Three Online Personalities on On The Love-Hate Relationship We Have with Instagram


March 19, 2020
Read Time: 10 minutes

Still the same, but not really



When Instagram was first birthed into the digital scene in 2010—pre-live filters and adjustable aspect ratios and the big Facebook buy-in—it was clear that the app was destined for something great. Not every app can get 25,000 sign-ups and climb to the #1 spot on the App Store’s free photography app list on the day of its launch, but something about Instagram and its 1:1 framing defied the odds early on. The barrier breakage only snowballed from there: at two months, the app hit a million active users. Then five million at eight months and 50 million a year and a half post-launch—just shortly after it was made available to Android users.


The last relevant statistic I can find on Instagram’s numbers dates as far back as 2018, when it clocked in a billion monthly active users. But honestly, I doubt you needed that outdated data at all. Instagram is just one of those truths now. The sky is blue. Water is wet. Instagram is a pop culture totem pole.


While there are the rare concurrent swimmers, most of us wade through the picture-perfect waters of Instagram, regarding the app as a travel journal, a daily diary, an outfit log, a moodboard, a springboard for our best selves, an emotional dumpsite. For some of us, it’s all those things at once. For others, the relationship sheds and gains meaning with the passing years and aesthetic transitions.


My Instagram footprint can be divided into three distinguishable eras I now refer to as the Dark Ages, the Light Ages and the Present. The Dark Ages, circa 2012 to 2013, was an era with posts I don’t want to remember but will unfortunately never be able to wipe clean off my memory. For one, I kicked off my Instagram debut with the handle @theneonpickle, which was absolutely not an innuendo, believe it or not. It was the heyday of the Valencia filter and PicStitch and all my posts (a collection of collages of my dogs, concerts and my favorite snack discoveries from my freshman year of college) were fried to a delicious, oversaturated crisp. Thankfully, the Light Ages followed soon after, when I discovered the enlightening wonders of going easy on filters. Incidentally, a friend sucked me into the world of Vimeo travel videos, which then transformed my Instagram into a three-year black hole of almost all exclusive travel photos. Did I ache to post more candid content? Maybe a little. But In my mind, my curated posts were a foot in the travel blogger door. Those 30 to 50 likes were my shot at becoming one of the Kimi Juans of the world.


Postcards from the Dark Ages, the Light Ages and the Present


Fast forward to the Present: my feed finally feels like me and, for once, it consistently has me in it. It’s equal parts portfolio, travel log, frustrated profile and selfie collection, an equation I’m proud of and stunned at as someone who used to markedly struggle with body image. My captions flutter from scrupulous capitalization to lazy lapslock, and my Instagram Stories dance across the curated-to-chaotic spectrum with my mood. I’d argue that this is the best my feed has looked, possibly ever, but it’s also the truest it’s even been. Is this what self-actualization feels like?


In pursuit of the answer, I asked three online personalities—a social media editor, an all-around creative and a model-slash-makeup enthusiast—to compare old posts to new and talk a little about how they’ve grown with the ‘gram.


RELATED: A Millennial Who’s Never Been on Social Media Tries Instagram


RJ Roque
RJ is a writer, stylist and the social media editor for Mega Magazine. 


Tell us how you first got on Instagram. What year was it and what phone were you using?

Wow, I just checked. 2012! I thought it was 2014, but there you go. I was using my beloved iPhone 4 given to me by my Korean model and friend (I was handling Korean models at the time while styling). My good friend Tine Serrano, who always has her finger on the pulse of everything that’s happening, told me about it and forced me to get on Instagram. Our photo together was my second post. 


Let’s talk about one of your first posts. What’s the story behind it? 

This was for a barkada (friend group) shoot for a newspaper feature. I was grouped with industry friends who shared a fondness for K-pop, which was still relatively niche then. I was with two of my Korean models and a photographer, a stylist, a designer, and videographers—two of whom I would become best friends with, little did I know. 



View this post on Instagram


I still can’t get over my teeth!! I love my dentist, Ate Mac and my orthodontist, Kuya Gelo!! Braces, I don’t miss you haha

A post shared by RJ Roque (@rjroquestar) on

Another one since I’m a Libra! I just got my braces out and my teeth were freaking perfection. I had the ugliest set of teeth and I made the difficult decision of getting braces after college. I regretted not doing it earlier. This was one of the happiest days of my life. Everything was changed just by having a perfect smile!


What’s going through your mind now, looking at this post?

What am I wearing?! Lol. But I really was predisposed to monotone dressing. Still am!


Now let’s look at something more recent. What’s the story behind this one?


View this post on Instagram


Neon at kailanman ? @_angeldei ?

A post shared by RJ Roque (@rjroquestar) on

I went to a deserted beach in Palawan and was recovering from tonsillitis and jet lag from another trip. My body was out of whack: I was on track the previous year to getting my ultimate dream bod but got derailed due to travels and various sickness. I was feeling pretty low in confidence and ultimately didn’t expect I would be able to take a nice body shot like this! I think I did justice to the beauty of Palawan. 


What has changed between the first photo you picked and this recent one?

Oh definitely the clothes—or the lack of, to be exact. It’s always been my dream to be as hot as the boys I shoot or work with. I said to myself, when I’m remotely as hot as them, I will be a hoe (albeit a tasteful hoe!) on Instagram. And tada! I think I’ve achieved it, kind of. 


How would you describe your relationship with Instagram?

