process of starting an online business and the thought of creating an IG for it has left me stunted for just this reason. Although I consider my self a creative person I don’t have the luxury of having a photographer follow me around to take awesome photos and as an older (37) entrepreneur I tend to doubt my aesthetic; is that in style? Is that even cool? Am I too old for this? Reading your post has reconfirmed that I need to listen to that little voice in my head that tells me to continue to be myself and I will find people who are drawn to what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. xo

  • Curated feeds are not the problem I (as well as many others) have with Instagram lately; we all enjoy pretty photos of the bright sides of life. Intentional fake is the problem. People post a life they don’t live. They take photos for, not about. For the feed, not about their life. They buy items just for a photo and then return it. They don’t enjoy their real life anymore because they’re too busy posing in front of the camera for their stupid Instagram. I don’t follow famous bloggers or ( pseudo-) influencers, because they bore me to death with their fake. They’re pretending to live a glamorous life or being rich or looking fabulous or whatnot. They wear every garbage they get sent for free or are paid for by a company. It has reached the peak point of ridiculousness.
    Just like you I started on with ugly photos and horrible filters years ago. Then I put more effort into my photos and grid and quickly gained new followers and even real friendships. But with Instagram’s success came all the paid opportunities, which is totally fine, but now EVERYONE wants a piece of that cake. I have blogged since 2011 and never made one single Cent since then. I don’t want to. I use it as a kind of digital diary and that’s how I want to use my Instagram too. Last week I moved all photos to the archive because I started to hate them all. Some helped me gain more followers and even sell my art ( thanks to being featured on the A Beautiful Mess Instagram feed twice!!). But many of them are just soul- less. I removed them to prevent myself from posting even more poop. And this post, your words, only confirms my decision and motivates me to post my personal life again. And if no one cares, well I don’t care.
    I no longer want to spend time thinking about Instagram or wondering if the first 12 pictures in my profile look cohesive. It’s a waste of precious time that I rather spend living life.

  • I’ve been waiting for this post!!! When I started hearing all the talk about what has been going on, my mind immediately jumped to you and wondered what your take was on all of this. I’ve been following you almost since the beginning of ABM and I’ve loved seeing the evolution of the blog and your personal account!

    I personally love your “real life” photos more than the staged. It makes me feel more connected with the people that I follow and reminds me that it’s ok that I’m not “super mom/woman” and no one else is either. We’re all just trying to get through this thing called life and some people are just better at staging photos than others. Haha! Please don’t get me wrong, the staged photos you post are wonderful and a nice reminder that you have an incredible talent, but I definitely relate more to the “OG IG” styles. 😘

  • Thank you Elsie! This thought has been reverberating in my head constantly and you summed it up perfectly. How amazing is it that the moment we let go of how we think we “should” be, everything fits into place perfectly. Refreshing and inspiring thought, for sure.

  • For me, if an Instagram grid looks Suuuper matchy matchy, I don’t bother following. If it’s only pictures of them over and over, I won’t follow. BUT i do believe you can make your grid look cohesive with your every day life. I love ootd pictures and seeing what crafts people are working on or pictures of their homes or animals. But when it’s, like you said, a perfect magazine style picture… it’s boring. I want to see a picture from your prospective. Not your assistants.

  • To be honest, your feed still looks totally curated and planned and cohesive. Maybe because you like design and you are doing it unconsciously? But it’s hard to take your post about letting go really seriously when it still looks perfect to the average person. It’s not necessarily a bad thing! But maybe what you are putting out there and what you think you are putting out there don’t totally mesh. I just think it’s great for us all to be thinking about this stuff and talking about it. At the end of the day we are who we are and social media will probably just amplify that.

    • Yeah- I know what you mean- I actually do use all the same filters now (it’s because I’m thinking about it less and not more though). But now I feel comfortable posting 2 pics in a row or two of the same type of thing in a row. I used to obsess over that stuff and it feels good to not care (in my own way! i still kind of care, but it feels easier now). xx!

  • I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been on instagram since the beginning and like you have gone with the ebbs and flows and trends that pop up. My biggest mistake was not taking instagram seriously for my blog though > while others were taking their readers from one platform the next, i just stuck to my blog which I loved and didn’t give insta the time of day. Now i hate myself for it, because it’s small versus my blog and literally NEVER grows. Even my most proudest content can die an instant death on there. I find myself getting quite upset and disheartened by it, and in fact it’s almost the constant lowness and constant fluctuations of growth and decline (and no logic to it either) thats made me stop caring quite so much too. And in fact the accounts i’ve been loving, yours included, are the ones where its real life, real stories and everyday ongoings. So actually i personally want to reflect that more in my feed too. … here’s hoping it brings me some joy.

    Mel x mediamarmalade.com
    instagram.com/mediamarmalade

  • I agree so much with this, Elsie. Instagram isn’t as fun as it used to be. I’ve been trying to let loose lately and this post has really inspired me to stop caring about what my feed looks like to others and more of if I like what I am posting. Thank you!

  • Great post , I enjoyed reading it so much!

