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TikTok’s Obsession with Being Unposed

TikTok users are pushing a new attitude to content creation.

Everyone has seen influencers taking posed photos in public, and bad FaceTune and photoshop are commonly seen online. It has long been public knowledge that the photos influencers post online are highly posed and edited. This has been an accepted part of internet culture for years, but now it seems that the tide may be turning on this type of behavior. 

Lockdown and the Fall of Influencer Relatability

In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic saw many online become disillusioned with the influencers they had previously been so in love with as these celebrities complained about being stuck inside, seemingly oblivious to the realities of the pandemic to those in small homes, with no outdoor space, or who were key workers. As influencers and celebrities began to feel less relatable, the online sphere began to shift to craving more authentic content.

This has been particularly clear in the rise of TikTok’s popularity since the lockdown. Much of the content on TikTok is regular people posting regular parts of their lives. Brittany Broski, one of the most viral stars from TikTok, gained popularity from a video of her testing a can of kombucha for the first time, casually and in her own home. TikTok rewards authenticity. 

Even more recently, TikTok has begun to reject the classic influencer persona. Mikayla Nogueira’s TikTok complaining about the difficulty of being an influencer recently received thousands of duets and stitches criticizing it for being out of touch, pointing out that influencers have an easier job than many people who get paid far less for their labor.

It has never been clearer that the general populous does not view influencers as one of them — not in a way that makes influencers aspirational, but in a way that makes influencers resented if it becomes too clear that they are not in touch with their fanbase.

TikTok’s Trend Predictions

No one has been more eager to commentate on the downfall of posed content than trend forecasters on TikTok. Alongside noting the fall out of favor of influencers as we knew them, TikTok trend forecasters have noted the shift towards content that seems effortless, even if it isn’t. Many TikToks have been made previously predicting and now commenting on the return of the ‘Tumblr grunge’ aesthetic.

The ‘Tumblr grunge’ aesthetic relies on a messy, effortless look. Lower-quality cameras, like webcams and 2000s digital cameras, are usually used to take photos for this aesthetic, and the preferred style is smudged eyeliner and messy layered clothing. It is much less structured than the Instagram posts and influencer culture of the past.

Credit: Shutterstock

Users of TikTok also took quickly to BeReal, a social media app that asks that its users take a photo from both their front and back cameras at a random time each day, with the idea being that it shows the real lives of its users, rather than only the attractive and desirable parts. The desire for a less fake social media experience is clear in the popularity of apps like these. In fact, TikTok itself has recently implemented a ‘Now’ feature that mimics BeReal.

TikTok also latched quickly onto the idea of the ‘photo dump’, a series of photos that users post on social media, spreading the focus of the post to multiple parts of their life across a time period rather than one specific posed image. Photo dumps often contain blurry and un-aesthetically pleasing images. Both Instagram and TikTok have photo carousel features that are often used for photo dumps.

Is This Authenticity Genuine?

But just how genuine is this need for authenticity and rejection of being posed? Many users wait after the BeReal notification until they do something exciting or look good to post their photos. A viral TikTok has now deemed that there are rules to photo dumps, designating which position in a carousel to put each picture and, what each picture should be, and which model Karlie Kloss has taken on board. Users will often post TikToks bragging about how they have ‘won BeReal’ with a particularly creative or cool post that they have planned.

@jacimariesmith

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Though all of these changes do point to a desire for social media that is less contrived, the reality of how these new features and apps are used suggests that people may always fall back on being posed. Rather than truly having an obsession with being unposed, it seems that TikTok has an obsession with seeming unposed.

Written By

A second year student at UCL and lifelong writer.

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