Millions Of Strangers Weren't Meant To See Your Home—How Aesthetic Content Has Become Damaging

Scandinavian minimalist, jungalow, Barbiecore, farmhouse chic – does your home fit into any of these aesthetics?

By Gwen Farrell5 min read
pexels-mariia-ivanova-18857014 (1)
Pexels/Mariia Ivanova

Even if it doesn’t – because the average person or family doesn’t have a curated, Instagram-ready home at all times – your favorite influencers probably do use these popular, trendy design themes in their houses, and they go a step further by welcoming the entirety of their massive social media following into those intimate spaces.

Seeing the ins and outs of a perfect stranger’s home is an entirely modern phenomenon. And it isn’t without consequences, either. The home decor trend on social media might inspire your own tastes and DIY projects, but it’s also impacting what you buy and your mindset, and affecting an already-broken real estate market. Social media has normalized having aesthetic homes, but let’s not be fooled into thinking this is a normal thing we should all be striving for.

A Broken System

It’s no secret that, in 2023, the dream of owning a home, or even having a considerable financial responsibility like a mortgage, feels less and less like an actual possibility for many. If it feels like the system is rigged against us, that’s because it is.

As redundant as it can be to harp on how much better our parents had it than we do now, it’s a hard reality to ignore. Sixty years ago, or even 20 years ago, a family on a single income could afford a comfortable house in a secure area. But as the middle class continues to disappear altogether, the same promises that were seemingly afforded to our parents – college degrees leading to employment and solid income, for example – don’t apply to us.

Housing prices continue to climb, and interest rates do too, as the Federal Reserve attempts to curb the effects of record-setting inflation. Mortgage rates are higher today than they’ve been in 20 years, thanks to this tactic by the Fed – but the trouble doesn’t end there. In addition to housing costs soaring, there’s also a shortage of available homes, which keeps these prices sky-high.

Even as the number of available listings on the market declines, mortgage rates are higher than we’ve previously seen, according to Redfin. The median mortgage payment we make monthly is up to $2,632. There’s also evidence of fraud and corruption within the National Association of Realtors, our country’s foremost real estate organization to which many realtors belong.

Even if you have the income to buy a house in this market, you might have difficulty finding a listing within your price range. And even if you’re lucky enough to find and afford a house, you’re saddling yourself with a mortgage that has an interest rate that’s higher than we’ve seen in decades – meaning even if the housing market calms down in the coming years, your elevated interest rate remains the same.

What Happened To Having Homes Instead of Houses?

Marry a collapsing housing market with the power of social media, and we’ve got a recipe for disaster. That’s because even as scarce as affordable homes are now, social media is impacting the real estate market in tangible ways.

Consider this: Realtors, buyers, and sellers are all using social media to either search for potential buys or sell their own house by presenting it in the best possible light. Because the demographic that uses most social media platforms and those looking to buy or sell homes are usually one and the same, buyers can scope out potential neighborhoods, floor plans, or interior decorators and contractors they might like, and sellers can attract even more attention to their property by displaying trendy decor pieces and popular, boutique amenities, enabling them to sell their homes in record time.

Social media is the ideal place to brand and advertise a house if you’re looking to buy or sell. You can reach a bigger audience in a limited amount of time – but because social media is the force we know today, it doesn’t end there. Now, our houses are expected to look move-in ready all the time, whether you’re selling a house or not.

The houses we now see every single day on Instagram and TikTok used to be the houses of the ultra-wealthy, like celebrity homes featured in Architectural Digest videos, or at least the houses of those who can afford weekly cleaning crews and interior decorators. But if you don’t have a house worthy of being featured on social media, all you have to do is change everything about the one you have now – or even buy a new one.

Our homes are imperfect, and they’re meant to be. It should not dismay you that compared to all your friends or your FYP, your bedroom has clothes on the floor or laundry waiting to be put away. Your sink may be piled high with dishes, or you have a guest room closet chockfull of items you’re promising yourself you’ll get to (eventually). Your basement, finished or not, is horrendously cluttered. Your laundry room is an explosion of mess and socks you’ll never find the mate to. Your home decor theme and overall aesthetic could best be described as “early toddler” or “bachelor pad meets fixer-upper.” 