    I also use instagram just to share some private photos and there was this point where I caught myself reading about tips to gain more followers. Those were tips like refollowing, but also to “get a handwriting.” The theme of your photos should have a recognisable look – in other words: the photos you put on instagram should always tell a different story in the same shape (maybe even same story, same shape). YOUR INSTAGRAM FEED IS A BRAND! Let people recognise that brand.

    I had a look at my instagram account: all photos looked so different from each other, there is really no handwriting. My photos are not branded, cause I got no recognisable style. And I got worried for a second.

    …After reading your post I just realise how goofy it is to worry about that. I share pictures that I love and that I think are worth sharing. And if one pic is a photo of a dull rainy day in a gray atmosphere and the next one is a really colourful and bright pic of my pets: who cares? I share my life. And life is like that – sometimes bright, sometimes dark. I’m not a professional, so I shouldn’t think like a professional. I shouldn’t care about best timing, best photo quality, best theme that is bringing out the best of my brand. Nah. I’m not instagram fame, so I should do the same you do: Not care!

    Thanks for the input! 🙂

  • At the end of 2017 I was wanting to print a photo book and often you can connect to your instagram account to choose photos, which I did and realize there were only like 2 or 3 photos I would actually print into a photo book, which made me sad. So many of the photos were curated photos of our house (which I love interiors and like being inspired by them online), clothes or stuff versus people, memories and experiences. A goal of mine this year is to take more photos of people and capture memories. And like you said just care waaaaay less about the overall curation of my feed. LOVED THIS ARTICLE!! I’m one of those people who loved following your journey to China and adopting Nova and seeing your photos brought me joy. They were real, honest and refreshing! I’m also obsessed with the adorable outfits and style Nova has! I’m due with my first child (a girl!) this spring and have loved following your feed!!

  • This was a great post! I’ve always loved the beautiful instagrams. I don’t care if they aren’t everyone’s every-day life. I prefer instagram to FB because some of the complaints/rants/drudge that show up on FB doesn’t on instagram. I think for now my feed is a mix of stunning images and cute kids/puppies/etc and I’m glad to celebrate those photos folks have worked so hard to create.

  • I REALLY dislike how curated and over-marketing social media is these days.

    On FB, I strive to write a lot of my updates and post my own pictures so that people can actually INTERACT with me. However, lots of friends use it to share political videos, memes, food, and funnies and I’ve noticed that like 20% of the content is authored by the person these days. I can scroll through a tumblr or buzzfeed post for cute animals and visit a food blog for recipes. I want to know about THEM.

    On IG, I feel like the lines for a professional account and personal account are blurred because there is still a connection to the professional account especially if it’s a lifestyle brand or fashion. But, I want to see people actually living in the moment and I don’t care if they cropped a photo just right or didn’t get to throw a bunch of filters on it. I like not caring too much what others think but adding your own personal touch whether that is a long description describing your day or spending a little time with filters to really make that photo speak to you.

  • It’s so funny that you mention this. A while back my husband and I started a daily vlog channel which I’ll be honest… It was really lame at first. Some how we got the idea to showcase local Businesses in our hometown Reno NV . It’s turned into an amazing project ( doesn’t feel like a daily vlog at all any more). As we became more “professional” I began to use my IG to promote it. I’m not going to lie though .. finding the perfect pictures for that day as well as good hashtags takes up a lot of time haha.. and somethimes when I just post normal photos of my day I get weird responses.. like 19 year old boys wanting to Snapchat (really weird after being married 2 years). I love having IG as an outlet as it’s the biggest help growing our channel. It’s just a lot sometimes haha.

  • I love this so much! I’m always one that has stressed about my instagram feeds. Whether it’s my business or personal. I’ve always kindof been the ‘i don’t care’ person when it comes to my personal account, but I used to stress for EVER about my business account. While I do have a ‘trend’ with my business account, I’m not stressing nearly as much about posting multiple times daily, or always reaching for a certain look. I’ve definitely fine tuned my product photography in the last few years (thank god!) and I get comments all the time at in person functions where I’m selling my work that my product photography is amazing. So as long as people are enjoying that, I’m not going to go crazy trying to think of over the top ways to curate my instagram feed. As for my personal feed.. I’ve stopped trying to obtain a certain look. I just with Instagram would stop trying to curate what I see now!

  • I totally agree with this! The more ‘good’ feeds I follow the more they seem to blend together, and it starts to feel really flat. 😞 I’ve been a wedding photographer for the past 9 years and about 2ish years ago we started having people ask us, for the first time ever, if we had pictures of real weddings not shoots. I feel like people are craving to connect with other people they deem as ‘real’.

  • i agree with everything you said elsie. curated photos are beautiful to look at and i see them as art. my instagram is personal. frankly i don’t care if anyone sees them. i use them to print chat books so my kids will have printed photos of them growing up. sometimes they’re beautiful shots of the , sometimes they’re a story that i want to remember and sometimes they’re something that’s going on in the world and i want to remember it in the furture. i love that it is instant and i state that i print chatbooks out of them in my profile.

