Aesthetic Inflation

Ryan Dawidjan
2 min readFeb 19, 2019

People getting particular about pixels

What we feel comfortable sharing in a social network may change or evolve over time. What was once commonplace to post now becomes cringeworthy and “not another one of those” moments.

Aesthetic inflation is a steady increase in the baseline expectations of ‘quality’ and style of content shared within a social network. 📈 The photo you may have posted in a heartbeat four years ago isn’t something that you would feel compelled to have others see today.

Slowly but surely aesthetic inflation tends to root out the raw, candid, and whacky visuals that may thrive in the early days. Instagram Stories are a clear case of a format being affected by this. Often times the thought, curation, and effort put into creating a Story rivals that of the permanent posts below.

Baseline expectations rise due to:

Subtle or explicit modeling after other user group’s behavior

  • Brands, ‘influencers’, and sub-segments (artists, athletes, actors, etc)
  • These groups have natural incentives to produce more striking and interesting content

More accessible and rich creation tools reducing the barrier to creating ‘good looking’ content

  • See photo editors, photo manipulators, style formats (Unfold)

Increasing rates of context collapse

  • Convergence of many personal selfs forcing your profile (IG handle) to be a public catch-all for multiple relationship types (friend, stranger, co-worker, etc)

Natural law of messaging: “All apps with DMs eventually become dating apps”

  • Aspirational

Novelty factor

  • Naturally we become less receptive to small remixes and fleeting changes in the presentation of content


Aesthetic inflation can occur in two ways.


The actual scenery, objects, experiences, or landscapes within a photo. Latte art won’t typically fly as a post in 2019. Think bathroom mirror selfies, airplane wing shots, kale salad bowl, girlfriend leading with her arm behind her back, ordinary sunset, etc.


The visual style, layout, pattern, and format of a photo. Think heavy filters, screenshots, black borders, collages, etc.



Ryan Dawidjan

building NYC products and teams. // 🗣 w/ modern friends. big heuristic guy.