Is Instagram Stifling Creativity?

The #Metoo Social World of Copycat Design

Entire great rooms are dressed up for a day on the farm but outside, it’s all aluminum siding on a quarter-acre suburban lot.

uch has been written on how social media is harming our society, particularly children and teens. And I couldn’t agree more. As a design aficionado who loves the aesthetics of beautiful and original home interiors and home design, I have come to the conclusion that many of the Instagram home interior “designers” I follow are a direct reflection of our empty, post-modern society, a looking glass of sorts into the posed and staged lives of Americans that began on Facebook.

Posts are peppered with soulless, unimaginative photos that all look the same. History is thrown away and all originality stifled. Today’s amatuer designers are slavishly following social and commercial cues to the point of being entirely void of any personal taste. Where is grandmother’s antique clock or mom’s inherited dining set?

Like Facebook, where we only post photos of what we want others to think of us, Instagram interiors are overrun with glossy, highly stylized photos of homes decorated almost exclusively in black and white (sometimes gray) in an either predictable Swedish minimalistic style or black and white “boho” style.

Show me one more fig leaf, pouf or spider plant and I’m going to bare my teeth.

Not a designer myself, I can’t exactly say with precision what makes for good design, I just know when I see it. But here is what it isn’t. It isn’t “memorizing” the basic rules and colors of a look and then filling your entire space with reproduction accoutrements while throwing out your own history. It all smacks of the #Metoo mentality that runs rampant throughout social media.

I get that Instagram wanna-be designers are trying to sell you an aspirational lifestyle, but I take umbrage with the sheer banality of it all. It distresses me when I see entire great rooms dressed up for a day on the farm in all their whitewashed glory when I know that, outside, it’s all aluminum siding on a quarter-acre suburban lot.

Joanna Gaines on steroids reinterpreted. Good design should inspire us but it must mirror how and where we live, not where we want to live or how we want to live.

As someone who admires beautiful interiors and architecture, and let’s be honest, not everyone does, I have to lament the sort of #Metoo home designers proliferating on Instagram. They are not really designing but artfully posturing their own interpretation of a design idea because it makes them feel validated, or even cool.

Splitting that black and white baby down the middle by following a few eclectic designers didn’t bear the inspirational fruit my hungry design soul was craving either. Many of the eclectic “designers” are simply just eccentrics with no style. Like costume designs or catwalk creations, these “designs” may catch your eye, but you wouldn’t want to live in them. Or maybe you do.

 

The median Instagramer may be predictable and dull, but a lot of the eclectic brings to mind lonely old cat ladies or aging gays who’d rather be living in a bygone era somewhere in the Florida Keys.

Conversely, when absolutely every element in a design has to fit a theme, it sucks the life out of what a real home could or should look like. This is what I find so unfulfilling about modern design, though I do admire its crispness and uniformity.

One of the great tragedies of social media is that it perpetuates the idea that you can disengage from the commercialism of the modern era and showcase your own unique originality. But just spending 30 thoughtful minutes following home interior designers on Instagram dispels this notion.

Like fashion, interior design has its own fads. And just like the fashion industry, new aesthetics are pushed by commercial furniture makers, the textile industry and others who profit from changing up home interiors for profit.

Young people, who are often just finding their own style, are quick to latch onto design styles if social media reinforces their choices when they mimic a specific look. They can appear to be world travelers, smart, have great taste or live a lifestyle others are to admire. Their popularity and worth is perversely reliant on the likes and comments of others who admire their copycat interpretations rather than any real design chops they might possess.

Marketers understand that the most prominent way we tend to work on self-presentation is through thingsbuying things and acquiring things that signify who we are. Thus, the psychology of social media isn’t producing originality on Instagram and Pinterest but conformity to what marketers want us to purchase. For example, Architectural Digest recently showcased designer Nancy Meyers, whose home interior designs have been featured in countless movie sets, her latest movie about a home interior designer staring Reese Witherspoon.

According to Meyers, “Everybody wants that house. That house! That creamy, dreamy Southern California enclave that’s decorated in so many sunlight-reflecting shades of white and beige that it’s like being wrapped in a pillowy, line-fresh duvet or enveloped in cupcake batter. Meyers’s strikingly meticulous interiors are so consistent from film to film (my emphasis) that they should get above-the-title billing; they’re the equivalent of a reliable repertory player.”

One of Nancy Meyers aspirational sets. Most of the unwashed don’t live in homes with built-ins or interior glass doors. Photo credit: Architectural Digest.

Meyers’ home interiors are, indeed, beautiful, but unattainable to the average person. The median income for most Americans falls somewhere between $30,000 to $50,000 per year. It isn’t that you can’t imitate Meyers furnishings and accessories, it’s that you most likely can’t or will never live in a house that is architecturally unique or beautiful such as the ones she builds her designs around.

Beautiful homes start with beautiful bones, not the vanilla, builder-grade suburban homes most of us live in. The average American’s home is devoid of any interest or beauty—no wainscoting, wall to floor windows, built-in bookshelves, arches or any other distinguishing design features.

To my consternation, the dopamine and oxytocin highs associated with social media affirmation are unlikely to break the stranglehold that these home interior trends have over us. Pinterest and Instagram have lost most of their charm because they are overrun with hidden industry marketers pushing the same ideas to consumers, often through bloggers and personalities paid to promote their wares. And frankly, I am bored.

There is beautiful, attainable interior design inspiration on the internet ether but you will have to search for it like gems in caves. Marketers have chased the elusiveness of millennial dollars much the same way. But as millennials aged, they finally figured out that the way to sell to their skeptic hearts was to tell him a story or let him or her feel they are unique. It seems simple now really. This was a generation that was always told they were unique and special. Consumer commercialism would have to be reinvented. And so it was—via Instagram and Pinterest.

Older millennials in their 30s are finally opting to leave the coffee shop and stay home. Today, they build their own coffee bars, and you can see their signature all over this popular Instagram trend. But millennials still want to appear that they are above commercialism, thus their home designs have embraced looks that are more austere, such as clean mid-century modern designs or Danish minimalism. Designs like boho chic and shabby chic also appeal to this demographic because it appears as if they haven’t deemed to spend a dime.

Interior designs, like fashion, will always be used to show the world who we are. And I don’t find anything wrong with that. All I ask is that we be honest about it. And in this instant internet world of recycling, for pity sake haul the pouf to the Goodwill along with the macramé. Reign well.

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