It’s crazy to think that just 10 years ago, Instagram wasn’t a thing, and most of us had never heard of influencers or fashion bloggers. In a few short years, we’ve seen the rise of an entire culture of elaborate brand trips, sponsored content, and millions of outfit posts that essentially all look the same. Everyone seems to be on vacation year-round, and it’s all in the name of content.
But while fashion bloggers increasingly schedule their entire lives around their Instagram feed, constantly chasing more followers, more likes, and more brand deals, there’s another trend in the community that seems directly at odds with this greed for clout: constantly saying how grateful you are.
Of course, if your life is going well, you should feel grateful, and there’s nothing wrong with expressing your gratitude, but it feels a little hollow when you’re constantly seeing it hashtagged on pictures of elaborate tropical vacations and luxury outfits. For example, take this photo of @fashionambitionist (aka Marissa Casey Grossman), whom you might recall from her over the top, “surprise” proposal and wedding back in June.
Since getting married (in Paris, I might add), Marissa has been on trips to Israel, the Hamptons, and Italy, and she specifically mentioned being grateful in four different posts from her Italy trip. I mean, I’m glad she had fun on her trip, but it’s really not that hard to be grateful when you’re on a 10-day luxury vacation on the Amalfi Coast. In this case, #grateful just feels like code for “I’m so happy that I’m rich enough to go on a trip like this,” which isn’t really the point of gratitude.
Arielle Charnas, who has repeatedly been at the center of controversy with thin-shaming and her Something Navy clothing line, also loves to express her gratitude on Insta. Again, it’s not hard to be grateful when you and all your rich friends are hanging out in the Hamptons, home cooked meal or not.
It’s one thing when influencers use gratitude as a way to humble brag on their bougie vacation posts, but it feels especially unwarranted when they start using the phrase on actual branded posts. Lydia Elise Millen is a major British fashion blogger who I’ve definitely spent way too many hours watching on YouTube. Along with her massive collection of luxury clothes and handbags, Lydia has spent the last year and a half documenting her insane home renovations on her YouTube channel, which she’s obviously super #grateful for.
Here’s a recent post from her campaign with H&M:
Of course, it’s cool for Lydia that H&M wanted to do a campaign with her, but starting a caption with “Ad” (that’s not even hashtagged properly) and then talking about being grateful is just not a great look. Save that for an off-the-cuff message to your followers, not a post that you’re literally getting paid for. Like, would she still be grateful if the H&M check didn’t clear? I have my doubts.
It’s not only fashion bloggers that are guilty of overusing “grateful,” but they’re definitely some of the worst offenders. While it often comes across as a humble brag, maybe it stems from a deeper place. In the past, it was seen as taboo to talk about wealth and finances, but the entire ecosystem of influencer culture is built on flaunting what you have. Does it help you feel better about constantly showing off your Chanel bags if you make sure to tell everyone how grateful you are? I have a feeling the answer is yes. Does it make the viewer feel any differently about their own financial status? Probably not.
With “grateful,” as is the case with most things, it starts to lose its meaning when you say it over and over again, and this never-ending public gratitude just feels performative. When people post normal pictures with normal captions, I don’t assume that they’re ungrateful for their lifestyle, whether they’re on a yacht in Capri or living in a small town. There are plenty of ways to express thanks and gratitude besides slapping #grateful on a bikini picture that you put through 14 editing apps.
Instead of talking about gratitude all the time, maybe we should focus more on being open about the things in our lives that we’re genuinely thankful for. Fancy vacations are nice, and I don’t mind seeing pool-side thirst traps on my feed, but those probably aren’t the posts where we should be expressing our gratitude. Save that for a post about your family, or your health, or something that actually matters.
Images: Angello Lopez / Unsplash; fashionambitionist, ariellecharnas, lydiaemillen / Instagram