Oh definitely love and hate. It’s the source of both my confidence and anxiety. But I really appreciate Instagram. It connects me to virtually anyone in the world and, most importantly, to my friends. Plus, it’s always positive and always beautiful with curated content. And that’s why it’s the only social media app I keep—yep, I don’t have any Facebook nor Twitter on my phone. Oh, also since I’m a social media editor, I’m attached at the hip to Instagram. 


I think we all keep a public self on social media, whether we’d like to admit it or not. The trick is to inject it with an attitude that you know is your inner voice AKA the real you. Sure, I’m more confident being naked with a well-curated image on Instagram than in real life, but I make sure that the caption is all me, baby. Also, thank God for Instagram Stories where we can all go crazy and let it all hang out.


RELATED: How Filipinos In and Out of the Fashion Industry Feel About the Death of Print Media


Pat Cortez
Pat is a model and beauty enthusiast gaining traction for her fun, glowy makeup looks


Tell us how you first got on Instagram. What year was it and what phone were you using?

I started back in 2013 on my birthday ‘cause I wanted to post a #throwback baby picture. Nothing special! I just made one cause almost all my friends were starting their accounts already. So I downloaded Instagram on my iPhone 4s back when its icon looked like a vintage camera, haha! 


Let’s talk about one of your first posts. What’s the story behind it? 


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by ? Pat Cortez ? (@iampatcortez) on

This was back in 2013, in Baguio. I’ve always liked dressing up and my dreams were still on fire. I’d also bring my heavy DSLR everywhere and be in my Docs and thrifted jacket as if I was the coolest kid ever. 


What’s going through your mind now, looking at this post?

Cute. I actually still dress like this—minus the skinny low waist jeans. Can’t forget about those iconic IG filters and an app to resize my IG photo to fit the square! 


Now let’s look at something more recent. What’s the story behind this one?

I was playing with makeup as usual and asked my mom if she could take a picture of me outside my house ‘cause I thought the shadows looked nice. I didn’t go anywhere after!


What has changed between the first photo you picked and this recent one?

The first thing I noticed was my hair and how after all my hair exploring attempts (pink, blonde, blue), I actually went back to my OG shaved 2013 hair. I also still like dressing up, but [it’s] more chill now because I don’t need to bring a DSLR everywhere [anymore]—just a phone to take content and I’m good.


How would you describe your relationship with Instagram?

Back then, I would keep my circle small by just following people I know and some celebrities. Now, I follow people I don’t even know but whose content inspires me. Some even became my friends IRL already. I’d like to think that I’ve a pretty healthy relationship with Instagram, even with all the changes. I could go on for months without posting before, now I post 2 to 3 times a week. It’s a nice platform to create on and it’s definitely helped me get opportunities I didn’t even know were possible, like meeting new people, working with my dream brands or having someone say that you inspired them. 


My Instagram self is subtly curated, not because I’m fake, but because I just want to share parts of myself that I feel are useful to people. Dressed up with colorful makeup? Me! In pambahay and no makeup? Also me! But do I need to post that? Hmm, nah! Haha. (Thanks to finsta for the trash content!) Physically, I do try to look the best that I can on a public platform (who doesn’t?), but emotionally I don’t hide that I am a pleading face emoji in person—and a very textbook Libra!


RELATED: The Life-Changing Magic of Finsta


Sofia Cope
Sofia is a designer, artist and the mastermind behind lifestyle brand Viva La Manika


Tell us how you first got on Instagram. What year was it and what phone were you using? 

I think it was around 2011 when I created my Instagram. I was using my iPad. It was the first time I ever owned an Apple gadget. I found out about the app through a friend. She encouraged me to join. She said it’s like an “intimate social media” and that got me really curious. 


Let’s talk about one of your first posts. What’s the story behind it? 


View this post on Instagram


Styled VLM’s Take Me to the Music Festival collection.

A post shared by Sofia Cope (@sofia.cope) on

I archived my earlier posts but here’s one I retrieved. It just screams 2011! Haha.


It’s a photoshoot for my brand, Viva La Manika, which was then a vintage clothing line. My friend and I thought we’d come up with a collection inspired by music festival-goers. It was just the scene then. Everybody raved about Coachella and Tomorrowland. Manila was slowly adopting the festival culture. I’m nostalgic for that old Instagram. I expressed more and cared less. Lol.

Now let’s look at something more recent. What’s the story behind this one?

It’s a video of my dad dancing. I don’t know. It makes me happy and sad at the same time. It shows how strong he still is and also how vulnerable. It tells so much of our current narrative. It’s like a scene from a movie.


What has changed between the first photo you picked and this recent one?

I told more stories and shared more art. I veered away from myself.


How would you describe your relationship with Instagram?

I am conflicted. I love and hate it at the same time, just like we probably all do. It’s great for marketing but I find it funny how it even got to this point where it’s already “market.” It’s nice because it gave entrepreneurs like me an avenue, but I’m an artist, too. It can’t just be all about profiting or milking my audience for me. I want to connect to other humans, on top of being a brand.


I’m not sure if I have a public self. My public self is very close to what my friends and family think of me. I just took a test that reveals your Jungian archetype. The results are supposed to show you the archetype you present to others and the one that matches your inner personality. It said I’m a “joker” inside and out—someone at peace with life’s paradoxes. So basically my public self matches my real self. I do curate my style and my visuals but I try to stay true to my disposition and my moods. I don’t believe you have to compromise who you really are to stay relevant to your readers on Instagram but being mindful about the energy you give others is also key.



RELATED: Less Is More: The Same Rule Applies to Social Media


They’ve got us thinking: Has Instagram shaped our personas over time, or has it simply grown alongside us? Any wild guesses on what you’re going to be posting about three years from now?



Art Matthew Ian Fetalver

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