As Instagram Turns 10, Here Are The Tags And Trends We'll Never Forget

Rachel Moss
·Reporter at HuffPost UK
·10-min read

It’s been 10 years since the launch of Instagram and the introduction of selfies and influencers to our lives. Yet as we scroll its squares and stories for hours on end each week, it’s hard to imagine a time when we lived off the grid.

“Humans are imitative creatures. We learn about the world and how to function in it by copying other people – parents, teachers, siblings…,” observes psychotherapist Lucy Beresford (@thelucyberesford1) of the ways Instagram has changed how we’ve lived our lives over the past decade.

“Not only does Insta showcase for us options about our behaviour and choices, showing us what to wear, eat, where to holiday, and how to pose, successful accounts use visual psychology to make you remember and respond to and engage with their images even more.”

The likes and comments built into Instagram’s design interface make us want to be part of “that gang”, Beresford adds, “so we alter our own images, or buy into the dreams those other images are selling”.

Love it or hate it, here are 10 memorable trends that have shaped our feeds – and lives – since Instagram’s inception. How many hashtags did you jump on?

Manicurists had it nailed (2010)

Once upon a time, we were satisfied with a simple polish. Enter Sharmadean Reid, founding director of WAH nails, who brought nail art to the masses.

WAH was “one of the first ever nail art salons to join Instagram in 2010”, Instagram tells us. It’s now packed with accounts, such as @nuka.nails (known for its rainbow designs), @imarninails (famous for nature inspired talons ranging from clouds to cherries) and @nails.bab, whose salon specialises in the ‘mystery mani’, where she chooses a surprise design for her loyal clients).

The boom of nail art identified Instagram as a home for beauty bloggers to rival YouTube – and we’ve been mourning the simple french manicure ever since.

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Selfie culture announced itself (2011)

Instagram user Jennifer Lee couldn’t have known what she’d started when she tagged her photo #Selfie in 2011, the day Instagram introduced hashtags. People had posted pics of themselves before then, but Lee is widely cited as the first person to use the tag that defined the site for years.

Selfie culture, particularly our use of filters and face tuning apps, has altered our perceptions of our own faces over the past decade, says LBC presenter and mental health campaigner Natasha Devon, who recently guested on our podcast, Am I Making You Uncomfortable? to talk about body image.

“Even if you don’t use filters, smart phones have built in technology which makes our eyes bigger and skin clearer automatically when taking a selfie,” she tells HuffPost UK. “So now, when we look in the mirror, we measure what we see against an idealised version of ourselves. Plastic surgeons have reported a huge surge in young women asking for procedures to make them look like the Insta version of themselves for that very reason.”

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Travel blogging went global (2012)

Remember the #FollowMeTo couple? Murad Osmann and his then-girlfriend (now wife) Natalia Zakharova began posting shots of their jet-set lifestyle in late 2011, but their followers skyrocketed in 2012 as people started to use the hashtag to copy their signature, arm-stretched pose.

Of course, travel photos and reviews existed online before Instagram, but Murad and Natalia were among the first wave of travel bloggers to bring that inspo direct to our fingertips, without the need to browse a travel mag or website.

By 2017, a study found that 40% of millennials were choosing holidays based on ‘Instagram potential’ – airlines have a lot to thank Instagram for.

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Outfit of the Day was on point (2013)

Dedicated followers of fashion found a natural home on Instagram from day one, but in 2013 came OOTD Magazine and the Instagram account of the same name, which soon gained over three million followers.

Outfit Of The Day and the #OOTD hashtag soon became the standard way for fashion bloggers to flaunt their #gifted goods (although back then, it wasn’t so easy to tell who was wearing free clobber).

Influencers have since been blamed for fuelling our addiction to fast fashion, but Instagram insists that in recent years, it’s noticed a move towards more frugal and sustainable fashion. Some accounts their team recommend following include @alexandra.stedman, @iamkristabel and @inmysundaybest, while we love @waterthruskin for all things sustainability, from fashion to homeware.

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The rise and fall of #cleaneating (2014)

The tail-end of 2013 saw the introduction of the #ThighGap hashtag, which was quickly criticised for promoting unrealistic beauty standards and encouraging women to lose weight. But in 2014, diet messaging became more insidious.

The #CleanEating hashtag picked up momentum as people rushed to post photos of salads and vegetable-jewelled bowls. The idea was to avoid heavily processed food and the poster girl for clean eating – once known as Clean Eating Alice – rose to fame, landing herself a book deal a year later.

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But the bubble soon burst, with some of those originally leading the charge distancing themselves from the trend when the movement evolved beyond their intentions to more restrictive diet culture. The final nail in the #CleanEating coffin was Alice changing her public name to Alice Liveing.

At the same time, body positivity – pioneered by Black women as an awesome rebellion to white-led diet culture – was growing from strength to strength. A few of our favourite feel-good accounts (from the many hundreds and thousands of brilliant ones) include @GabiFresh, @mynameisjessamyn, @curvycampbell and @bodyposipanda.

