Instagram feeds are changing in a big way.

Millennial influencers have mastered the ‘Instagram aesthetic’--brightly colored posts that are very polished and high quality. Their feeds are impeccably curated and they follow a reliable posting schedule that doesn’t post too many posts in a day and over-saturate their followers.

With Gen Z influencers coming in, there is a noticeable shift in what works and what doesn’t on Instagram. While millennial influencers have mastered the use of DSLRs and photo editing software, their younger counterparts seem to be going in a different direction with less curation, less editing, and more candid posts.

The rise of Instagram influencers that succeed despite their unaltered and unfiltered posts suggest that this isn’t just a fleeting trend in the platform, but something users are moving towards.

The 2019 Instagram aesthetic is not the aesthetic of the past few years. Here are some of the ways it’s changing:

1. Less manufactured posts are doing well.

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Before, posting perfect photos seems to be the bare minimum on Instagram. The popularity of influencers posting the ideal made brands keen on jumping on the bandwagon. It’s not unusual to stumble upon Instagram walls whether on the side of the road, as branded pop-up displays in spaces, or even dedicated walls inside establishments.

The rise in these ‘Instagram-worthy’ places made it possible for more people to adapt the influencer aesthetic as their own. Camera phones also enable everyone to adopt to Instagram’s trends, saturating feeds with the same types of photos just by different posters.

When everyone (not just influencers) are trying to create and curate the perfect feed, people who post unfiltered and unedited photos stand out.

2. Curated feeds are changing.

Influencers tend to stay on brand with their post. It’s usually photos edited a certain way, showing a pattern among each and every post that gives a profile a cohesive brand. Gen Z Instagram influencers are moving away from this model. Instead of spending time editing photos or looking for the right wall to pose against, they simply shoot photos or videos straight from their phone and post it on Instagram.

There’s less restriction on what is ‘on brand’ and what isn’t. Even major brands are adopting this trend in feeds, especially when they want to attract the Gen Z audience. There are more screenshots of tweets, sometimes unrelated funny videos or memes that break away from usual posts.

Timing is no longer an issue, with the new crop of influencers posting whenever they want, how often they want, regardless of best practices for the platform. More and more users are also using apps and filters that make their high quality photos look grainy, or taken using old cameras.

3. Authenticity is the key to success.

Perfect and almost unattainable lifestyles touted by influencers on Instagram no longer work as well as they used to. People now see through the edits and filters, calling out people who post something unrealistic without disclosing the post-processing work done to make it look perfect.

Keeping up with the culture of curated feeds has also taken a toll on both influencers and followers, where burnout and mental health issues have become more prevalent. The rising crop of young influencers today also focus on long captions and comments, in this way, they seem more accessible to their followers.

Instagram’s Role

The changes in Instagram’s aesthetic in 2019 might also be attributed to changes in the platform lately. With features like stories, IGTV, and the inclusion of videos and gifs, people are starting to prefer constant content creation and consumption vs scrolling through curated feeds.

On Instagram stories in particular--the platform’s most widely-used feature--users are encouraged to share quick snippets of their day and without excessive editing or perfecting.

Of course, what works best on Instagram is always changing, and these changes might not be everyone’s cup of tea. There will be people who will always show their best foot forward on social media, but expect rising influencers and even brands to follow with this new way of using the platform.