A Guide to Being Less Embarrassing on Instagram, for Straight Men
An explainer from a straight man who knows what he's talking about.
Images via author.
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
We've been told off for trying to make Twitter a safe little echo chamber—a blue port in this howling shit storm we call life—but that's exactly what makes Instagram so great.
Thankfully devoid of the need to constantly have opinions, the entire platform of Instagram is designed for people to post stuff they like and that they think other people will like, too. It's a cozy, safe, lovely little positive space. I mean: It can dangerously warp your perception of someone’s reality, their body, career, and relationships, but it's still very pleasing to see a nice photo of a beach, or a golden ale glistening in the waning sunlight of a recently-revamped beer garden. Pictures of newly-adopted dogs and untouched hardback books aren't just for clout, either: they pleasure the substantia nigra and the ventral tegmental areas of your brain, and ejaculate the dopamine you and I both desperately, desperately crave.
But men... men are largely bad at Instagram. Yes, that's a statement that could remain correct without the last two words—we are largely bad at lots of things, cursed to try too hard at everything and somehow never learn our lessons, resulting in persistent embarrassment across most mediums—but Instagram feels like it has such potential to be a positive place for men to explore the things that make them happy, and that’ll make other people happy too, and it’d be a shame to see it waste away by a series of serial killer selfies and low-light pictures of a can of beer.
If you're here, maybe you need some help with being less awful at the photo app you use all day long. Not the practical kind—those are pretty simple (don't use filters, use the grid feature, and take the time to experiment with exposure before firing—but the kind that is actually useful and just might help you feel less alone in this world.
Use selfies sparingly
Yes, many men have a weird relationship with their own face, and Instagram has helped with that, but there's a limit: Your limit is two per month. That’s plenty. It's enough to show people the progression of your beard and/or new haircut, but not so much that your followers start to see you floating in whenever they close their eyes. I have friends whose face, I feel, is more known to me than my own. I can see their every groove and divot and blemish in the purple-orange of the inside of my eyelid. And it’s great that you’re feeling yourself, but Instagram is, weirdly, a pretty selfless medium because you want to please people with something you’ve done or seen. Does your face bring people joy? I don't know, maybe it does. Maybe you’re one of those perfect-bone-structure dudes whose face looks so carved-by-the-gods handsome that it genuinely lights up someone’s day, a cheekbone-sharp tonic to life's ills. But for the rest of us, go easy. I don’t want to be able to paint you from memory.
What are you doing with your face?
What... are you doing? With your face? The pursed lips, the terrified eyes, the strange, strained posture. There are two options when it comes to selfies: I) the squint/eyebrow-wrinkle so beloved by howlingly vapid YouTube dreamboats you’ve never ever heard of, but who somehow have 6 million followers, and II) the efficient utilization of props. Props draw the eye. They change the context. This is why everyone clambers to have their selfie taken next to a dog.
I've seen men with chins weaker than tracing paper grab hold of a dog and look like Henry Cavill if he did jaw-only routines in the gym. A stuffed animal company recently conducted a survey that found men look 24 percent sexier while holding a puppy. The same study showed they looked more trustworthy, too. You can prove literally anything with pop science, but it's true that we like to think of animals as almost supernaturally attuned to sniffing out people you would never want to have a drink with, barking their little tails off at anyone with so much as a whiff of dickheadedness about them, and if you’re OK by the dog, then you’re probably OK.
Please never ever talk on your Instagram Story
I mean this in the nicest way: shut up. How we ended up a generation that simultaneously hates talking on the phone and yet loves the sound of our own voice, I’ll never know. The thing that happened on the way to work was probably interesting to you, but do you really need to use your voice (all shrill and uneven) for anything? The answer is no.
Please don’t have a conscious 'aesthetic'
I have a certain, strange respect for people who maintain their aesthetics long past the point of their usefulness. Emo couples walking their child down the high street warm my heart until I'm stuck behind them in the grocery store and realize, as they slowly reel in the chain from their wallet, that they have bought up all the fucking manchego cheese. But men with conscious Instagram aesthetics sicken me.
There is nothing more embarrassing than thinking about someone with an all-monochrome page. Imagine them at their partner’s bedside, new baby cradled in their arms, snapping a picture of the perfect moment as tears of pride well in the corners of their eyes, their heart swelling the size of a Nike AF1. This is the best day of their life, and then they hand the baby back and excuse themselves to the visitor waiting room so they can bring up the VSCO Cam editing app to delicately edit the FN16 35mm black-and-white filter on the photograph of this miracle of life—white balancing, tweaking the levels of grain, and shadow, until the picture is finally ready to sit alongside the picture of a bridge on their page without disrupting their overarching theme.
Having a POV is great, and having a "thing" is even better (I know exactly whose pages to go on for specific things, whether that be increasingly obscure non-league football grounds, interesting corduroy pants or anthropomorphized maltipoo puppies), but really, just take pictures of whatever you want.
Further to that—
Sincerity is fine! A bit
Why are men too scared to admit they genuinely enjoy stuff? Substituting charm for motocross T-shirts and ironic neo-Nazi references may work for a while, but once you get into your mid-20s, there kind of needs to be something more. Sharing your interests, things you actually enjoy, is the perfect way to show there is more to you than arguing on the internet and trying to cover up your expensive Montessori education. Post shots from that Rodin exhibit you were really looking forward to, or maybe a particularly handsome view of the orange-pink sunset over south London. This can all be a bit scary, I know, showing yourself at your most vulnerable. But, if your issues with intimacy refuse to let you get all-the-way excited about something, Instagram will let you downplay these posts with a sticker of a dancing pizza, just to make sure everyone knows that you were only joking and you didn’t actually have a very nice time at all.
Buy nice bed sheets and put a book on them
This has never not worked.
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