The New IG Vulnerability Trend Is Less Progressive Than It Seems… But It’s Still Important
Is vulnerability admitting you haven’t pooped since Tuesday, that you struggle with eye-boogies, or confessing that you named your nipples after two actors in Full House? Is vulnerability documenting period bloat or is it telling the digital world that you struggle with anxiety?
Vulnerability looks different for and on everyone, but it’s having a moment.
In this digital age, Instagram has shaped our societal sense of reality and make believe (and wanna-be). Most people use social media to present hyper-curated, carefully constructed projections of themselves: The Self, Romanticized: A Memoir In Pictures. Never before have meals, vacation, group fitness classes, and everyday street scenes (pause the cab, enhance the sunset) been made to look so aspirational.
But never have belly-bloat, acne-scars, stretch marks, hip dips, body-hair, and the least-glamorous elements of life become a such a defining part of popular personal brands, especially in the health and wellness world. There is a new class of women giving a casual finger to social media and the conventional (polished, controlled, diluted) beauty Instagram traditionally rewards.
And mainstream media is noticing: women’s magazines post a short-clip to their homepage every time a woman posts a #truthbomb about her belly bloat or need to poop on her feed. Because these days, what ends up in the feed matters, especially when those images go against the grain and explicitly challenge the buttoned-up norm. If Instagram is a space where every photo tells a story, even subversive images become part of the narrative.
Flash to headlines like: Take Back The Beach. This Woman’s Candid Instagram Is a Reminder That Breastfeeding Isn’t Always Easy. 16 Women Who Are Making 'Bad' Picture Monday the Next Big Instagram Trend. This Fitness Blogger Is Showing How Squeezing Her Butt Changes Her Cellulite. 'Unguarded and Unbothered' Is Our Favorite New Instagram Movement. These headlines prove that subversive Instagramming is making the news, or at least the news of female-read, female-made publications. Sometimes.
But social media posts can never be totally real. Even subversive images are curated. Even vulnerability is polished. Because even if we are posting something vulnerable, we are still choosing to share it. Two Instagramers, one posting a face flush-full of makeup and one naked of face-paint, are following the same Instagram rules: both adhere to the voyeurism implicit in posting, both are posting with a constructed lens, an intent, both will draw the reactions of other internet-users who have a mouthful of reactions.
In the health, wellness, and fitness world of Instagram (curated) vulnerability is no longer the rarity it once was. For better or for worse, wellness grammers feel mandated to post wellness #realAF truths. Period bloat pic are showcased and celebrated. Hip dips and thigh cellulite are zoomed in on and posted with inspiring captions. Instagram vs. reality side-by-sides call out Instagram for what it is: curated. #TransformationTuesday posts call out photos for what they can’t do: show mental and emotional progress. And belly rolls are a sign of ultimate unguarded, unbothered realness.
This new breed vulnerability has become a trend and some more mainstream publications are taking note. The vulnerability may be curated, certain wellness faces may be exposing themselves to a new light of voyeurism specifically for the likes, and the side-by-sides we’ve been praising may be less progressive than we give them credit for. But curated or not, they are breaking down the walls of perfection in the social media world. Thinking of posting your vulnerable side? Go for it. But do yourself a favor and check in to make sure your vulnerability is coming from a place of truth and realness, not a desire to fit into a new trend. In this political climate and this age of beauty, these messages can only be as progressive as they are real.
“Bio: Gabrielle Kassel is a New York based writer who has a deep affinity for weight-lifting, living mindfully, and the em-dash. She has been published at Women’s Health Magazine where she is part of the online editorial team, and Feather Magazine, where she was a contributing health writer. In her free time she can be found reading self-help books, Tindering in public, and making soup.”