Reminder: Instagram is Not Reality

Jess Ann Kirby styles a Rails Charli Button Down with Agolde Dee Shorts and Converse sneakers
Jess Ann Kirby loves her Rails Charloe button down in perch stripe for summer

Phrases you’ve probably seen on Instagram: “goals,” “I want your life,” “best summer ever,” “you’re perfect,” … I think you get the point (and yes I admit I’ve definitely commented on other people’s photos with some of those). I’ve been thinking about it for a while, but this particular shoot really made me reflect on the nature of Instagram right now. When I posted video from this shoot on my IG Stories I got a lot of commentary that resembles the above. I recognize some of it is tongue-in-cheek but there’s no denying the power of Instagram and how it affects our perception of reality. Instagram is a great connector, a place to find inspiration, and for me, a part of how I make my living. It can also create feelings of anxiety, poor self-esteem, depression and inadequacy. While many of us KNOW that much of what we see on Instagram isn’t reality (or it’s just a tiny curated sliver) it can still create all of those negative feelings when we open the app and start scrolling.

If I’m being honest I recognize I am guilty of contributing to this, and I am also victim to some of those same feelings of “I’m not good enough.” If you take a look at my Instagram feed you might assume my house is always clean, I spend my days at the beach and on the water, I’m always well dressed and my hair always looks good. Couldn’t be further from the truth. My life is far from perfect. Of the hundreds of photos Craig and I shoot every week, a small handful get posted to Instagram. That photo wasn’t just snapped really quickly while we were out “having the best summer ever.” I styled an outfit, I did my hair and makeup, we picked a location, we did an entire photoshoot, the photos were edited, and a select few made it here to the blog and Instagram. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life. We have a lot of fun, we are very lucky. We have a home we love, pets we adore, we work for ourselves and have jobs we genuinely enjoy, but we also struggle with the same $hit everyone else does. I found myself scrolling through Instagram about a week ago and in that moment felt like a loser. Why wasn’t I jet-setting, on a boat or a beach with lots of friends, traveling somewhere exotic, doing some really cool collaboration or on a fancy trip with a brand? I closed out Instagram, sat there and thought about why I felt that way. I started to think about my own reality and the things that make me happy. When I actually thought about it, I realized a few things. First, I realized that I was comparing my life to other people’s highlight reels, yes even though I KNOW from experience what goes into an Instagram photo I was still allowing that to impact how I feel about myself and my life. Second, I recognized that what makes me happy and where I find joy isn’t the same as everyone else. Yes I love to travel but for the most part I just want to be home, with my pets. I could never travel 24/7  or go to tons of events or whatever other things that might look glamorous on Instagram. So if any of this makes sense, the point I’m trying to make is that your happy, your highlight reel, doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.

Think about what really makes you happy and fulfilled, not what Instagram and social media makes you think you need to have or be doing. If you find yourself on Instagram feeling inadequate, pause and think about why. If you find yourself following someone on Instagram that makes you feel like you need to be somebody else, unfollow them. The photos in this post are the best of 700+ we took that night (if you want to see some of the ones that didn’t make the cut, check out my IG stories-there’s some real winners). I really don’t want to make anyone feel like their life isn’t good enough or that mine is better, trust me it’s not. Would love to know how all of you feel about this topic and if you’ve ever found yourself struggling with any of this. Let me know in the comments.

