The first time I really felt Insta-shamed, I was walking to lunch when I came across the most beautiful smoothie and juice shop. The walls were all white, they had CBD-oil infused smoothies, and there was avo toast. Did I enter the gates of Instagram heaven or what?
So, of course, I had to take a picture. It was my duty to show the world just how amazing this place was! Then, as I was trying to take a beautifully stylized shot of my smoothie, a man looked at me and started laughing. Did I get my smoothie all over my face? Was my fly undone? I couldn’t understand why he was laughing, so I looked in his direction. “You young girls and your Instagram photos. Can’t we just live our lives and not document it all?”
That strange encounter got me thinking about all the other situations in which men (and women!) have made comments about me taking photos for Instagram. Whether it be a photo with my best friends at a rooftop bar, a wonderfully plated meal at a restaurant, or a selfie when I’m feelin’ myself, I consistently get weird looks and comments that generally refer to me being either “basic,” vain, or trying too hard to portray an image.
As if the Insta-shame isn’t bad enough IRL, it happens just as often on social media itself. The whole idea of a “thirst trap,” posting a photo with the intention of getting attention, is enough to make my head spin. I’ve certainly posted photos hoping my crush would double-tap, but it’s become a way for men to make everything about them and in turn shame women. “It’s bikini season, don’t fall for the thirst traps!” is a tweet I saw at least 100 times this summer. Why does a picture of myself at the beach with my girlfriends always have to be about getting a guy to pay attention to me?
Documenting my memories in a fun way doesn’t have to make me conceited, just as sharing my life in my Instagram Stories doesn’t have to say that I’m “showing off.” Newsflash: posting photos online, either of myself or at a super cute juice bar, doesn’t have to mean anything other than a fun selfie or a pic of an aesthetically pleasing slice of bread with avocado on it.
Yes, Instagram can be used to show off a curated life that’s far from reality or get attention from your followers, and I’m not here to judge if that’s how you enjoy using the platform! However, that isn’t the only way to use it. Not every post in a bikini or sexy outfit has to be about getting attention, just as my green juice isn’t me telling everyone what a beacon of health I am. I can share the best parts of my life and still be authentic, and I don’t have to always be portraying some big idea about life. Sometimes, snapping a pic at your favorite coffee shop or in your new outfit you’re so obsessed with is just that — a picture.
I’m sick of being told to stop caring about what others think when I post on social media. Of course, focusing on judgments others might make is no way to live a life. But what about telling people to stop shaming and judging whatever anyone else decides to post online instead? How about we just let people do their thing, whether it’s posting pictures with their friends or snapping a shot of every PSL they come in contact with.