I will die on this hill: Stop lying in your Instagram bio
Raise your hand if you have ‘content creator’ in your bio
It used to be that the only people who concerned themselves with promoting themselves online and establishing a digital identity were celebrities, companies, and businesses. But as social media took over and infiltrated our lives, the desire for self-promotion slowly crept in to regular people.
These days, nearly every single person you know is probably promoting themselves on Instagram or Twitter or Snapchat. In a way, it's understandable. The entire world — including the mean girls we went to high school with, our judgmental distant relatives, and future employers — can see everything we're doing online. And so, we try to put our best foot forward and show the public a version of ourselves that is happy, successful, and socially well-adjusted.
We spend hours brainstorming witty tweets, FaceTuning the zits out of our selfies, maintaining the perfect follower-to-following ratio, and posting carefully-curated Instagram Stories of concerts and vacations — all in an attempt to brand ourselves and establish a cohesive identity.
And there is simply no better place for shameless self-promotion than the Instagram bio.
The Instagram bio — the small and enigmatic 150-character space between your name and photos — abounds with opportunities to build your brand and establish your digital identity.
The most beguiling part of the bio is that no social etiquette rules dictate what you should or shouldn't do with it. Compared to the rest of social media, where strict rules dictate how frequently you should tweet and how heavily you should edit your photos, the Instagram bio is a site of relatively laissez-faire governance.
The only stipulation is that you stay within 150 characters. Aside from that, you can pretty much do whatever you want. Absolutely nothing is off limits.
Many people use this space to provide a quick bullet-point summary of who they are. 150 characters might not seem like a lot of room, but some particularly opportunistic Instagrammers manage to cram nearly every single aspect of their identity — from the personal ("wife" "dog mom" "foodie") to the professional ("musician" "blogger" "DJ") to the slightly exaggerated ("world traveler" "renaissance man" "blessed").
And often, the Instagram bio is a strategic combination of vulnerable and distant. Careful to toe the line between being authentic and not oversharing, people will deliberately highlight certain private moments from their life — such as their chronic disease or their disability — while remaining appropriately distant about other aspects of their life, resorting to vague words like "health" and "fitness" and "lifestyle" to describe themselves.
Another staple of the Instagram bio is the fake-sounding job title. Similar to the bogus occupations that participants on the Bachelor claim to have (like "sports fishing enthusiast" and "dog lover"), these job titles serve the vital role of making the person seem much more important than they actually are. Some of the most common job titles spotted in Instagram bios include "mental health/body positivity advocate," "content creator," "entrepreneur," and "fashion/lifestyle/fitness blogger."
There are many people in the world who are actually entrepreneurs and social justice activists. But it is a little difficult to believe that any white 16-year-old boy is indeed "ending racism" as he claims to be doing in his Instagram bio.
The proliferation of self-promotion in Instagram bios just goes to show that everyone — from middle school students to mothers with three children — is feeling increasingly pressured to act like they have their shit together on social media.
The reality, of course, is often far less glamorous. After all, most 13-year-olds haven't even gone through puberty yet, much less ended racism or advocated for body positivity. But there's certainly something very appealing about calling yourself a "fashion blogger" or "entrepreneur" in your Instagram bio — even if it's not entirely true.
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