When contouring was queen (2015)

Kim Kardashian posted the above photo of her contoured face back in 2012, so naturally it took us mere mortals a few years to catch up. 2015 was dubbed “the year of contouring” when ‘how to’ make-up tutorials migrated from YouTube to Instagram and we watched them like mesmerised children.

Thankfully, Amy Schumer was on hand with the perfect skit to make us all feel better about our amateur, stripy efforts.

Instagram also launched Boomerang in 2015 – leading to a painful year or two of doing the ‘prosecco jig’ on every night out.

We were all ripe for avocados (2016)

Were you even on Instagram in 2015-2016 if you didn’t snap a photo of avocado on toast, preferably topped with a perfectly runny poached egg and some photogenic seeds?

Our obsession came back to bite us on the bum in late 2016, when “avo on toast” became shorthand for “irresponsible millennial”. It started with an article by Australian columnist Bernard Salt, who suggested our brunch habit was stopping us from buying houses. Australian property developer Tim Gurner recycled the joke a year later – and the stereotype was cemented.

Other food trends have come and gone, from unicorn bagels to freakshakes, accompanied with plentiful use of the flat lay and the hashtag #foodporn. Instagram says our tastes have matured since 2015, though.

“More recently, we’ve seen a rise in curiosity around food on Instagram, a deeper interest in ingredients and where they are sourced, an appetite for unusual flavours and the continued growth in the popularity of plant based foods,” a spokesperson tells HuffPost UK. “People have also become adventurous with what they eat and drink, from #fermentation to #brainfoods.”

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Instagram poets hit the big time (2017)

We have Rupi Kaur (@rupikaur_) to thank for this one, though many first learned her name in 2015, when she criticised the site for removing a photo of period blood. By 2017, she was a New York Times bestseller with her debut collection ‘Milk & Honey’ and you couldn’t open a mag without seeing her name.

“Kaur was one of the first “insta-poets” to emerge on the platform, with her beautiful, introspective and thought-provoking words striking a chord with young women across the globe,” Instagram tells us. “Since then, we’ve seen other emerging poets sharing their words on Instagram using hashtags like #poetsofinstagram, #instapoet and #Instapoetry to reach new audiences.”

Other poets who’ve found success on and beyond the platform include @yrsadaleyward, @nikita_gill, @wilson_oryema and @hussainmanawer.

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Fitness got with the programme (2018)

The unravelling of #CleanEating saw hashtags including #FitNotThin and #StrongNotSkinny gain popularity in the years that followed, but they still missed the mark, with criticism they shame people with thinner bodies.

By 2018 though, fitness content on Instagram had undergone a much-needed makeover – with one of the breakout influencers being Shona Vertue. From being referred to as “David Beckham’s yoga teacher” at the start of the year to the PT being a name in her own right.

Vertue and other influencers like @foodandpsych are “the antidote for people to feel good on the inside and outside”, suggests Instagram. “They help people to rid their fears of food and hone in on the positive benefits food can have on cognitive functioning, brain development and for general happiness.”

Others like @lucymountain and @antidietriotclub are driving the anti-diet movement, while accounts like @SeeMyStrong (created by journalist Poorna Bell in early 2019) are showcasing empowering fitness for all bodies.

Lucy Beresford says she’s “so relieved” to see the shift towards “empowerment and strength and vitality rather than restriction and reduction”. As are we.

Clean influencers cleaned up (2019)

The surprise breakout Instagram star of last year was undoubtably Mrs Hinch – Sophie Hinchliffe to her friends – who quickly gained over three million followers and a book deal for sharing her cleaning tips on Instagram.

Her success paved the way for a new breed of influencers dedicated to cleaning their homes – but not everyone hopped to buy a Minky cloth.

Journalist Alix Walker called the trend “a slightly disconcerting one”. “There are no male cleaning influencers to be found and Mrs Hinch has admitted that 90% of her followers are women,” she wrote in Stylist last year. “When we already know that the majority of the domestic load falls to us – a sorry 60% more – the rise of cleaning influencers feels rather regressive.”

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The pandemic surprised us all (2020)

As everyday life has shifted during the coronavirus pandemic, so too have our Instagram habits. The Stay Home sticker was used over 200 million times in April as we busied ourselves with jigsaws, sourdough and banana bread.

The number of people watching live videos more than doubled between March and April, as we started looking for alternative entertainment (and fitness classes) online.

At the height of lockdown, Instagram says it saw “communities rally round for worthy causes”, such as @scrubhubclub, a network of voluntary community groups coming together to make medical scrubs for NHS workers. It also logged an increase in people posting about supporting small, local businesses.

Lucy Beresford isn’t surprised people turned to the site during the pandemic.

“Hashtags have been a great way for people to find or create new communities of like-minded souls,” she says. “Not only can these communities be a great source of fun, information, or relaxation, finding new ways to connect has been important for our wellbeing because it is something we can be in control of at a time when so much else is utterly out of our control.”

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This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.