An Instagram account called @insta_repeat recently surfaced showcasing collages of images from different photographers that are nearly identical. With so much content flowing through the veins of the internet and social media, repetition seems to have programmed most people to create what they already know is visually appealing. In short, there seems to be a lot of copycatting, whether intentional or subconscious. Here are some of our theories behind this unfortunate deterioration of unique image creation.

1. The 80/20 Rule

When it comes to business matters, entrepreneurs often refer to the 80/20 Rule (also known as the Pareto Principle) as a gauge of where 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. A common business application is 80% of sales come from 20% of clients. This can also be applied (almost humorously) to a problem client ie. This client who is providing 20% of our revenue is consuming 80% of my time. In this particular case, it may be said that 80% of the internet consists of average thinkers who follow the 20% of unique creators/thought leaders.

2. The Coffee Table Book Theory

If you’ve ever owned a coffee table book, you may recall that there would be blank pages placed throughout the book. The intention for this would be to cleanse your mind to accept the next image without influence from the last. If you’re a sushi eater, it’s similar to the purpose of ginger, which is intended to cleanse your flavor palate between sushi pieces. An opposing tactic would be to intentionally place several similar images side by side on the same spread to highlight the repetition.

It’s possible that the repetition of Instagram images have gone unnoticed because the similar images are not seen side by side. Without acknowledging that these angles and specific photo compositions have been done before, our subconscious is just leading the creator when they see the opportunity to capture something they’ve already approved of in their mind.

3. The Tourist Trap Phenomenon

When I travel I typically avoid the main tourist sites but if I do attend, it’s mainly for the experience and not the photo. I recently went to Thailand and one of the only tourist attractions we made it to was Wat Mahathat a Buddhist Temple in Ayutthuya, Thailand. Everyone goes there to take a photo of the Buddha head engulfed in tree roots or a selfie with the Buddha head engulfed in tree roots. As I stood there contemplating the expected photo of this phenomenon, I looked around a realized there must have been hundreds, if not thousands or millions of the same photo floating around of this sight.

My theory in connection to @insta_repeat is that like many tourist spots, the same philosophy may have developed specifically around common travelers locations, even remote destinations. Like the Wat Mahathat experience, there may be certain limitations on vantage point, physical restrictions, ideal composition, subject matter, camera angle and more which may be largely contributing to why the shooter is choosing this particular framework for the image.

4.  Pure Brainwashing

Of course, with the average 53 minutes per day most Instagram users spend on the app, it’s hard to rule out the most obvious reasoning behind the @Insta_Repeat copycat mystery. Here’s a quote from How Stuff Works Blog,

“In psychology, the study of brainwashing, often referred to as thought reform, falls into the sphere of “social influence.” Social influence happens every minute of every day. It’s the collection of ways in which people can change other people’s attitudes, beliefs and behaviors.” See full article here.

If brainwashing has a place anywhere in our modern world, it would be social media. Is it possible we’re all just victims of a worldwide brainwashing?

The real reason our worlds are starting to look the same, well, this is still open for discussion, we’d love to hear your opinions in the comments below.

And ask yourself, are you amongst the 20%?