Beyoncé does not follow anyone on Instagram, and she doesn’t have to. She’s not like us—and that’s why we love to hate and hate to love following celebrities of her rarified status on social media. She clearly does not use it to keep up with friends and family, and repeatedly demonstrates that she prefers Instagram to be the place for her brand of public relations, while controlling her aesthetic and perception down to the pixel.
She clearly prefers to release news and “engage” with her fans on visual, image-based platforms like Tumblr and Instagram, which is probably why Beyoncé’s Twitter presence is and always has been notably lacking in any interesting content. Back in June, when twins Rumi and Sir Carter entered the world, their mom’s aesthetic on Instagram grew even more tightly edited. But what sort of curative practice is involved, and is there any sort of meaning that can actually be extracted from a deeper examination? From her largely caption-less Instagram posts to deceptively intimate Tumblr photos, it’s time to brace yourselves, because we are about to go on a deep dive into Beyoncé’s commanding use of social media, and her commitment to visual platforms.
Beyoncé’s mother, Tina Lawson, apparently embarrasses her daughters with her corny joke video series, but with an endearing air that comes across as genuine, posting exactly the type of content you might expect your mom or your aunt to. Yet sometimes, Beyoncé’s very own social media presence veers into the territory of a Cool Mom on Instagram. It was not always like this, though—when it was cool to have a Tumblr, Beyoncé was one of the few A-listers to open hers up to her fans. Her Instagram handle used to be “baddiebey” (RIP), which was clever and cute. Recently, Beyoncé has been committed to her grid, posting triptychs despite the fact that Instagram’s algorithm almost always separates three posts in a row from the same user, sharing everything out of order.
Beyoncé’s official website iam.beyonce.com is powered by Tumblr, and was the premier destination in 2012 for her daughter Blue Ivy’s birth announcement, as well as a photo album of her notoriously private life with Jay-Z. Queen Bey gave us Halloween photos, intimate vacation shots, private moments with her sister Solange, and candids that catch her just being silly, all in an effort to promote her brand and keep up the illusion that her diehard fans were getting any sort of clear insight into her life. She even used to share boring brunch shots, just like a Normal. About a month after Blue Ivy was born, Beyoncé registered the handle helloblueivycarter.tumblr.com (it’s now defunct, and all content has been stripped from the page) to share photos of her firstborn.
She eventually used the platform to promote her 2013 HBO documentary Life Is But A Dream, which included direct-to-camera Macbook footage of Beyoncé negotiating with herself how much of her own life she was willing to share. Her Tumblr and her documentary contributed to a living archive of her experiencs thus far on this planet.
In an interview with GQ, Beyoncé spoke of a physical archive she oversees, “a temperature-controlled digital-storage facility that contains virtually every existing photograph of her, starting with the very first frames taken of Destiny’s Child, the ’90s girl group she once fronted; every interview she’s ever done; every video of every show she’s ever performed; every diary entry she’s ever recorded while looking into the unblinking eye of her laptop.”
Not only does her archive consist of relics of the past, but GQ reported that she keeps a “visual director” around to curate her aesthetic, snapping photographs and cataloguing her every look throughout the day since 2005. The documentary was praised as a revealing portrait, but what did anyone really learn from watching it, besides the fact that Beyoncé is in control of every minute detail of her life, obsessively cataloging and archiving it, constructing her own digital mausoleum as she lives each day in both public and private spheres.
A couple world tours later and Beyoncé’s commitment to the visual has only grown stronger. If you look closely, she’s also been incorporating the recent collage aesthetic we see on her page into her Instagram posts since last year. In September 2016, she posted a chorographed slideshow video the day after her birthday—with an uncharacteristically long comment—set to Brooklyn rapper Young M.A’s hit single, “Ooouuu.”
Her Salt-N-Pepa Halloween costume from 2016 was also a big hit.
She posted another cute collage video at Christmas time. It’s a little basic but there’s no denying it’s very cute and festive, which is all anyone can ask for during what is arguably the worst time of the year to be checking your Instagram nonstop.
What nobody knew when Beyoncé posted that holiday ‘gram was that she was not the only one featured in the post. On February 1st, the pregnancy announcement heard around the world almost blasted the entire Internet into smithereens, as Beyoncé symbolically posed in a photograph that revealed she was pregnant with not just one more sibling for Blue, but two. It swiftly became the most liked Instagram photo of all time.
After posting a couple cute selfies, a video collage soundtracked by Frank Ocean, and another one set to the tune of Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke,” Beyoncé began to utilize Instagram’s three-image grid to her advantage.
In these posts, she’ll typically give us a pose on the left, a pose on the right, and sandwiched in between is the video collage, which is usually (but not always) set to the sounds of whatever Queen Bey presumably likes to bop along to in the car with Blue.
After over a month of radio silence on social media beginning in May 2017, Beyoncé broke her own record of posting the most-liked Instagram post ever and gifted the world with another one—a Madonna-and-Child-esque photo taken by Mason Poole where she can be seen holding the twins Rumi and Sir Carter to her chest while she is draped in robes and surrounded by a halo of flowers.
This was an extremely over-the-top announcement, but it’s to be expected. What’s arguably more extra is the way Beyoncé has recently began to perfect her use of the three-image grid.
As of September 2017, she began to use the grid to post a combination of stills, soundtracked video collages, and at least one post that implements the carousel feature, all with a cohesive themed border or background. It’s a lot to take in.
As Jade Novah, the brain behind the popular Twitter account that often veers into the territory of the parodic, says, “If you can’t go to Beyoncé’s page for a collage, where the hell can you?” Jade Novah has a point—Beyoncé successfully dominates this feature of Instagram better than just about anyone else.
— Jade Novah (@JadeNovah) October 17, 2017
Even when she gets political on social media, Beyoncé adheres to her curatorial practice of incorporating the three-image grid into her posts.
In September 2017, just as Beyoncé began to really hone in on this three-image aesthetic, Instagram tested a new grid style that incorporates four squares across rather than three. Those whose accounts were beta-tested went bananas. If the app eventually breaks its ties with the three-image grid, it could spell madness for not only someone like Beyoncé, but brands and influencers who are partial to the tryptich approach to content distribution as well.
Of course, Beyoncé doesn’t need to worry. She likely doesn’t even need to be on social media at all; we’re all following her no matter how and when she decides to talk to us.
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