  • Could not agree more. I actually deleted Instagram for February, because I spend too much time mindlessly scrolling through the feed. I miss the personal posts & stories. I don’t want to see one more outfit post, even by bloggers that I love to follow. I think it’s something that is effecting blogging as well. It’ll be interesting though to see what new platform comes and we do this all again. Thanks for being honest!

  • I totally have been feeling the same about Instagram. It can be very tiring and uninspiring to create curated content for others or try to figure out the latest algorithm. Sometimes you just want to share something for the sake of sharing, and I think people appreciate seeing that there is a real person behind the feed. All that being said, I’ve loved seeing pictures of Nova on your Instagram. She’s such a bright and beautiful girl!

    -Helen
    http://www.sweethelengrace.com

  • I love conversations like this. It’s easy to overthink but I think mindfulness about this kind of stuff is definitely important.

    I’ve had my personal instagram account since 2012 and I’ve always loved the inherent curation involved. Unlike a facebook album of vacation pics or seasonal albums, instagram is where you could post your favorite or most impactful day to day pictures from life or from a special occasion. It’s always been like art to me in a way, but I’ve never tried hard to curate my personal feed and I LOVE looking back through it because every photo is meaningful, although it looks kind of like a big mess as a result! I recently started blogging again and now I have a separate account for my blog so that I can share my art and illustrations and some more random, pretty photos in a more curated way, and I love that as well, but I definitely like having it separate so that I don’t feel like I have to curate my whole life. I guess I’m just pretty good at not caring too much about likes or follows because it is just more of a creative outlet for me and not a business or a facade, and it stays feeling fresh because I don’t pressure myself to post more than I can keep up with. I also curate who I follow pretty carefully. I definitely follow and appreciate mostly bloggers and artists who have attractive, but REAL feeds. If you’re going to post all perfectly shot photos, at least give me a story or a tidbit of reality in the caption, you know? I think you can feel who is real and who has completely given in to creating pure fantasy (which can definitely be fun to follow as well…just in smaller doses). I also think Instagram stories has become a super fun balance for the perfect feeds–it’s hard to have overly perfect stories so it adds in a bit more personality when someone uses that more casual feature alongside their more curated feed. Overall, I appreciate realness, and it’s funny how the uncurated feeds are almost starting to feel more artsy in the age of perfection—not caring is the new overthinking! haha. xo.

  • I totally agree. A few weeks ago I unfollowed several ‚perfect‘ accounts, since I love authentic, daily life photos more. I‘ve been posting on Instagram for about 7 years and never really cared about whether I should post more curated stuff or not.
    I’m loving your account and am enjoying every single photo.
    Lovely greetings from Germany
    Sarah

  • I loved this post! I have been a silent follower of ABM for years and have never felt an urge to check your Instagram until your trip to China. I was (and still am!) so inspired by your adoption story and I love getting peeks into your new life with Nova via your Instagram; I love how personal and honest they feel. Keep em coming! 🙂

  • I absolutely love the honesty of this post, so thank you for that! I also am so happy that things are coming full circle for you. I am definitely still in an Instagram rut. I wrote my thoughts about it here: https://www.shessobright.com/2017/08/28/dear-instagram-its-not-me-its-you/ Basically I think it’s a crapshoot, with the algorithm changing without us users having any idea what’s happening. I agree though, authenticity is always better, which is why I’ve been struggling. It seems people like both authenticity and beautiful images, but sometimes it’s just not possible in everyday life unless you live in a perfectly designed apartment or home. Your post has inspired me to take a step back though, relax, and just try to have fun. Forgo the perfect images, I’ll keep those for my blog, and I’ll try to have fun again and just be creative. Instagram was robbing me of my creativity for so long I was starting to hate it, and the pursuit of making something that mattered to others was all I cared about. Now I should spend my time making myself happy and trying to express myself creatively. Good luck to everyone on here with that as well!!

    Eva | http://www.shessobright.com

  • Funny story about me in the early days of Instagram. When I downloaded it way back in the early days I thought it was a camera / filter app only. I would take pictures with it, slap on filters, and then have it on my camera roll. I didn’t realize I had followers until a friend explained what the app was actually about. ha ha!

    Wasn’t there also a time when you couldn’t import a photo from your phone and could only take it via the app? I mean imagine if we could only post in the moment unedited and raw? A truly “instant” moment.

    I definitely have lessened my posting as I overthink it too much at times. On my personal I’ve pretty much given up hashtags except for the occasional one or two and have upped my cat pics (new kitten in the house now). I’m mainly posting to share, not to grow followers there. Now on my business account I do plan the feed out and hashtags, but I allow myself to post when I want and not wait for the best engagement time.

