A few months ago I started a personal Instagram account, apart from @bemytravelmuse. My main objective was to follow my friends, pole dancers, and to watch cake videos, because I wanted a break from all the travel stuff and cake videos are so damn relaxing, I can’t even explain it.
Everything was going pretty well for a while until, I guess, I searched a destination on my Instagram and now my explorer tab is full of travel couples and fake sunsets. Man, I was trying so hard to get away from that!
I still love Instagram for getting travel ideas, and watching cake decorating late at night on repeat (is that weird?), but I wish I could just make the explore function go away when I want to search for something. This got me thinking, is there an archetype for being insufferable on Instagram? I think we all know that there are posts that make us feel better, and posts that make us feel a lot worse. I can think of at least 7 of the worst offenders:
1. The Perfect Relationship Brag
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If success is defined by humility, then a good relationship is defined by mutual approval rather than needing the world’s approval, no?
While there’s certainly nothing wrong with celebrating love and taking pictures with your boo, I think we both know that’s not what I’m talking about here.
I’m talking about those Instagram couples whose account is solely dedicated to their relationship, who only post heavily edited photos of kissing, walking hand-in-hand into the sunset, or where the guy’s holding up the girl, while she literally dangles over a pool edge, in the name of likes and validation. It’s become so popular that there are tons of accounts just dedicated to relationships in hopes of making money off of it, or at least getting free hotel stays.
Why is this problematic? It makes it look like every relationship is perfect and beautiful all the time, but the reality is many of these couples fight like crazy while staging their love and devotion. It makes it look like you need to have a boyfriend with perfect abs to be a whole person. It’s a nice life perk, but if you’re not living your best life on your own, bae’s abs won’t fix it. This is where social media can get so tricky and bad for our self-esteem. We only see the manufactured good stuff (honestly would she be dangling off a pool edge if not for the ‘gram?).
Authenticity is a commodity.
2. The Low-Key Please Validate Me Brag
Oh snap. I think I’ve posted these before.
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Life is a crazy, beautiful ride. Five years ago I flew here to Thailand with a one way ticket and a lot of fears and unknowns. That year I slept under mosquito nets in $2/night dorms, watched the sunset over Angkor Wat, sweated my face off on 24 hour bus rides and was often the only foreigner on the cargo ferries. I’ll never forget the thrill of whipping through Borneo on a motorbike or seeing my first Manta Ray and I’ll always cherish those dharma bum years. I’m not so much a backpacker anymore but those experiences made me who I am (and I still love a good adventure). Thailand I’ll always love you for being my portal to this side of me. More thoughts on returning to a place on the blog (link in bio). What about you? Which place transformed you into a butterfly?
I took an entrepreneurship class in college taught by a mega-successful businessman. Something he said has always stuck with me:
“When things are going well, grumble. When things are going poorly, brag.”
Every now and then I think we all deserve a chance to get to look at our accomplishments and share them, but there’s a difference between something that’s helpful vs. self-serving.
There are some accounts that are constantly talking about how far they’ve come, what a big deal they are now, and how great their lives are.
This is all fine when the post is actually helpful in some way. If there are some tidbits of information as to how one gets to that place, or golden nuggets of wisdom for other entrepreneurs, then by all means. But what about when all it serves to do is low-key brag?
Kind of like the perfect relationship posts, it seems to me that if things are going well, there’s no need to state the obvious.
3. The Savior ‘Helping’ Impoverished Children
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We’ve all seen it before: white girl goes to Africa, takes photos with African kids, posts it to her Instagram and people say ‘awww.’
But what is this really? Is it a bid to actually help someone, or is it an opportunity to use someone else’s poverty to gain more fame?
The topic of voluntourism is an entirely different article, but the white savior complex runs deep and if one really wants to help the world, would it make more sense to empower locals instead, or maybe rethink how we approach aid in Africa altogether?
4. The Perfect Ass
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Girl, your ass looks amazing and I high five you. You clearly did lots of squats to get there and I have no problem with women feeling the body positivity. But I’m not really talking about women who post pics of their booties here, I’m talking about those who alter it for likes.
I have to ask, isn’t there more to women’s bodies than cleverly posing in ways and using apps that make other women feel inadequate?
Unrealistic body photos contribute to body dysmorphia in the same way that airbrushed magazine covers do. Frankly I wish I could’ve grown up in a world without all that because self-love is a lot harder when it’s impossible to look like an airbrushed image.
So if you don’t naturally look like you’ve had a Brazilian butt lift, fret not, it’s often the result of clever camera angles and lighting, and maybe even a helpful editing app.
5. The Fit Tea Post
What can I say about this that hasn’t already been said by Jameela Jamil?
I’d rather someone shared a healthy eating plan with me than a tea that is likely to give me the runs, don’t you? Let’s be on each other’s side and promote body positivity above all else.
6. The ‘My Life Is Perfect Let Me Tell You What to Do’ Post
I don’t want to personally call anyone out here, because I know a few of these, but I think you can fill in the blank. It’s the perfect image with a quote next to it urging you to do something each day that scares you, and the next day it’s a similarly perfect photo without any real connection to the caption, but since their life looks so perfect, they’ll keep pushing that myth without ever being vulnerable or real.
They wake up at 4am, meditate for an hour, run 10 miles every single day, have the perfect relationship, only stay in fancy hotels, have perfect abs, and have never struggled, felt insecure, or ate an entire pint of ice cream all at once.
And I just want to ask,
“But have you ever let two weeks go by without using a Q-tip?”
“Do you ever get bloated?”
“Do you ever get that weird hair part down the back of your head?”
I think a lot of these people live lives that don’t really measure up to what they portray, because nothing is perfect all the time, and we’d all be a lot better off with some raw honesty.
7. The Same Damn Preset. Again.
Is it just me or is every single travel Instagram post a clone now, with an insane sunset and a flock of birds flying by, a flowing dress and the exact same color palette?
I miss the days when imperfection and creative self-expression were okay.
I miss the days when everyone wasn’t going to Bali or Morocco, not that there’s anything wrong with going to either of those places, it’s just that getting the ‘gram has become the new modus operandi for a lot of travelers and the photos that I see lately are more or less the same.
Again, I’m not hating because I don’t really have a leg to stand on here. I love taking photos too, mostly of myself, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I love teaching others how to become photographers, however my course heavily focuses on developing your own unique gifts rather than churning out one specific style.
I love to see more remote places, totally different artistic takes on destinations that I haven’t seen before, and people out being general badasses. It’s so beautiful to see when the travel dream is still alive and well, and it’s about the journey and pursuit of originality more than all else.
I hope in this post it is clear that some of this is tongue in cheek and that none of this is meant to be a personal takedown of anyone. More power to anyone out there on the Internet making a living, being their own boss, and doing the damn thing. I linked to my own photo to show that I do it too, because I think every now and then, we all like to brag a little bit. We’re human beings, aren’t we?
But maybe, just maybe, it doesn’t hurt to have it pointed out that when we post with our ego it’s not always the best medicine for the world. Is it vulnerable? Is it real? Does it foster connection rather than sycophants?
I’m down for the real.
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