Jess Ann Kirby picks sunflowers on the weekend in a Rails button down and Converse sneakers
Jess Ann Kirby lives in denim shorts in the summer and often wears them with classic button down shirts
Jess Ann Kirby visits Sweet Berry Farm in a button down and jean shorts
Jess Ann Kirby shares the reality of her life off of Instagram
Jess Ann Kirby picks sunflowers in denim shorts and a Hat Attack straw tote

Outfit Details

Rails Charlie Button Down (xs)
AGOLDE Dee High Rise Shorts (23– Also have this wash in 24)
Converse 70s Oxford Sneakers (fit tts)
Le Specs Mirrored Sunglasses
Gorjana 5 Disc Choker Necklace
Kayu Straw Tote

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35 Comments

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  1. Lynn says:

    I love the shoot with the truck and the fields of Daisies. I especially love your honesty. I am so far from an envious person that people who have been my friends for years would laugh at that. I’m happy for anyone I know who is joyful. I love your shirt. I wish I could afford it. I’d love to be living in New England on a perfect day in that field . I’m insecure, sure. I’m getting g older and I can’t wear the same things I used to. Guys don’t turn around like they used to and I find it a relief now because I do t have to cringe at those comments and not k is what to say back. The big things are important now. Bring healthy. The sun shining on my face. Having a supportive partner and wishing my son was still alive. Thank you for your honesty. You put in a lot of work to create a beautiful day . It still is for me to look at because you have a wonderful soul inside❤️

  2. Julie says:

    I have recently purged my follow list of IG of many of the fashion/lifestyle bloggers I use to follow as the life they portrayed was so fake and unrealistic to me. You have been on of the few I continue to follow as you come across genuine. One of the reasons I like you is because you aren’t always “jet-setting, on a boat or a beach with lots of friends, traveling somewhere exotic, doing some really cool collaboration or on a fancy trip with a brand”.

    Your style and persona is relaxed, chill and confident. Keep doing your thing.

  3. Lauren S. says:

    While I understand where you’re coming from, I feel like every influencer and blogger are shouting this specific thing from the rooftops lately while also still majorly contributing to the problem. It’s like everyone cares, but they don’t care THAT much because it’s still paying their bills.

    This also isn’t a personal attack on you, it’s more about the fact that I’ve seen SO many people talk about this recently as if there’s not a way to fix or help the issue. I guess personally as a reader, I wish people would start putting their real lives more in the forefront instead of burying it away in IG Stories where it ceases to exist after a day.

    • Jessica says:

      I don’t disagree Lauren. My goal with writing this post wasn’t to make it seem like there’s no solution, I hope it didn’t come off that way. The main reasons I wrote it were because a) I found myself comparing my own life to others even though I do this for a living and know the realities behind a photo on IG and b) as a reminder to others that there’s always more to the story. One thing I probably should have said in my post is that there are plenty of people I follow on IG with beautiful feeds. I follow them because of that. While Instagram isn’t my primary source of income, I treat it as my portfolio/resume in a way. Many brands find me through Instagram, and it’s that first impression that can land me a collaboration or brand partnership. So of course my goal is to have a beautiful feed and exceptional images. I don’t see myself changing that. At the same time I recognize the impact that can have on others that take a quick glimpse and don’t see the full story behind a “perfect” looking image or IG feed. So I do my best to share real life moments on stories, on my Youtube channel, on our Podcast. I stopped using filters on IG stories for that exact reason, because even when you think someone’s just sharing a quick video, their skin looks perfect, but it’s because there’s a filter on it. Really appreciate your feedback and perspective, I can’t pretend to say I have all the answers, I really don’t, but I hope writing posts like this give a little context and background into why I make certain decisions. Thank you! xx

  4. Caley says:

    TRUTH! Thank you for always taking a moment to bring some reality to the blogging/social media industry. This is one of the many reasons I love reading your posts and why you inspire me.

  5. Ashley says:

    Thank you for calling this out! It’s hard on Instagram, I feel like I want to unfollow a lot of the bloggers I follow because I know how effortless they make it look, but it isn’t. It’s hard to remember. You’re one of my favorites because you do share the behind the scenes of what it’s like! In general, I want to stay of social media more, and unfollowing people might really help.

    Thanks for creating GREAT content and for being honest abut what happens.