  • First and foremost, congratulations on your beautiful daughter! I’ve known a few people who’ve gone through the adoption process and I know how lengthy and difficult the process could get at times. She is beautiful. Her spirit is beautiful. I am truly so happy for you all! Being a mom is the greatest thing in the world.
    Now, the post. I love it and appreciate your thoughts. To be honest, I began following you and your sis from the beginning of IG. You two were my big obsession along with Rachel and Katie….and then, like you said everything kind of turned into the same thing….I had a hard time distinguishing between certain accounts and it began to feel impersonal. One day I decided to clean out my account and I did it. I unfollowed. It wasn’t until your adoption story started popping up that I feverishly tried to catch up on #thelarsonsadopt and #supernovalarson. Needless to say you are one of the accounts that I look forward to seeing posts from daily! Keep it up, it definitely doesn’t go unnoticed 🙂

  • I couldn’t agree more! Social media will continue to evolve with the tides, as all things do, but it’s interesting to see trends from the beginning starting to resurface again. Our Instagram account has grown slowly over the last few years because we purposely didn’t want to spend time on the perfect curated look as you’ve explained. Not where we saw value in our brand. But is fun to be active whenever the feeling strikes and try new things! I love your insight on these topics as you’ve definitely become a guru over the years.

  • It’s so true about feeds starting to blend together and not stand out. Sometimes they look so much the same I can’t tell which account it is until I look at that portion of the image. I’ve deleted several accounts because of it being the same ole same ole.

  • I find it fascinating that you realized that by creating curated photos, you almost lost a piece of the real you. Honestly, I stopped following you and A Beautiful Mess on Instagram because of this very thing. It became sooo much of a brand that all of the genuine, authentic pieces felt lost and I felt like it was difficult to relate to anymore. As a person who loves DIY, crafting, and fashion, I originally fell in love with you and Emma because you seemingly “just like me.” When you suddenly shifted though, with the fancy clothes I could’t afford, started doing whole house remodels, which I couldn’t just do, the whole image of ABM seemed so “Hollywood” and unattainable. When I recently revisited your site to look at an old post that I wanted to draw inspiration from, I noticed that you have a daughter now. As a new mom, it was exciting and I began following your act. again. It has been so refreshing to see real photos, to see your real life, to see the random boot left on the floor, because I can relate. Thank you for going back to your roots. <3

  • I agree with everything you’ve said… and I prefer to see pictures that reflect a person and their unique life, not super organized business-y photos… (although I enjoy those in a different context). Instagram always felt more home-y.

  • I have been giving a thought about this for a few months now. Because I kept seeing bloggers and insta bloggers complain about their likes and how people don’t receive their photo on the feed. The first thing I thought is that we scrool so much, we actually stop to give a double tap on a photo if it gets our attention or we really like something or someone. The second thought is that even if someone’s photography work are amazing, if they look all the same, we just pass it through, because it’s just same old, you know?
    And my third thought is that we want more reality, people who makes us smile and enjoy those minutes scrolling infinite posts. I got tired of perfect flat lays, feet on the bed to show new shoes, everything so set up and we know around it is a mess.
    So yes, I agree, we are going back to natural photos <3

  • Please have fun on Instagram, I beg of you! I really dislike those “perfect” feeds and I find them boring, because you can tell. I didn’t know curating your feed was even a thing until recently but randomly noticed that in my feed everything has touches of blue or turquoise and not because I am using the same filter. I found that so interesting so sometimes you like what you like and it happens by accident but overall I love the off the cuff, real life stuff on Instagram. As with most platforms it becomes harder to weed through the “stuff” once the platform evolves (Pinterest) but I try to stick with my original intention for using it and ignore the noise.

  • Wow, great words! I am just a “regular” girl (don’t own/run a business, only a personal blog for friends/family, and less than 1000 followers on IG), but I still spent way too much time trying to make my feed look pretty. I had a baby last summer, and I tried purposefully to post photos of her only every 3rd or 4th post, so my feed didn’t become only her. BUT HOW CRAZY IS THAT?! My whole life was my baby, but I was still too worried about making a pretty grid, instead of just sharing how happy & obsessed I was with my baby. I did realize this as least, and I’m over it now, but sheesh. I also recently switched my account to private, and stopped using hashtags, because I was only using them to try to attract new followers. Why? Who cares? Anyways, I’m totally on board with you, and I am so glad you shared this post.

    And I read through some of the comments above…. one girl was kind of criticizing you for your pictures still looking perfect & matching, even though you claim they don’t. And I admit, the first thing I did after reading this post was go back to your personal IG and look back. And YES, your pictures look similar. But I can tell that’s just totally your style, and your comfortable with it. You, your husband, your daughter, your house – these are all beautiful already, so they look good in photos, but that doesn’t mean you spent hours editing/curating/agonizing over the photo before posting that special moment. So all this to say, I think your personal IG feed is beautiful yes, but it’s also real, and authentic, and interesting!

  • Do you think your feelings have changed recently because your priorities have now changed? Becoming a mother has opened you up to being more personal and less polished? I certainly found when I because a mother, EVERYTHING changed. I actually only seeked to follow other mothers! My feed now is 100% my kid. Maybe I would have found that boring before but now it’s simply the most important/interesting (to me) part of my life so it’s all I share. Instagram is organic and our feed grows and changes with us and our interests.

