The Internet is a wonderful if confusing world – and that’s why you sometimes need to be pointed in the right direction. Lucky for you, some of us spend far too much time online and logged in – and that wealth of experience translates into some social networking know-how. Consider Miss Netiquette (who you can reach at firstname.lastname@example.org) your guide to Web manners, and this week, she’s got all the advice on Instagram.
Some people are better at using Instagram than others. The photo-sharing service offers a lot of opportunities for creativity, but people can also fall into the same lazy routines and expect the filters to make their pictures more interesting. Often times, your Insta-offenses are borne out of ignorance, which is why I want to clear up a few rules about using the photo-sharing service (and I am definitely guilty of violating a few of these).
Dear Miss Netiquette: How many hashtags is too many hashtags?
Hashtags have their uses, but there’s no excuse for bogging down a cute puppy pic with 30 hashtags that say the same thing. That is, no excuse except blatant follower-baiting. But if you really want to gain more followers, just choose one or two of the most relevant hashtags and let the photos speak for themselves. I don’t want to follow people who act like crazed spambots. And if you think you need 30 hashtags to explain a picture, you’re doing it wrong. Unless you seriously took the world’s greatest picture, like a crystal-clear snapshot of Bigfoot (in which case, I get it, the amazingness must be spread far and wide), it’s never a good idea.
Dear Miss Netiquette: What’s an acceptable selfie policy when it comes to Instagram?
If you’re looking especially young, fresh, and fly and you want the world to know, the occasional selfie is justified. But posting the self-shot on the regular just makes you look self-obsessed. Does the world really need 12 pictures of your face taken from a flattering high angle? Even those of us who have a semi-dysfunctional love of fashion blogs don’t really care about shots taken with a bathroom mirror. The flash ruins everything and you know the pixel count on your front-facing camera makes everything look like a Seurat painting. Everyone gets a pass from time to time, but if you’re putting up more than one self-shot a week, you’re either a narcissist and/or Kardashian.
The guy in this picture above is guilty of both excessive selfies and way too many hashtags. Double whammy.
Dear Miss Netiquette: My dog is incredibly cute – is it OK to post pictures of him all the time?
When it comes to puppy, kitten, and other baby animal shots, apply the opposite approach to your selfie restraint. I’m not saying post 20 pictures a day, but don’t be shy – seriously, if puppy pics are wrong, I don’t want to be right. Pets age. Embrace this precious moment where a living thing you own is cute enough to make people squeal in delight. Life is hard sometimes. We have to deal with human atrocities, and on a much lower, Instagram-specific level, expert trolls like @itslavishbitch. Sometimes you really need a deep, belly squee, the kind only the face of a wee animal can incite. And if your pet grows past a certain age (what’s the time limit on puppy and kitten-dom? I have no idea) don’t fret – handsome enough grown-up cats and dogs can totally work, too. How can you be mad about a Shiba Inu puppy in your stream?
Dear Miss Netiquette: How should the #nofilter hashtag be used – and how often?
I know it is very tempting to inform everyone that while they are crappy photographers who feel the need to spruce up otherwise mediocre photos with nostalgia-inducing tints and filters, you’re so good at Instagram that your photo requires no such filter. This is a trend that had a good life and now needs to die. If you really hate filters that much then why do you use a photo service that makes it so freaking fun to use them? And if you’re using Instagram and a smartphone to take pictures to begin with, the bar for “good photography” is pretty low (and equal – seriously, we’re all in the same megapixel range, chill out). Even worse, those who upload their camera-taken photos to their phone and then post them on Instagram with the #nofilter tag … that’s just bad manners.
Also, if you tag something #nofilter that is very clearly filtered (please, most of us can spot Toaster from a mile away), you deserve whatever’s coming to you, you lying liars. And using the tag on a screenshot photo … enough said.
Dear Miss Netiquette: Is it okay to use frame apps before Instagramming something?
Using frames on Instagram can be a great way to tell a story by including a few different shots in the same picture, and it makes it easier to choose between three equally good pictures without crowding up your friends’ feeds. But if you use frames for every single shot, they become rote, and lose their luster. Photo collages take a lot more effort to look at since there’s so much going on, so if you use them for every little thing you post, people might get exhausted.
There are over 4,200 pictures tagged #frameswagg on Instagram, which is a pretty devastating indictment of our society.
Dear Miss Netiquette: For those of us using Instagram for marketing purposes, what should we post?
Instagram started as a much more intimate service than it’s become – people pay for followers now, and it’s a viable marketing tool. So of course, I can’t really fault companies for touting their wares on the service. But if you’re going to take to Instagram, at least do something cool with the platform. Plenty of companies post interesting shots, but some really get it wrong (see above).
Dear Miss Netiquette: Is it OK to post shots from one of my other social accounts to Instagram?
In short, no. This seems obvious, but a lot of people do it. If you are using Instagram, it is not cool to just take a screenshot of something going on on another social network to post on Instagram. If I wanted to know what was going on with your Twitter page or Facebook profile, I would’ve looked there, not in my Instagram feed.
Dear Miss Netiquette: If I want more followers, what should I do?
I’ll tell you what you shouldn’t do: Turn into a #followback girl. Or boy. People are really taking Instagram pretty seriously, so much so that there are a number of different places you can buy followers to boost your reputation. But don’t do it. Seriously. Though websites like Socialbakers haven’t come out with a fake follower check for Instagram like they have for Twitter, it’s only a matter of time. And what’s the point of purchasing followers if you know most of them are bots that will never see your picture? Likewise, using the #followback hashtag just makes you look desperate. If you want to follow back, just do it … no need to advertise it.
Instagram started as this cool little app to share pictures with friends and like-minded people. If you get too caught up in amassing tons of followers, you’ll probably end up following a ton of people as well – and that makes it super hard to sift through photos and find the ones you really care about. So just keep it classy, everyone, let’s not ruin a good thing while we still have it.
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