Candid Curation: The Casual Aesthetic of Social Media

If a meticulously planned photoshoot for Instagram is on your to-do list, you might want to think again. Social media users value the adoption of a casual aesthetic now more than ever to find authenticity on different platforms.

With fewer filters and more photo dumps, social media’s latest trend appears to break its own rules as an anti-aesthetic. So should your company adopt a casual aesthetic to its social media marketing strategy?

What Is The Casual Aesthetic?

The casual aesthetic began during the lockdown in 2020 when most of our Instagram-worthy events became virtual meetings attended in sweatpants. Without events and vacations to post on social media, many users began transitioning to showing their everyday lives on social media while campaigning to make platforms like Instagram more casual. Their efforts paid off as fewer filters, and more impromptu selfies filled social media feeds.

It’s been two years since then, and we continue to see this wave of a casual aesthetic taking over social media. Photo dumps rose to popularity as a way for users to show off “life lately” with blurry and grainy point-of-view pictures, selfies, screenshots, and memes that evoked their moods. The trend allows users to show life at its most raw and spontaneous moments, something that social media had steered away from during the onset of influencing and sponsored posts.

Celebrities and brands have begun adopting the casual aesthetic trend to better blend into their followers’ feeds. The effortlessness of the aesthetic gives creators a new level of authenticity in their followers. Pictures appear candid and unplanned, yet still professional, and are popular for influencing partnerships to maintain reality in their posts. Social media users seek a sense of genuinity in content, making the casual aesthetic an advantage.

How Is The Casual Aesthetic Curated?

The ‘casual Instagram’ tag on TikTok has garnered over 30 million views as more social media users continue to adopt the casual aesthetic. Tutorials for taking the perfect blurry picture and ideas for what kind of pictures to post let us know that appearing effortless takes a lot of effort, so has the appearance of a casual aesthetic become more performative than its planned predecessor? 

While the casual aesthetic does not typically feature filters, edits, or posed photos, the nature of social media also requires its curation. The lifestyle in a casual aesthetic is curated into a pseudo-reality where someone can include pictures of their most recent iced coffee order next to an exaggerated image of nightlife. A creator still has to decide what pictures they are taking and their arrangement on their feed or in their photo dump. 

Still, the idea of an effortless social media presence has become idealized by celebrities and brands who want to appeal to followers looking to engage with more authentic content. So, while the aesthetic disrupt many existing rules of social media marketing, it does result in more consumers interacting with the content. 

The creation of casual aesthetic content has resulted in more engaging stories from users’ personal accounts and thus from brands adopting the trend. In addition, user-generated content (UGC) in the casual aesthetic has proved to be helpful for brands to compile their photo dumps of consumers using their products and incorporate their content in the mix.

The casual aesthetic trend is still curated, just in a new way. While planned photoshoots are still necessary to the nature of social media, the creative direction of the photoshoots may change to capture more uniquely candid content than before to fit into users’ feeds seamlessly and authentically.

How Has The Casual Aesthetic Affected Social Media and Marketing? 

As the trend develops, we are learning more about how users react to it. While many seem to love the effortless appearance of a casual aesthetic, it has yet to fully make Instagram users casual converts. Instead, the emergence of the casual aesthetic has resulted in social media users flocking to newer real-time apps for a glimpse into their friends’ real daily lives.

With one random notification every 24 hours and two minutes to capture an image, BeReal has introduced an on-demand platform to the casually-shifting social media world. In addition, the platform allows users to comment and react to their friends’ posts, which feature a picture taken by both the front and back cameras simultaneously. With no filters or editing opportunities and no time to plan, BeReal brings the casual aesthetic to life.

While BeReal currently does not allow advertisements, Chipotle’s marketing team has begun using the app as a way to reach their Gen Z customer. Chipotle has posted behind-the-counter content and free entrée promo codes for followers to share their genuine selves and real ingredients with followers on the app. The unique and fast-paced engagement has allowed social media users to connect with Chipotle genuinely and casually.

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If you’re ready to take the next step with your social media marketing, let Online Optimism help you amplify your company’s voice and expand your digital reach. Our full-service agency can assist you with creativity, influencers, community management, and analytics through our team of Optimists!