  • I was just thinking about this the other day. I follow several accounts that look so similar, I cannot keep them straight in my head. I love the beautiful photos but like you said, everything looks like a magazine. I honestly think that plays into the “internet perfection” things that drags so many of us down. Yeah, it’s aspirational, but it’s not real life. I like candid moments because that’s where life actually happens. It’s messy tables, mom buns, and quiet Saturdays at home. As nice as colored walls and flat lays are, I’d rather see behind the curtain. How many times can you see photos from the Museum of Ice Crram before they become a bore?

  • I love seeing your family’s journey! I am discouraged by how negative a handful of commenters are to you. I often wonder how you balance feeling engaged with your audience without feeling like you have to listen to a small minority of Debbie downers. I don’t think I could handle all the negativity — and I admire how you do and how you respond to them. Being a parent is hard enough without people being mean! Keep up the amazing posts — as long as it brings you joy. I’m the often silent one cheering you (a complete stranger!) on. You guys are amazing!

  • Just last week my roommate told me how much she’s been liking the look of your instagram lately! Keep doing what you’re doing, we love it!

  • Hello, I just started following you but love what you share! I started my account about 5 years ago, posted one photo and didn’t touch it again for a year! Now I post mostly daily, not a photographer, all from my camera or iPhone just what I love, my family, boy, dogs and piggy and occasional work pictures (I’m a child development educators)! For a while I felt like I was doing instagram wrong, was my kid not cute enough or was my life that uninteresting and then I let it go! There is a freedom in this just being a app and not work! I realize I have enough work and I don’t take supporting parents building their babies educational/developmental foundation lightly but that this app doesn’t define me! I love the perfect picture, not so perfect picture doesn’t matter! Its all over the same to me because you’re just sharing small peice and I accept those and appreciate the share! I did however make a change in my instagram purchasing with regards to small shops! I was frustrated by shops who share pictures of kids who look the same! I wanted to support more shops who celebrated diversity because all kids want to be reflected and if shops are marketing to one type maybe I don’t want that to be where my money goes!

  • Real is real and in an overly curated world we may not admit it but we crave real❤️ Love what you’re doing!!

  • OH MY. The comments on this thread!! <3 Holy smokes! I've been feeling the same way and everyone else has, too! I haven't posted on my business Instagram since JUNE because I kept trying to be one of those perfect feeds but I kept failing miserably. I'm planning to revamp my whole account but I wanted to create something much more personal. I'm not really into my business for the money, it's more just something I do for fun. Thanks to Elsie and all of you readers for sharing your thoughts on this! I'm all for a nice balanced mixed of curated and uncurated.

  • Katie and I have been talking through this same thing SO MUCH. Thanks for putting in writing what so many of us are thinking. WE LOVE EVERYTHING YOU POST. But real is so, so good.

  • I agree! As a follower, I find the staged and overly planned Instagram posts boring and have honestly been unfollowing them. They feel too commercial and inauthentic.

  • Yes! I totally agree. As I read this, I was thinking about the accounts I’ve been following over the last year or two. In the last few months, I started unfollowing accounts that I found to be boring now in an attempt to see more of the posts from accounts I truly love. As I’m thinking about those I unfollowed-I think they’re all mostly highly curated accounts. Part of the reason for doing this was because I followed a lot of “fitness” bloggers that were making me feel bad about myself, and I was constantly reminding myself how unrealistic the photos were.

    You are amazing! I love following your family’s journey and watching you set goals and achieve them! YOU GO GIRL!

  • I have been following your blog since I was in highschool and your Instagram since the beginning. Iv always loved your content, through every shift of media, trends and your personal transitions. Maybe it’s because of that I feel more of a connection. However i realized after reading this all your posts have been blending in with the “rest of them.” I’m 25 with no desire for a family, but since you posted the first stories and photos of Nova, I’ve been obsessed! Like I seriously can’t get enough, everytime I open Insta I look forward to new Nova posts. I really do think it’s time for a shift. I’ve found myself super bored of Instagram lately and will barely scroll through for a few minutes before closing it out. The feeds I have found interest in lately, are a lot of artists that post in real time, with lots of studio shots, works in progress, and shots of their day. I’ve never really conformed to a curated Insta, I’ve always just posted photos iv taken that I like, while maybe following some editing trends. Now I’ve never really had an Insta following either, but it’s always remained fun for me. I really like the idea of caring even less about what I post. maybe this go around I’ll be ahead of the curve! Over all I think people enjoy real people and not these perfectly pieced together ideas of people. Thanks for all that you do and continue to do. You’ve been an inspiration to me for a long time!

