The Rise of Authentic Social Media, Explained

What is authentic social media, which social platforms are leading the way, and how can you adopt it? Let’s explore.

The past few years have signaled a change in how we present ourselves on social media. Exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and led mainly by Gen Z consumption trends, there’s been a shift to adopt a more “authentic” social media approach. So, what is authentic social media, which apps are leading the way, and how can you adapt to it? Let’s explore.

What constitutes “authentic” social media?

Perhaps you already consider your social media to be authentic – but have you ever re-shot an image to make it look better? Would you have posted that picture without a filter? Have you ever cropped, changed angles, moved things around, or waited until later in the day for a better photo? These things alter a true image, making them inauthentic. The result can be missed moments and a diminished sense of “living in the moment”. An authentic social media approach is the opposite of all of this. Let’s explore the ins and outs.

How did we get here?

The global COVID-19 pandemic forced many of us to embrace the mundane. Gyms closed, so people took to the outdoors. We worked from home and skipped our daily commute. Some days, we didn’t even get dressed, let alone wear makeup or style our hair. We faced a barrage of bad news every day and as a result, things were put into perspective. With so much uncertainty, getting the perfect shot for social media became the least of our worries. 

Then there’s Gen Z, the generation spearheading the ‘realness’ movement. According to data from a study by GWI, Gen Z believes there’s too much pressure to be flawless on social media. They also want more depth from the people they follow: according to the same study, Gen Z wants to see influencers prioritize speaking up about social injustice on their platforms. Overall, trends suggest Gen Z’s desire to seek a more meaningful online presence and more genuine connections is rubbing off on the rest of us.

So, which platforms are leading the charge?


BeReal prides itself on encouraging users to share the reality of their everyday lives. It sends a notification to mobile at an unknown time during the day – users never know when – and there is a two-minute countdown to snap a picture of what you’re doing at that exact moment. The selfie camera records your reaction, while the back camera captures what you’re doing. Reshooting your image is fine, but not without it being revealed to your followers just how many times you tried to get the right shot. There are no filter options or special effects. With an entirely private feed, you can curate precisely who will see your content, allowing you to be your true self.


Poparazzi is a photo-sharing app where friends curate your social profile for you. Instead of uploading photos to your feed a la Instagram, your friends will do it for you. Ergo, “you are your friend’s poparazzi, and they are yours” explains the app’s website. 


Heralded by Affinity Magazine as a social platform “without pressure”, VSCO is like Instagram in that it allows users to upload their images with unique preset filters. The key difference is that no comment or ‘like’ functionality exists. Images are solely for the user. Speaking to Affinity, Greg Lutze (co-founder of the app) believes ‘it makes people more “unafraid to take risks” with the photos they share’. The app originated around 2013 but has seen a sharp rise in popularity among Gen Z users.


Snapchat (Snap Inc.) is the leading social media platform among Gen Z. It incorporates something from every popular platform – filters, friends, and disappearing content (messages and images). It’s also completely transparent – it was one of the first platforms to offer up information such as when messages were read and who watched your “story”. Content within the platform, for the most part, is as easily discarded as it is consumed, making it inherently casual.


In a Nielsen study of TikTok’s brand authenticity, users across every continent wholly agreed that they “felt they could be their true selves” on the platform. TikTokkers also believe the platform to be the one they use most for discovery – of information, upcoming products, and new brands. This makes it a goldmine for businesses willing to show up in an authentic way. Many leading brands across the world are achieving remarkable success with their marketing techniques on TikTok: the study also revealed users feel brand advertising is more unique than the type they see anywhere else.


After Instagram started in 2010, it became the home of the modern influencer. Perhaps more than anywhere else, Instagram is known as the least authentic platform. Traditionally flooded with perfectly curated feeds, sponsored posts, and purchased likes and followers, Instagram has worked to improve its infrastructure and become a more authentic social platform. The way we use Instagram has changed: beautifully curated posts have given way to more ad-hoc photo dumps and unscripted, impromptu life updates.

Why does authentic social media matter?

Authentic social media is becoming increasingly critical for both brands and consumers. This type of content helps build trust and credibility, fosters connections with customers, increases engagement, and improves brand reputation.

As consumers become more skeptical of traditional advertising, they are looking for real, relatable experiences from brands. Authentic social media provides an opportunity for brands to connect with their audience on a personal level. By leveraging authentic content, brands can differentiate themselves, stand out in a crowded market, and build stronger relationships with their customers.

Keen to learn more about how keeping up with the latest social media trends? Check out our blog ‘How to Stay Up to Date with the Latest Social Media Trends‘ for more information.

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