I’m sure you’re a good person, but you’re making everyone feel awful with the pictures you share. Why? Because your Instagram images have become an enormous swinging middle finger to all of your friends. We need to fix this. You need to stop.
Instagram isn’t designed to do anything more than share pictures — usually altered to look like they fell out of the glovebox of a rusted sedan — with friends. Or strangers. It’s up to you. What you snap is also entirely up to you. Facebook, on the other hand, has an obvious emphasis on sharing tagged photos with people you know, so that you can all look back on the stuff you did together and smile a little. Or weep.
But something’s changing on Instagram. It’s becoming less about artsy pics of hubcaps and more about showing off. Call it the Rich Kids of Instagram Trickle Down Effect. Now, even us Poor or Otherwise Demographically Insignificant Kids of Instagram know we have a captive audience. Our egos are breaking loose, wanting nothing more than to boast via JPEG. Look at my beautiful vacation. Look at my awesome boyfriend doing this thing. Look at my giant TV. Look how close I am to Kanye West. Look at this party.
Look at how happy I am doing a thing you can’t at a place you could never be.
The Twitter mainstay, the humblebrag — Having a hard time setting up my new iPhone 5! — stirred up enough resentment. Now, we’re doing it with images. They’re Instaboasts. Look how pretty, look how clean, look how nice, look how fun. You want your friends to envy every little thing like it’s a cocaine piñata at the Trump Tower.
There’s no malice behind it. You’re not a bad person. But you’re making your friends feel like shit. The Internet is supposed to be the reason to get up in the morning and stave off death for another 12 hours. It’s not supposed to make you wish your friends didn’t have phones.
So, the next time you’re about to share, go through this mental checklist, and be as honest with yourself as possible:
- Am I sharing this picture only because I want people to wish they were where I am?
- Am I someplace expensive? Is it obvious?
- Am I someplace nobody else was invited? Do they wish they were invited?
- Am I posting this only because I want people to like it? Or like me?
- Am I posting this only because it makes me look good?
- Am I posting myself and explicitly stating how good I look?
- Am I a nice person?
- Have I called my parents lately?
- Did my parents get divorced because of me?
- Did my parents stay together because of me?
- Do I know for sure that my ex follows me on Instagram and I want to make sure she sees this so she’ll regret it — oh, how she’ll regret it all!
- If I saw what I’m about to share, would I roll my eyes?
- Can I imagine anyone commenting, on this picture, “Ahhh I’m so jealous! I hate u!”
- Is this an Instaboast?
Reflect. Consider. And if you really have to share that picture from the front row of a sold out concert, or lying on the beach in Bermuda, or having just one more lobster, at least be genuine enough to write the caption: “Screw you.”
User Manual is Gizmodo’s guide to etiquette.