  • This resonates with me a lot, not only as far as my ig account is concerned, but also from a being-a-follower point of view.
    I feel this pressure of being “ig conscious”, too: posting a certain kind of content, definitely not posting some other; the right colours; the angles… don’t post so many pics in so little time… the need to convey a “cool” vibe. As you say, this has taken the fun out of it. It just feels too much for me, I want my ig to be effortless the way it used to, and by that I don’t mean effortlessly chic but just… careless and free, without putting so much thought into it. I am feeling – bored.
    This is also true for me as a follower: you said it, people truly create art sometimes through ig, and you can really tell how they invest a lot of time into it. They make a beautiful work. Although it is remarkable, it has started to feel much all the same. At least my ig feed feels that way. Nothing really new, nothing really exciting, always something I have already seen somewhere else and in the end nothing truly inspires me anymore.
    Since I’ve been thinking about this for some time now, I decided to just really try and be “ig careless” instead of “ig conscious”. I just want it to flow like it used to… the action of sharing a picture on ig was natural and simple, and not overthought. I want it to be that again

  • I also agree, so much great photos out there, but so much of the same style, colors, themes… It’s inspiring in one hand but also really artificial and not personal in other.
    Your photos lately are adorable and real and cute and beautiful (like they used to be). My favorite part of abm and something I greatly admire about you was (and is) your unique ability to see potential in unperfect things, and then to make it, with your amazing talent and kind heart, even more wonderful than I could’ve have imagine it. (like the the way you made your old third floor of red velvet a majestic wedding space)… That gave me hope, it made me think how much potential everything has, it made me take a second look at things I have and maybe overlooked the beauty of.
    Trying to make perfect things even more perfect sure is beautiful, but it’s not half of the magic as creating from the heart.

  • By the end of last year, I started thinking (and I still do) that Instagram was coming to an end. Not in a existence meaning, but as facebook, it was leading to the end of interaction between users.

    The app wouldn’t bring me the same happiness as before, actually, the new feed order that would disappear with my friend’s posts, the Instagram account with a super curated surreal feed and personal pictures that weren’t take by friends but by a professional photographer were making me every day less… inspired. And I always loved the app especially because it would teach me to look the beauty of small things. I would open it everyday when I wake up and before bed just to be a little inspired (and I’m not saying this as a bad thing, it was a special ritual). That’s why, last December, I uninstalled the app. And I was just talking about my thoughts with a friend this week and now i come across this post! Certainly you made me feel a little more optimistic about the future of Instagram, specially when you say “I do believe that Instagram is coming full circle, at least for me. I have no doubt it will continue to evolve and change. As we overdose with one thing we crave the complete opposite—it’s human nature.”. Let’s hope for the best! (am I being a little dramatic? lol)

    By the way, yours was the only account i kept following (through chrome) all this time. I love seeing pictures of Nova!

    xx from Brazil (sorry for the bad english)

  • I stalked your feed so hard while you were in China! Seeing you grow your family through adoption made me so happy! I think sometimes being inspired doesn’t always come from seeing beautiful images, images are made beautiful by the subject matter. Seeing the heartbreak and the struggles and the sweet moments and everything else in between is so wonderful. 💜💙

  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts! It can be a sensitive prospect to discuss these things because so many women are very emotionally invested in their social spaces…. making this a potentially hot topic. I don’t aspire to be an influencer so this space has always been a stream of memories for me. But I DID get upset when someone stole my kid’s hashtag after many years!

  • I see it too, however what could happen is that the feeds become curated+uncurated. In the way that Hollywood stars love to make their clothes and hair messy on purpose so that they appear to not care but be naturally flawless. Faking effortlessness. It’s really tricky to pull off and othen even harder than looking polished. So there may be even more work ahead. Possibly.

  • Hi Elsie, it’s the first time I comment here (I think? I have been following A Beautiful Mess since like 2011 so I really can’t remember!)
    Thank you so much for this beautiful post, it is very refreshing to read this from the perspective of someone who has a big following.

    I actually wrote a similar post too a few days ago (I am not going to summarize it here : p but I’ll leave you the link http://aldraws.com/fashion-illustration/break-free-instagram/ ). I have been feeling exactly the same about Instagram content for a while.
    I am a Fashion Illustrator and trying to follow what I thought people wanted to see on IG completely ruined my joy of painting to the point that I completely lost my illustration style in the process. For an artist, this pretty much equals to losing your soul.
    I just decided that this has to end and forced myself to not care about the Instagram numbers anymore and paint only what I like. I didn’t really do it to increase my engagement, I did it because I couldn’t stand the pressure anymore and what it did to my artistic life… And I have to say I feel sane again.

    On another note, I see that more and more people are becoming very frustrated with Instagram in general: the new algorithm, the endless ads, the lack of community (which used to characterize the network in the first place)… I honestly think it won’t be long before a new platforms comes up and replaces it. And honestly I can’t wait for that moment to happen.

    xx Al
    http://aldraws.com/

  • “An imperfect photo becomes perfect the moment you decide it does”

    PERFECTION. (And my new work mantra)

  • I read this blog entry with interest. I too love curated collections but real life and memories matter. I know you were hesitant to share photos of Nova prior to going to China and bringing her home. I personally have felt so much joy seeing you all bond and watching her flourish. My mom was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and after a week long stay in the hospital, she passed away. Every last moment I spent with her was precious, but I looked forward to seeing your new posts of Nova as it brought a little sunshine into some very dark days. Bless you and your family and may you continue to grow more in love with each other every day.

