I wasn’t exactly expecting anything less, really.
But thanks to Sara Van Ess (@just.a.sara) on TikTok, we know for sure that those DIY influencers we watch are absolute shams. Sara and her husband bought a home last year in Oregon but learned the previous owners had been aspiring DIY influencers who had shared very edited photos of the home.
Sarah explains, “I live in a house that used to be owned by someone who was trying to be an Instagram influencer and was sharing really highly edited, very strategically angled photos of my unfinished house that they knew was unfinished, that they knew wasn’t done correctly, and portraying it as influencer’s home.”
She does note that she isn’t trying to shame the former owners (honestly, why not?) — but instead wants to show how easy it is to trick social media users.
“Honestly, it makes me really sad to think that there are pictures out there of my house that could be making people feel less than about theirs because we compare ourselves so often on social media, and that’s why I’m doing this. This series is solely about breaking down Instagram versus reality.”
Sara told BuzzFeed that finding her Instagram home was a little weird. “Six months after we bought the house, we heard through the grapevine it had been used a lot on Instagram. I started searching for it and stumbled across a kitchen I recognized.”
“I immediately noticed the photos shared on Instagram were similar, if not the same, photos used in the listing. I have a history in real estate, so I expect to see exaggerated photos on home listings, but it’s another thing to see the photos being shared online in an attempt to build a following and promote themselves…and then literally look up and see the reality.”
“It sheds immediate light on how curated our social media feeds are — you truly only see exactly what people want you to see. It’s something I think a lot of us are guilty of. We live in a finished picture society; we show the before and after pictures and kind of ignore everything except results. It is uncomfortable and difficult to be vulnerable online, where people can use things against you and be really harsh. Instead, it’s easier to paint this picture of what we want our lives to look like; we show people only what we want them to see.”
Sara believes that what we share online matters. “I currently work in marketing, with a history in social media, so I feel a lot of responsibility in how social media is handled. As someone who creates content as a portion of my actual profession, I have always taken transparency on social media very seriously because it has massive ramifications on people’s mental AND financial wellness.”
“When I gained several thousand followers overnight, I realized I suddenly had a platform to help other people feel better and more secure in their homes by highlighting a situation that demonstrated, in my opinion, where you see a very curated photo selection on a social media feed. So I started sharing photos.”
“At some point, people were able to trace the photos back to the account and started leaving the previous owners hate messages, which was not my intention at all, so I took the original videos down. In my opinion, they weren’t being malicious in their platform — they were doing what so many of us do and sharing their life in a curated way in attempt to build a following.”
“I felt it was important to give a true close-up on what we often see online to help people judge their space less harshly. I even started sharing photos I had taken and edited to show how easy it is to do in your home. My goal is for people to recognize that we shouldn’t compare ourselves to what we see online, because it is so curated and, often, only half the picture. Today, more than ever, it is critical to your peace and mental health to consciously consume all forms of media, instead of letting your consumption run your life.”
“Inevitably, when I talk about our house, I am immediately inundated with comments about how this is our fault and how we should have gotten an inspection. We did get an inspection. We actually talked to the previous owner, and she walked us through the house. We had conversations about how it was unfinished, and we were very aware of the cosmetic flaws in the home.”
“We did not know the home was being shared online in an attempt to build a following through highly edited and staged photos that, in my opinion, do not accurately reflect the space. The idea that photos of my home could be causing others to feel worse about their space makes me feel queasy.”