Social media has long been the place to scroll for aspirational inspo—designer clothing donned by style stars, perfectly ombre smoothie bowls, dreamy vacation locales, and (of course) women looking flawless. Basically, major collage board material…but a far cry from what you see IRL.
Which is why the recent shift in Instagram feeds feels so revolutionary: Honesty is now the trending topic across social media platforms.
From #nomakeup selfies and cellulite-flaunting snaps to reverse before-after photos, you’re more likely to come across a hyper-realistic shot (hello, period yogi) than you are a polished, Facetuned portrait.
Yes, that includes on celeb accounts—Gwyneth, Lena, Demi, among many others—but some of the most compelling posts are from the bloggers, photographers, and influencers who have made careers off of social media. Ever since Essena O’Neill, the Australian teen with half a million followers, pulled back the #inspo curtain and altered her Instagram captions with some brutally honest real talk in 2015 (“NOT REAL LIFE: I didn’t pay for the dress, took countless photos trying to look hot for Instagram, the formal made me feel incredibly alone,” she wrote in a since-deleted shot of her wearing a gown before a school dance), there’s been a growing shift towards using the platform to reveal and share vulnerability, rather than perfection.
“Presenting a more complex image of beauty is something that takes a little more thoughtfulness, which is what’s happening.”
Just ask Chinae Alexander, the Brooklyn-based wellness obsessee (and Adidas ambassador) whose leggings-filled feed garners double taps from more than 125K people. A few months ago, she took a break from the gym selfies to talk about her struggles with weight—and how losing a bunch of pounds actually didn’t make her feel any better about herself.
“I’ve been given a platform to really share with people that, yes, I’m on a billboard, but I also don’t look perfect all the time,” Alexander says of her decision to get honest with her followers. “Sharing that with people shows them that we all have moments where we look our best and sometimes maybe we don’t—but showing that full spectrum leads people to being more happy with themselves rather than fighting that internal struggle of comparison.”
It’s something that particularly resonates with the Well+Good ethos—in January 2016, we launched #iamwellandgood as a way for people to share (and revel in!) their messy, sweaty, imperfect lives. (And, as of last week, we’ve switched all of our social media handles to be @iamwellandgood, in the spirit of embracing honesty.)
And judging by the steady stream of photos you’re sharing with the hashtag (221,605 and counting), this won’t be going away anytime soon. “The culture and mindset is shifting towards not pointing out your flaws, but being realistic and appreciating both beauty and the ‘flawed’ stuff,” says Alexander. “It’s not ugly—it’s beauty, but also about understanding that beauty has layers to it. Presenting a more complex image of beauty is something that takes a little more thoughtfulness, which is what’s happening—and it’s really cool.” That’s something we can all ‘like’.