Before she was best known for being THE pop star in a feud with the ACLU, Taylor Swift had a mostly innocent and very popular Instagram persona. She posted photos of her cats Olivia Benson and Meredith Grey, her extravagant Fourth of July parties, and, obvi, her all-star ragtag celeb "Bad Blood" squad. Then in August 2017, she deleted everything she'd ever posted. Swift's Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr were all wiped clean in a marketing ploy/"Dark Taylor" rebrand just in time for her November 2017 album Reputation. But in establishing her blank slate, she left a gaping hole.
In October 2014, I was not a Taylor fan and then 1989 dropped and I was. It was so fun! Every teen and teen-wannabe I followed on Tumblr was into her, it felt like, and her brand of femininity was one that my predominantly male coworkers glommed onto more so than they did with Kim K Hollywood, a phone game that had been released that summer which I had been hiding in the bathroom to play during work hours. I followed Swift on Instagram, fascinated and then eventually annoyed by her sheer ability to have anyone–even TV stars twice her age–join her sociopathic friend group. Yet, for all the posts I remember enjoying, I don’t remember many specific photos, only a general filter palette and good-girl social vibe. I search on Twitter, type "Taylor Swift 2014" into Google, and, painfully, dive into my own Tumblr archives to find any evidence. She dressed as a Pegacorn for Halloween in 2014, I find, and yeah, I reblogged it, I also find.
It's not about the photo, but the absence of them, the empty listicles comprised of image descriptions that read like alt text for the visually impaired, the Fourth of July party recaps where you can see photos posted by everyone in the squad except Taylor herself and the sterile "This photo or video has been removed from Instagram" placeholder box. Some publications’ placeholders are uglier or sloppier and some don’t have one at all, as if the page doesn't know what to do without a working link. E! Online's embeds are the most interesting to me, as they literally disappear in front of your eyes, transforming from a box into nothing, which is fitting, I suppose. Taylor wanted to be “excluded from the narrative,” didn’t she? She wanted “the old Taylor [to not] come to the phone right now...because she’s dead?”
What now that they disappeared? Is the answer to that really just, “Stop spending time looking at E! Online articles from 2014?” Maybe! Or is it “Look at them more, and get lost in the emptiness lol?” A cursory glance at her underwhelming “Bad Taylor” 2018 IG presence has me learning towards the latter.