So when we scroll through posts, reels, videos and other content, taking in the cashmere throw blankets or expensive leather couches, it’s no wonder we feel like we’re falling behind.

Historically, in early America and across the pond, the parlor or drawing room was the only space within a home that was curated. It housed the most expensive furnishings or more elegant aspects of a house’s decor, like books, pianos, and fireplaces. It was the only room in the house kept ready at all times to receive visitors or host friends, which meant the rest of the family’s home could still have an intimate, lived-in feel, while maintaining a designated space for hospitality. Nowadays, we’re privy to everything from garages to closets to nurseries of perfect strangers.

The home is an inner sanctum for the family, a tranquil respite from the cares and troubles of the world. It’s a place of peace and one that values the bonds of parents, children, and siblings, however messy or cluttered that might be. Our homes weren’t meant to be curated, constantly photo-ready, or prepared for intimate friends and strangers alike to comment on and judge. There’s just something eerily dystopian about knowing the layout of a stranger’s house, someone you’ll likely never meet or know, and feeling a sense of failure because our own distinct and individual space doesn’t measure up to theirs.

Having No Aesthetic Is the New Aesthetic

It should come as no surprise to any of us that all of the many facets of the “aesthetic home trend” come down to money. If you can’t afford a 60-inch frame TV or to renovate your master bathroom, your favorite influencer likely has 30 affiliate links to the corresponding, cheaper decor dupes or a “fool-proof” way to DIY beadboard walls in your bedrooms or get rid of your popcorn ceilings, contractor-free.

We always want to present the best possible versions of ourselves on social media, and our homes are no exception. Why do our homes need a specific aesthetic, anyway? There’s no conceivable way our kitchens are always clean or our kids’ toys are put away at the end of each day. Most of our homes don’t have six-car garages, basketball courts, or infinity pools. 

The modern house aesthetic has also led to popular homes looking sterile and clinical. White and gray are the most trendy colors, and stainless steel appliances and cool-toned fixtures might be today’s aesthetic, but it has led to spaces that lack personality and warmth. The response to this constantly curated perfection is the recent “non-aesthetic” trend, which celebrates the good, the bad, and the ugly within our outdated homes or older furniture. While this response is a good thing, with more people being encouraged to share what their basic-looking, less expensive house or apartment looks like, before the dawn of social media, this used to be known as just having an average, normal space.

Although it doesn’t feel like it, the majority of us probably fall into having non-aesthetic homes. There’s no dominant design trend that governs each and every room in our house, no interior decorator on speed dial, no viral internet rugs or chairs (which will probably look out of date in a few years’ time). The majority of us don’t fall into the aesthetic home trend, and that’s perfectly okay. Our homes are where we eat, sleep, raise our children, and make memories. Our homes are where we spend the long days and the short years, where our kids take their first steps, where we build our surroundings as we build our life with the coffee table we bought from a thrift store the first year out of college, the entryway table we inherited from our grandmother, and the painting we got as a wedding present that goes with nothing else.

Our homes are for us and us alone, and that’s what makes sharing it intimately on social media such a pitfall. To some, it might seem nicer than what they’re used to, and to others, it won’t begin to measure up. If our main concern isn’t with how our homes serve these everyday needs and our comfort, but how it looks for someone else, we’ve fallen prey to yet another social media lie.

Closing Thoughts

The houses you constantly see on social media might look like they belong on the cover of a real estate magazine, but they also lack an authenticity and a realness your own home probably has in spades. More likely than not, the influencer with the mansion you can’t help but envy every time you see it probably has their own unattainable house they’re looking at as well. Social media might tell us the grass is always greener, but let’s be real. It’s just cleaner, has more money, or will be messy and cluttered as soon as the camera cuts.

Evie deserves to be heard. Support our cause and help women reclaim their femininity by subscribing today.