In An Age Of Sharing Everything On Social Media, The Things We Keep Secret Become So Much Sweeter

What you post to your close friends list on Instagram is always juicer, more raw and more authentic than what you share with all your followers.

Not sharing on social media

by Phoebe Parke |

This year we’ve seen celebrities bypass traditional media and use social media to break down the wall between ‘us’ and ‘them’ like never before. From Coleen Rooney choosing Twitter as the platform to reveal her suspicions about fellow WAG Rebekah Vardy selling stories about her, to Jennifer Aniston giving us unprecedented access to her A-List life by joining Instagram in October, this has been the year of celebrities taking control of their stories.

As always, us normies are quick to follow in celebrities’ footsteps and have fully embraced the trend of baring all online. 2019 saw an influx of less than flattering hungover selfies, super-long captions telling us about the not-so-glamorous story behind the glossy images we see on Instagram, and YouTube videos featuring influencers giving us the ‘real story’ behind the headlines we’ve all been talking about for months.

Authenticity, it seemed, was the online trend of 2019. As we grow up with Instagram (it’s only existed for 10 years!) we’re moving away from using it as a highlight reel and instead sharing the grainy, blurry pictures where we look slightly deranged - but are having the best time ever, or so we assure our followers in the caption.

But as with every online trend, there’s more to it than meets the eye, and if you look closely, these authentic images are perhaps more staged than they seem. The hungover model eating pizza actually has perfectly blow-dried hair, the influencer sharing her no-make up selfie has a full face on, and the mummy blogger taking candid snaps of her adorable babies has clearly spent hours getting them into position.

So, we’re now caught in a complicated pendulum swing between being authentic online and still keeping some boundaries – we know not to share our exact locations, we don’t want to be too authentic in case it’s used against us in the future but we’re tired of the constant pressure to appear perfect.

Instagram, sensing this tension, introduced the ‘close friends’ feature, allowing users to share intimate moments with some followers, and hide them from others. And using this feature in 2019 made me realise just precious those things we don’t share online – or at least not with people we don’t know – can be.

In January 2019 I bought a flat in London, all to myself. Traditionally this would be something you’d put on Instagram – the hashtag #firsttimehomebuyer has been used over a million times. But this achievement, while hard-fought, seemed like something I should keep to myself.

With daily headlines telling us how doomed millennials who dreamed of buying their own homes were, it felt gross to suddenly proclaim; ‘haha, I did it!’ when so many people were struggling to make their rent payments, and relying on pay-day loans to cover the increasing cost of living.

I took the traditional picture with the keys outside the estate agents for my own memories, and when I ran into the 100th obstacle in the renovation process – the flooring underneath the bath had almost completely rotted away, leaving it balancing precariously on a few disintegrated beams – I shared a picture with my close friends list on Instagram (a total of 3 people) more to stop myself from crying than anything else.

Having my own flat became my little secret, trips to IKEA for more fluffy rugs and plates became reconnaissance missions.

While some use the close friends feature to just exclude their boss or work colleagues from seeing what they’re up to at the weekends, for others this is the place to really share deep personal moments with a group of their nearest and dearest, without having to message them all individually, or risk facing the dreaded silence in the group WhatsApp chat. With the introduction of close friends, Instagram lured those of us who want to keep some of our lives private back onto the app with a simple yet effective feature.

Once I’d moved in, having my own flat became my little secret, trips to IKEA for more fluffy rugs and plates became reconnaissance missions, days off work to let plumbers in (thanks, faulty boiler) were masked as doctor’s appointments and angry phone calls with management companies were almost a joy, as they were all part of my secret grown-up assignment not shared with colleagues and Instagram followers.

I definitely believed I was being edgy and alternative by not sharing on Instagram – when in reality who on earth would care about my ‘announcement?!' – but actually I was following yet another celebrity trend. When Kim Kardashian or any other business-minded celebrity has something to announce, do they do so straight away? No, they (probably) sit down with their team and figure out how to reveal the news so it has the biggest splash, get the perfect images together and line up the related endorsements.

So, now that I’ve kept this from Instagram for a year, the only way to announce is with a full YouTube flat tour – ahh the pressure of online perfection, when will it ever end.

Let’s Reflect: As 2019 comes to a close, Grazia writers are looking back and looking inwards to reflect on the last year.

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