  • Life is happening and running after the perfect moment for our live and online scrapbooks needs to lean towards looking into the camera and showing the moment rather than staging and looking away.

  • I couldn’t agree more. And, as one of your instagram followers, I thought it was like a breath of fresh air when you were sharing photos of Nova and how you were doing in China. So many accounts have become so curated they have no personality left. I think Instagram and its algorithm doesn’t exactly help with this either, and I’m finding it really hard to find people/accounts/feeds to follow that aren’t curated within an inch of their lives.

    (A bit off topic, but I kinda feel a lot of blogs have ended up this way too, and I’d love to see my old favorite blogs become more personal again.)

  • If I think back all the photos from my childhood or pics of my parents when they were younger I always love most those photos that were taken suddenly and without overthinking composition or poses. That’s what I personally like to see on Instagram, Candid pics taken with your phone and showing others glimpses of your life. Those pics are usually the ones that make people happy so that feeling carries over to the viewer. I also follow professional photographers but with those pictures it’s more about apppreciating their work and talent.

  • It gave me so much relief to read this article. Thank you so much for beeing so transparent and open about it. My best friend and I created a business a few years back and started to post on Instagram. We soon realized that we had to take better pictures, create more content and good hashtags and we got better at it. But one day an algorythm changed and we hardly got likes anymore. It felt so dragging to post everyday, give it so much thought and nothing happend. We stopped posting on IG completely. I feel quilty but at the same time a heavy weight has liftet as the daily routine of posting these perfect scene pictures whilst still focusing on a daily job was putting so much pressure on us. Now when I look at IG sporadically I feel that it changed again and all these pictures look so damn perfect of people that live this perfect life. Same face everyday, just different outfits and scenes… For me it got far removed from reality and I salute you for being real and posting what your life really is about. Ultimately, all about the heart. 🙂

  • I feel so relieved and inspired by this post. I am new to the social media and blogging world and it has been very hard for me to find my voice, my message. It is clear in my head but for some reason I struggle to submit it creatively in my instagram and blog. Somehow I end up recreating photos that are already out there and that are not entirely my perspective as a food, travel lover. This post is an inspiration for me to find my own self in my content and deliver those things I consider important, relevant. Thank you for these words

  • I couldn’t agree more! I’m currently using the same Instagram profile as personal + for my blog, and so I’m kinda trying to “follow the rules”, there has to be natural light, same filter, I have to move stuff around before taking a photo cause it has to look “perfect” and all. And it’s just like you said. On one hand inspiring and motivating to get creative and experiment with it all, so in a way freeing. And then on the other hand it’s kinda stopping everyone to just share their favorite moments and that’s all. There are thousands of photos that never made it to my Instagram because of being just normal. I mean, who cares if I’m still kinda using my chair for displaying my clothes? 😂 Love this post, beautifully written! And your family, you’re a true inspiration💓

  • Yes yes yes to all of this. I’ve definitely experienced some feed envy off and on over the years. But I have always been happiest when I just keep it real, not worrying about curating in anyway. I’m glad you’re feeling excited about Instagram again. The friends I’ve made through the app (many I have met in person) are definitely life long and that is what keeps me excited about the app. Pretty feeds are nice to look at, but authentic accounts are everything to me.

  • I agree with everything you write here! Because I have made the same experience. I started using instagram back in 2011 and back then it was a way for me to share some random iphone pictures I took every day. Then I decided to not post too many pictures each day anymore. I gained a few more followers, I started to follow curated instagram accounts because they inspired me somehow, showed me new perspectives. But I never became instagram famous whereas friend who started to use instagram only 2 or 3 years ago suddenly had well over 1000 followers within 4 weeks. I admit that I envied them a bit, decided to have a look at which pictures got lots of likes (nature) and started posting only nature related things. But the new algorithm kind of ruined all my efforts. I was so frustrated that only 20 or so people saw/liked my pictures which I had selected and worked on for so long. Therefore I am now back at where I had started 7 years ago: post whatever I like, things I see every day, happy moments, funny moments, random pictures. I want to have fun and look at fun pictures and not feel stressed by my instagram experience. 🙂 (and I am kind of glad that I am not alone with this problem, so thank you for your post!)

  • The world is full of “standards” we can’t compete with. I love a beautiful photo, but so many are edited these days that I have started to get a little jaded. The REAL images, and those that are not so perfect, are now the ones that capture my eye and imagination. Great post!

  • I appreciate the authentic, perfectly-imperfect photos so much! I like the curated accounts, don’t get me wrong, but they tend to make me forget there’s an actual real person behind the photo.

  • I feel this SO much. I recently repurposed my Instagram for just posting illustrations and art and that has made me feel so much better. Got out of that curated Instagram game because you just can’t win, no one’s life is that perfect, and judgments are the thief of happiness.

    As a side note I love the variety of ABM! Been a follower for years now and you guys somehow keep the content varied enough to not be boring, but related enough to still keep a theme. <3

  • No offense, but I actually unfollowed you last year bc it was too much of the same for me. I love it when you’re candid! I just did a scroll back and said to myself, “I definitely enjoy her feed more now!”

