I don't know about you, but my twenties have been a freaking ride so far. At 22, I was living with my now-ex boyfriend, working in retail, and earning a bachelor's degree in English. I’d only left the United States once, and I’d never lived outside of Missouri. I hadn’t come out as bisexual yet, and my relationship with my body wasn’t great. Now I’m single on purpose, progressive as hell, working professionally as a writer, and bouncing around from place to place in pursuit of adventure. Basically, a lot has changed for me in the past five years — and that includes how I use Instagram.
As trivial as it may seem, I’m quite proud that I Instagram differently at 27 than I did at 22 because these photos serve as literal proof that I’ve changed, grown up, and started to live my life exactly the way I want to. The way I live, think, and interact with both others and myself has changed enough in the past five years that my life literally looks different — and the way I showcase it on social media is different, too. Here are just a few ways I Instagram differently than I used to.
I Rarely Use Filters Anymore
Filters are super-fun, and sometimes they can make an ordinary photo look downright magical. So if you happen to like filters, you should use the sh*t out of them. Personally, though, I stopped using all filters (except for when I must turn a photo black and white) back in 2016 — and I love it.
To be clear, I didn't stop using filters because I think photos shouldn't be edited or made to look artificial. (I utilize the heck out of Instagram's photo editing tools.) Honestly, I was just looking for a way to make my profile look more uniform, and ditching filters was the first thing I tried. Forgoing filters saves time, and it's one less thing to stress about when I'm posting. Which is great, because social media is supposed to fun!
I Don't Look At The Camera In All My Photos
I adore candid photos, and I feel like some of the best images involve movement. So when I'm traveling, I always ask someone to take a few candid shots of me walking sitting or standing somewhere gorgeous. I decided a while ago that I don't always want to be the main focal point of my pictures—but I still want proof that I once walked the streets of Ibiza Old Town, stood on the shores of Lake Michigan, frolicked around New York City, visited an orchid farm in Bangkok, rode horses in Nassau, and stood atop Dochula Pass.
I Don't Smile In All Of My Photos
I used to feel like I had to flash big smiles in all of my photos, probably because men and women alike have been telling me to smile for as long as I can remember. But smiling in every single photo just doesn't feel right to me anymore. I don't walk around with a huge grin on my face 24/7. Even when I'm truly happy, I don't necessarily smile that often or that big.
Because of this, I stopped smiling in all of my photos a while ago. If I feel like smiling big and with teeth, then I do it. Otherwise, I'm happy to keep my smiles small, toothless, and legit.
I Take Fewer Selfies Than I Used To
OK, so I still take a fair number of selfies, and I don't think there's anything weird about that. I think self-portraits can be special, sweet, and powerful. But you see this photo above? I plucked that beauty out of a quintuplet of selfies. I'm not kidding, there's just five pictures of my face all in a row and this one is in the middle. It's actually pretty funny.
I'm glad I can look back on the numerous selfies of 22-year-old me and try to remember what it was like to be her, but I'm equally happy that I've found other people, places, animals, and even countries to take photos of at 27.
The Selfies I Do Take Are Different
Like I said, I still take plenty of selfies. My selfie style has definitely changed over the years, though. I used to only snap selfies when my hair wasn't looking "too frizzy" and I was wearing makeup. It took me a couple of years to realize that natural lighting is the only way to go, so there are several Instagrams of my face in terrible lighting, too.
These days, all my selfies require lots of natural light, and half of them don't even show my entire face. In fact, most of my selfies aren't pictures of just me anymore. I often share the screen with cute animals, or gorgeous plants, kids, or backgrounds — just another way to show that even in a selfie, my Instagram's not all about me.
I Post "Unflattering" Photos Sometimes
When I first saw this picture I thought to myself, My skin is three different colors because I never tan evenly; my cellulite is showing; my butt looks flat, and the bottom of my feet look dirty even though they're clean.
These thoughts probably would have kept me from posting this photo back when I was 22, but at 27, thoughts like these usually have the opposite effect on me. I've realized over the past couple of years that I can't write about body image if I'm going to habitually body shame myself. More importantly, I feel like the best pictures are the ones you take when you're happy. As it turns out, my happiest moments aren't always polished.
I Post Way More Images Of Animals And Nature Than I Used To
I've always thought of myself as an animal lover, and nature has been a source of peace for me since childhood—so it's not like I didn't post images of cats and trees when I was 22. But my love for both animals and the outdoors has grown considerably over the past few years.(I stopped eating animals last October for that reason.) At 27, I've finally realized just how much animals and nature enrich my life, so I post about them more than ever.
I Post For My Future Self Instead Of Posting For "Likes"
To be clear, I still enjoy it when people 'heart' my Instagram posts. But while I used to post to Instagram with the ultimate goal of receiving 'likes' for my pictures, now I treat my Insta profile like most people used to treat photo albums. I think of Instagram as my own personal catalog of beautiful memories, adorable animals, pretty plants, cherished loved ones, hilarious stoner memes, and feminist adventures. Whenever I'm feeling down, lonely, or nostalgic, I scroll through my Instagram profile and it always cheers me up.
I Post More Images Of People, Places, And Experiences Than I Do Of Myself
Since I started treating Instagram like a personal internet photo album instead of a validation machine, my profile tends to feature way more photos of the people, animals, and places in my life than it once did. The video above is a perfect example of this. Whereas 22-year-old me would have needed to post a photo of herself clubbing at Amensia Ibiza, 27-year-old me was more interested in remembering these awesome dancers doing their thing.
I'm More Likely To Post "Revealing" Photos Of My Body These Days
Despite fitting what was long considered to be western beauty standards, (white, blonde, thin, tall-ish, blue eyes, etc.) I didn't like my body for a long time. My boobs have always been small, my nose has always been long, and an ex-boyfriend once told me that I have the knobby knees of a house elf. I also grew up religious, and most churches actively discourage women and girls from showing skin. (Even if it's just to breastfeed your kid.) On top of all that, more than one of my ex boyfriends tried to control what I wore, and one of them even called me a slut whenever I would "defy" him by rocking a crop top.
Fortunately, all of that stuff is behind me, and I'm closer to loving my body than I've ever been. So, for me as a 27-year-old, posting the occasional booty pic can actually be empowering and therapeutic. Do I hate it when other Instagram users 'like' my body-positive posts? Of course not. But when I post pictures like the one above, it's for me before it's for anyone else.
I Post To Promote My Work And The Causes I Care About
Now that I work as a writer, it's not uncommon for my work to shed light on the causes I care about. I'm lucky enough to write about things that matter to me, and until last winter, I shared almost everything I wrote on Facebook.
The 2016 election cycle was rough for me, though. I posted everything I wrote about Trump, Hillary, and the election — and I unintentionally upset my family in the process. I had to break up Facebook fights between my conservative family members and my progressive friends in the days after the election. Even if none of that had happened, though, I probably still would have retreated to Instagram. Angry men love to harass me via Facebook messenger, and I've yet to experience that bullsh*t on Instagram. (Fingers crossed.) So for now, I've switched over to Instagram to talk about the things I care about — political and not.
Growing up happens in a lot of different ways; it just so happens that for me, you can literally see a lot of my growing-up on my Instagram page. Hopefully, in another five years, I'll be able to say that I've kept growing up — just check my Instagram.