  6. Jeanne says:

    Hey Jessica. Thanks for writing this blog post. I tend to be a serial follower and not a commenter. I find myself quietly comparing my life to the lives I see in curated Insta feeds. I have to consciously remind myself that I’m not a blogger. I don’t have the body of a model, but my body has done amazing things. I find inspiration on the blogs and feeds I follow and yeah, sometimes I get envious. I’m more of a home-body anyway. Lately I have been trying to savor all the little moments… with summer comes school vacation, though my husband and I still work outside the home. I’m trying to slow the evenings down with the kids and enjoy things more. It’s tough, but it’s those little things that seem insignificant that my kids will likely remember. It’s not a competition. Would I like to take my kids on a vacation somewhere cool? Sure! Is vacationing with 3 girls under 11 a vacation for me? Nope LOL. Thanks again for sharing that you’re only human. Being your true self, that’s all you can really ask for.

    • Jessica says:

      Thank you Jeanne. I think that’s such a healthy and smart approach. I love that you bring up savoring the little moments because honestly those are the things that create lasting memories. It’s moments when I’m not on my phone and I’m around people I love that always create the best experiences and memories. And for me that might just be hanging out on my porch with my dogs, it’s not glamorous but it makes me happy. xx

  7. Sam says:

    THANK YOU FOR THIS! Best post I’ve read in a long time! I have the worst issues with comparison on social media and this is such a great reminder; keeping this in my screenshots to refer back to

  8. Joy Bela says:

    I’m always thinking about this, too. As someone who spent 3+ years blogging full time, I was constantly thinking about how to “curate” my life and my brand in an authentic, genuine way. I would check in with my friends to see if the way I was portraying myself aligned with my true personality. Since then, I’ve stopped blogging full time but I still follow some influencers (hate that word) on Insta. I LOVE following you and I’ve found your feed to be super refreshing. For starters, you are transparent about how hard it is and how it’s WORK, your page is professional and beautifully shot, and most importantly, you don’t say things that aren’t true. Basically, I can TELL you hustle and I really respect you for it! It’s when people do the hustle but totally don’t own it that annoys me, and THAT’S when the mixed messages get sent. Instagram is a complicated platform, but I think you’ve found a way to use it as a visual representation of your lifestyle in a way that promotes natural beauty, fashion, and wellness. Keep doing you. AND NEVER STOP POSTING ALL THE DOG LICKING LOL. xo

  9. Lisa says:

    Love this post! I think so many people fall into this trap and it’s so hard to look past it all. Like you said even though you KNOW it’s not real, it’s still hard to really comprehend that and not let it affect you. This is the exact reason I quit Facebook 4 years ago. It was making me more unhappy than happy, and pushing that delete account button was the best decision I ever made! I still can’t quit Insta though. Hey I need something! Lol.

    • Jessica says:

      I need to quit Facebook too, if I didn’t need to be on there for work I’d be long gone. Haha. Thank you Lisa. xx

  10. Kelsey Middleton says:

    Hi Jess,

    I think what people need to realize as they are scrolling through Instagram is that what is put on the network is the very best of what we(as the poster) want to show. Who wants to sit and look at something sad or miserable? That’s the sad truth of it. So I think your right. Instagram isn’t total reality. Only a snippet of time. This should be kept in mind if someone is feeling awful about themselves. You never know what is going on in someone’s life. I loved this post!

  11. I love this post! I just recently took a break from blogging and took a major step back from Instagram. I was really be affected by all of the comparison and I lost track of why I started blogging to begin with. I love seeing curated images and beautiful photos. It’s one of the reasons I love to follow you. I also love that you keep it real, because I think it’s so important to remember we all have good and bad days. I completely agree with what you said about looking at your life and what makes you content. Thanks for sharing!

    xo Bryn
    http://www.waketonroad.com

    • Jessica says:

      Thank you Bryn, it can be so easy to forget but so important to remind ourselves where we find contentment and happiness in our own lives. xx

  12. Dana says:

    I quit Instagram earlier this year and have yet to regret it. I found myself constantly comparing my house, my outfits, my looks, my life to everyone else and truly believe “comparison is the thief of all joy.”
    If I miss anything about Instagram it’s seeing my favorite bloggers outfits and travels and let’s be honest, Nora and Fuji pics (Hunter too!) So please continue to showcase them on your blog 🙂

  13. Rebecca Welker says:

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I needed to read this post today.