  • I haven’t taken the time to read through the other comments (yet), but your post really resonated with me and a lot of things I’ve been feeling. I used to love Instagram, and while I don’t have a big presence, I loved following a lot of bloggers and brands. About a month ago I unfollowed over 100 accounts because I was so tired of being bombarded with curated feeds. The Instagram I loved felt like people sharing pretty or interesting pictures of things they cared about. Now it feels like reading a glossy magazine. Instagram started making me feel simultaneously bored and inadequate. Now I follow only the people who make me feel good. Mostly friends and family, but some some bloggers and even brands as well. Anything that feels too curated gets the cut.

  • When I started IG, I vividly remember coming across your account. I believe it was like 2013? Anyway I agree that it is way out of control now. Would you agree that you/your business pages played a large role in the evolution into magazine perfect curation?

  • I have been feeling the same way about Instagram. Thank you for this post, it was encouraging to me. I kind of miss the old days when Instagram was just random snaps of daily life taken and posted in the moment. With IG Live and IG Stories, I feel like maybe some of that imperfectness is coming back. I kind of hope so! Right now I only have a personal IG and I don’t care about followers and likes so I don’t worry too much about a curated feed. I decided when I start up a business account again, I want to keep it separate (from my personal account) so I can still post what I want to post without over-thinking. Thanks again for writing this!

  • Wow. This is so me right now. I’ve been feeling the exact same way. I’ve never had curated feeds in either of my IG accounts and was discouraged that maybe I would never have time to do that. I studied those types of feeds and even thought about planning to start my own. But that seemed like a lot of time and I was already wasting a lot of time without even posting anything.

    Finally I remembered why I started using IG. I never started doing it for followers. I do it to document my daily life (Project Life 365) and to share my photos. So, this year I just started having fun again. Not worrying about followers and just posting what I want when I have the time. I seem to be getting a lot more engagement, even though I don’t have a large bunch of followers. And that’s fine. It’s back to being fun and that’s why I started in the first place.

    Thanks for sharing. It’s always reassuring to hear from others that they feel the same way you do and you’re not the only one.

  • Thank you so much for this post. For a long time, I have wondered if I was the only one thinking that a lot of accounts look the same. It is reassuring to hear form a professional (even if you talk from a personal point of view) that yes, actually, they do look the same. At first, I wanted my account to look clean and neat as well, but that takes so much work. More and more I think that it is just a waste of time to try to make mundane things look beautiful. Bathing a baby is bathing a baby. Why put petals in the tub? Sometimes, the rawness of reality is so much more beautiful than a curated and filtered representation of it.

  • I totally agree with the sentiment, and honestly I’m glad that Instagram is starting to value more real-life feeds and photos than it used to.
    That said, I’m not sure that your trip to China is a good measure for this. It was a huge, exciting time, and I think you were naturally going to pick up more followers as the (wonderful, awesome, beautiful) journey began to unfold.
    I would be more interested to see how day-to-day feeds that aren’t focused around a big event are affected by the same change in mindset 🙂

  • I have always loved your instagram (been following at least 5 years), but this is def my fave season of it! I love seeing you as a mom! I don’t even scroll my feed, I go right to your insta to check for new photos and stories! It’s just the sweetest experience to watch!
    Also – I don’t understand the stigma around posting pictures of kids. I don’t have any of my own, but I love when my friends post pics or text them to me if they aren’t into social media. I even encourage more pics!

  • wow! Elsie you really tapped into something here with all these comments. I also have been having the same feels. I was feeling flat out tired of trying too hard. I had to take a break for a month and now I’m back, posting what moves me during the day. So happy to see so many other people were feeling the same way.

  • Could not agree more with this! I too am an IG user from the beginning and do miss the days of it being simple care free. Thank you for this post. It came at a much needed time!

    Instagram.com/meghantucker

  • I agree so much, I actually deleted my Instagram recently. I thought I would miss it, but I don’t. I think I’m over most social media, though. If I want to find out what’s going on around me, I’ll check the posters up at my local coffee shop.

  • Before, I was posting illustrations right after I finished them, which I probably will go back to. Lately, I have been working on multiple things and just posting them later on, after I’ve had time to reflect on them. I liked posting them right after I finished them if I was proud of them because they I could just move on to the next thing.

    https://www.instagram.com/annabo.o/

  • Thank you thank you thank you for this post! You are such an amazing and inspiring human Elsie ❤️

  • Dear Elsie, I’ve follows your blog for many years, almost since the beginning (I think I discovered it in 2008) and one thing I’ve been missing in recent years is you. I like a beautiful mess, with its recipes and super cute diys, and all the new ventures like the ap and oifresh. But I love your personal Instagram and thelarsonhouse blog. You share so much love and joy that never seems put on or false. It’s refreshing in a sea of sales ads. I follow beautifully curated pages, and I appreciate them, both the style and the effort. But I’m moved by the grainy private look into your first morning as a family. Thank you for sharing your life with me and keep those real life pics coming. They make you sparkle.