Youthsplaining: VSCO Girls Are Infiltrating Social Media, But Who Are They?
By Logan Mahan / October 17, 2019 10:20 am

Sometimes the internet goes over our heads. Luckily, we have a college student on staff to help us navigate those times. This is VSCO girls, youthsplained.

The latest youth trend is a complicated one. Mainly because it intersects a whole lot of social media platforms, fashion trends and, of course, the glorious culture of memes — there are levels to this shit.

For the past two months, everyone has been talking about “VSCO girls.” Often, people are mocking them. Sometimes they’re self-identifying with them.

Admittedly, even as a user of the VSCO app myself, the trend never crossed my mind before it became a meme on Twitter, TikTok and Instagram. This might be because, even though I’m here to speak for the youth, I too am aging, and the teens are becoming too quick even for me. So I called on my sister who is still in high school and is another avid VSCO user who apparently gets pretty defensive about being classified as a “VSCO girl.:

Please excuse my sister’s terrible spelling, she was a little too eager to defend herself.

So… yeah, there’s a lot to unpack here. 

But before we jump in, what is VSCO?

VSCO (pronounced visco) is a photo-editing app that came out all the way back in 2011. The app’s main appeal was its featured presets, or filters, that you could apply to your photos, making them look 100 times better before posting them on Instagram. But it was also a place to put all your excess, non-Instagrammable photos, kind of like one giant Facebook album. And there’s a social aspect to it as well. You can follow other VSCO users, “like” their photos and even add them to your “collection” — a folder of other people’s photos that are displayed on your account (like a Pinterest board). What you’ll find on your feed in the mix of your friends’ pictures are aesthetically pleasing photos of beach sunsets, cute dogs, celebrities, attractive couples, coolers filled with White Claws and skinny girls in cute outfits.

Alright, so how does one become a “VSCO girl?”

Well, first you have to be born a white, affluent, blonde girl. Not you? Then take a hike. But seriously, that’s pretty much what a “VSCO girl” encompasses. As my sister noted above, they wear scrunchies (on their wrists and in their hair), puka shell necklaces and Birkenstocks. They carry Fjällräven Kånken backpacks and Hydro Flask reusable water bottles. Why? Because they’re committed to saving the earth — specifically, for some reason, the turtles. They probably have a disposable camera on hand, and they say things like “And i-oop” and “sksksksks.” 

Let’s pause: What the fuck do these things mean? Well, the first one is a meme in its own right. The term became popularized after a video was posted of drag queen and former Rupaul’s Drag Race contestant, Jasmine Masters, accidentally hitting her balls mid-sentence, and saying, “And i-oop.” Since then the phrase has been used on Twitter and IRL as a way to express interrupting yourself because of a shocking revelation. “Sksksksk,” on the other hand, is used similarly, but more as a way to express excitement — like when Harry Styles dropped his latest music video on Friday, wherein he is shirtless and extremely sweaty. It’s overwhelming, you’re at a loss for words, and the only way to convey your indescribable feelings is through keyboard smashing unintelligible phrases.

But what the “VSCO girl” is really trying to convey (or if they’ve managed to become Instagram influencers, what they’re really trying to sell) is a lifestyle. It’s the beachy, carefree, Brandy Melville one-size-fits-all fever dream. They have clear skin, look good in oversized t-shirts, their “messy” buns oddly look perfect and for some reason, and they don’t ever seem to have any responsibilities. And despite what appears to be a steady diet of pizza, they never seem to gain any weight. These girls are natural, their lifestyles are natural — despite all that editing — and what ordinary teenage girl doesn’t want to be naturally beautiful? And maybe with the right filters, the right outfits and the right shade of balayage blonde hair, they too can have their own controversial makeup line

So how did this all become a meme?

What really made the VSCO girl concept come to life, was a TikTok — a social media video app you have also probably heard about but never used. In the video, user @koobydoobydoobydoo is wearing all the VSCO girl necessities, saying all their phrases, and clearly making fun of the trend. The caption reads: “vsco girl makes you feel welcome on ur first day.” After the video went viral, more and more people began mocking the craze, mainly for how basic the whole thing seems.

Now, are VSCO girls going to wind up being viewed as a particularly important cultural phenomenon years from now? No, probably not. Are they just another subset of influencer culture that tricks us, especially women, into feeling bad about our perfectly normal lives? Yup. And because of this, we’re allowed to make fun of them!

So enjoy. And save the turtles, or whatever.