#Goals and why they aren’t

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…Who even takes these pictures?

Off topic for this website, I know. But this is an issue that’s been weighing on me for a while now. Bear with me, friends.

We all see them. We all follow them. Some may even say we want to be them. And who wouldn’t, given their legions of followers and the daily buckets of attention they lavish in?

Yup. What I’m talking about, dear reader, is the personification of hashtag-goals. #friendshipgoals, #boyfriendgoals, #squadgoals, #makeupgoals, you name it. Our social feeds are littered with beautiful people in beautiful places, often in the middle of wonderfully photogenic, nonchalant laughs. They’re carefree. They’re attractive. They have a neverending reservoir of profound quotes to pair with their selfies.

When we take celebrities, bloggers, and Instagram models (which are a thing now, apparently) at face value, we think to ourselves god, these people are perfect. Give it enough time and you’ll catch yourself saying god, can I just BE them?

This is where I cut off that train of thought. It’s great to have goals and visions to aspire for, normal even… But when did a contrived Instagram photo become a life peg? Not too long ago we were up in arms about how magazines gave us warped ideas of what we should be. We protested all the hours of makeup, styling, and photoshopping that fooled us into thinking that skinny-and-perfectly-airbrushed was the bar or normalcy that we were all pathetically below.

How is this any different?

Blogger Morgan Timm of mostlymorgan.com had it right when she wrote that social media lies. I was nodding along as I read her words below:

If you search #goals on Instagram or Twitter, you’ll be met with pictures of girls with tiny waists, snapshots of seemingly perfect couples, and photos of people living lives that look like they were made for the movies.

Something we often overlook is the fact that it’s not real. Not all of it, anyway. Here’s a third person view of the famous “Follow Me” travel series by the talented Murad and Nataly Osmann:

Murad is a photographer. He’s not trying to fool us into thinking he’s just been casually snapping away while he strolled about with his girlfriend (now wife.) He made sure of it by posting things like the photo above.

Much like how most of us wouldn’t post anything unflattering, Insta-lebrities and the like meticulously curate everything they let you see. The added element is that this is work for them. Their personal brand often depends on making you think they live on a different lifestyle plane… and there’s the subgroup that just likes the attention. Different strokes for different folks?

My sentiment on Insta-perfect people felt all too validated when I read about Essena O’Neill, an Insta-model who revealed the truth behind every one of her envy-inducing pictures. I think her new caption for this one sums it up pretty well:

Essena ditched the fame and money to give the world a wake-up call. Photos like this aren’t just casually caught and posted like it’s NBD. It takes effort and heavy curation to look this good. Nobody —nobody— just #wokeuplikethis.

Let me cite another example in the form of rainbow hair master, Ursula Goff.

A photo posted by Ursula Goff (@uggoff) on

In her caption of this post, Ursula notes that these two pictures were taken just days apart. She hit home with every word that came after that:

Social media can make it easy to feel like everyone else is awesome and perfect all the time, but that’s really never true. We should keep in mind that behind every pretty face or perfect lifestyle is a regular person, and that there’s really no point in comparing amongst ourselves because this is all cultivated.

This. Is. All. Cultivated. The hashtag-goals we want so badly to be are dramatized versions of real life. They’re nice moments on a double dose of steroids.


What I’m trying to say, dear reader, is that we’re making #goals posts something we feel we have to literally imitate.

We don’t pursue a life of being able to afford a Boracay getaway every weekend. We just want to be able to post pictures that make others think we can.

We go on journeys and post pensive photos en route with Tolkien’s “Not all those who wander are lost,” all the while barely aware of the breathtaking scenery IRL.

We hastily hand our cameras to a friendship-tographer and tangle arms with our BFFs for a laugh-at-something-in-the-distance shot but spend the rest of the time together tinkering away on VSCO.

We post everyday about how much we “love this one ♥” but spend date night feverishly checking on how many likes have come in since five minutes ago.

Ursula wrote that “the best way to be happy with yourself is to cultivate YOURSELF, vs. cultivating an IMAGE,” and she’s right. She’s right because in the end, when someone younger and prettier who shows more cleavage comes along to take the throne, a hollow image won’t matter.

This isn’t an attack on Insta-lebrities. This is a reminder that #goals and goals are not the same thing. Admire who you wish to admire and draw inspiration from what works best for you. Just keep a toe in reality so time isn’t wasted trying to naturally be something that takes a production team to pull off.

And if this little analysis of mine offends… well, perhaps I’ve touched a nerve.


  1. Kimi

    29 February, 2016 at 8:17 pm

    I know this by heart and have long given up (never even started) on a “clean feed” because it felt unnatural in the first place! Found myself guilty on two points but gotta work on that. Love this post because it’s my feelings in words (HUHU finally?)!!!

    • Carla

      7 March, 2016 at 5:45 am

      Thanks Kimi! I’m personally guilty of this stuff every now and then too! I think we all just have remind ourselves and each other that a great memory trumps a pretty picture any day :)

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