Ever wondered why everyone's Instagram bio seems to have a link to "vsco.co"? One click and you'll see a spread of hundreds of photos of high-contrast, low-saturation, retro cityscapes, tons of pictures of friends and family layered with exposed brick store interiors and cute coffee shops - perfectly cropped and edited to the gods. So just what is this social media app and WHY is everyone drawn to it?
Founded in 2011, VSCO describes itself as a "photo company for creators, by creators". Much of the draw of VSCO is deeply rooted in its ability to give users the freedom to post or edit whatever they want with the expectation of receiving nothing in return. Likes and comments can be wonderful, but by posting to VSCO, the user expects very little to no attention. Users understand and accept that not every single person they know will see their VSCO posts. By copy and pasting a VSCO link into their Instagram bio, the user practically guarantees that the only people who will see these photos are people who WANT to. Instead of waiting days in between posts and stories, constantly hitting refresh to analyze a picture's likes-to-time ratio or hitting the right angles on that Boomerang selfie, you can upload ten pictures in two minutes and feel completely at ease.
In no time at all, VSCO has become what Instagram was built to do: provide a simple photo editing platform and allow users to showcase their life through an artistic, inspired collage of photos - whether they practice photography professionally or just want to connect with others. Through the years, the rising popularity of apps like FaceTune and increasing pressure to showcase one's life in the most photogenic, carefully-selected way possible, has resulted in fewer posts and more attention to one's own followers, bio, and showcasing life in the most beautiful, fun, exciting, and potentially unrealistic way possible. Instagram gives us the "highlight reel" of life complete with witty captions and exotic location tags.
The beauty of VSCO, on the other hand, lies in its simplicity. To edit as you please and press "upload" with no stress. To create a chronological journal-like assortment of photos that document your happiest moments. No one cares about their VSCO follow count or popularity. It's a blissful break from judgment, and the chance to upload what you find oddly beautiful and unique with no repercussions.
I've noticed that many people include screenshots of cute text messages, original poetry in pretty notebooks, childhood photos, etc. While this is evidence of the user showing off their personality and more intimate aspects of their lives in a positive light, I believe that there are two sides to this coin. Some use these kinds of VSCO posts as a discreet way of calling someone out or showing off a flirty text in a less in-your-face manner. Think of it as "sub-tweeting" for VSCO. This threatens the understated beauty and fun of the app - if we manage to keep it low-key, fun and harmless, other social media communities can definitely take some pointers from VSCO.
Are most VSCO photos carefully chosen and edited? Yes. But is there inherent fun in playing around with photos that won't automatically appear in your eighth-grade crush's feed? Big yes!