  14. Vee says:

    Hi Jess, thanks for writing this post. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about internet awareness, and I so appreciate your acknowledging that you put effort into making your life appear beautiful. Instagram is an escape, reading blogs about beautiful clothes and things is an escape, but sometimes it makes us want for nothing more than to escape the drudgery of our everyday lives. My life is in transition right now, and there aren’t a lot of pretty things or beaches or even friends, let alone luxury hotels and yachts, and seeing that all over social media makes me sad about what’s going on with me. It’s hard to even muster the warmth that we feel about your personal friends because internet celebrities and bloggers are really just strangers. Thanks for acknowledging that these photos are part of your job and that you’ve made an effort to make the photos look a certain way.

  15. grace atwood says:

    yes yes yes! Loved this post so much Jess! xx

  16. Savannah says:

    I recently deleted my Instagram, not for all of those reasons but for some. Mainly, I found myself mindless scrolling. I would unlock my phone and immediately, my fingers would tap open the app. How much time I spent there. It’s exhausting.

    Although I can’t follow you on Instagram anymore, I still take time to listen to your podcast on the ride to work (I’m designing my home right now – so helpful!) and explore your blog. Thanks for articles like this one and for continuing to be a source of inspiration even without the app. <3

  17. Erica says:

    Oh I struggle with this almost daily. I am a stay at home mother to two young kids ages (almost) 2 and 3. I want to be one of those mothers that looks put together, wearing a cute outfit with great hair. My reality is so much different. I had back to back pregnancies with a huge fibroid the size of a football and my body has not bounced back the way I’d like. Summer is especially hard when I see other women, especially mothers, looking the way I’d like to look. But I workout because it makes me feel good. I’m strong and can chase after my kids. Thank you for the reminder that everyone has something in their life.

  18. Jon says:

    My wife always like your dressing style and I just enjoys the reading. I like the way you express your feeling through writing these articles. Thanks for sharing. well done!

  19. Scott Casper says:

    I knew this fact very well,that Instagram is not reality.People post many things and most of them are fake.Instagram is all about Illusion things looks pretty good on it but there is sad reality behind it too.

  20. Thank you for sharing! I have definitely felt that way when scrolling through pictures of other bloggers! While I do have a blog myself (I don’t make any money from it-i only do a post every few weeks) I have felt that I can’t share as much on it or instagram because for one-our house needs a complete renovation as it is so outdated and who wants to see photos of that? But a part of me thinks that is real life and maybe some people do want to see as we slowly fix things up and maybe would appreciate that we have to start from scratch and work our way up to a nice house and other things.

  21. Deanna says:

    I truly love everything about your content, Jess. Your style and your honesty is always so on point. Please keep up the good work! 🙂

    Deanna
    http://www.DesigningGal.ca

  22. Sara says:

    I am older than most bloggers (42) so the “their life is better” take away is not there for me as I love my own life. However, the fact that all bloggers are size 0-4 is hard to relate to sometimes. I continue to follow, however, because I live in a remote state that doesn’t have a lot of fashion inspo and don’t want to spend all my vacation time shopping. You and Julia (lemonstripes) inspired me to travel to Mass, and I had one of my best vacations ever there. Anyway, keep up the quality posts-you are one of the best.

  23. L says:

    2 points:
    Social media feels so young and fun. At 50 yrs old and 20 pounds heavier, I just can’t look like and wear what all the bloggers show. It’s a total bummer!
    My daughters, I just keep reminding them how fake it is. . .botox, surgery, touched pics, proffesional hair and make up. Why do women do this to each other? Just be honest about what it REALLY took to look like you do in a picture!