The Instagram Rules: The Good, the Bad, and the Very Boring


Photo: Courtesy of Hayley Bloomingdale / @hayleybloom

Hayley Bloomingdale is the editorial and social media editor for Moda Operandi.

@Instagram is not for everyone. If you make the decision to join this unique social network, please be sure to carefully read the rules and proceed with caution. And note: Just as it is often applicable in the fashion-sphere, the classic proverb “the rules are made to be broken” holds up in the case of the Instagram as well.

What is an Instagram-Worthy Picture?

In short, anything beautiful, awesome, hilarious, or amazing that evokes emotions including but not limited to: laughter, appreciation, jealousy, inspiration.

Bear in mind: Unless you are a food blogger, pictures of food should be used sparingly. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself: “Will this make someone hungry, or will it make them want to throw up?” If the answer is throw up, do not post the picture. We have all seen avocado toast. Every single one of us. It is indeed very tasty. But unless yours comes with gold flakes, there is really no need to share that picture. Coffee art should also be used sparingly. Facebook is a better platform for coffee art: You’ll get plenty of likes from the middle-aged mothers.
Pictures of cheesy quotes are absolutely forbidden (e.g., “You Have as Many Hours in the Day As Beyoncé” or any quote that instructs someone to “Keep Calm and _______”). Pictures of yourself that were published on a website with a watermark are never acceptable. Try pinning the picture to Pinterest instead, or just get over yourself.

Do not post the “circle of feet” (or hands) picture. It isn’t a good ’gram. Unless everyone has on spectacularly unique shoes, people will just assume you wanted to tag people but your friends are ugly. (Note: Pictures that include faces get 38 percent more likes than those without.)

Never post more than three photos a day. There are a few circumstances where this rule can be broken: Fashion Week, on a particularly fantastic vacation, or your birthday. If you do post three photos in one day, you cannot post a photo the next day. If you want to #regram a picture that a friend has just posted, under no circumstances is it acceptable to #regram at the same time. Wait a few hours. You have the same followers, no one wants to see that twice in a row on their feed.

A filter is not always needed, but is a good idea 80 percent of the time. Many girls adhere to the old adage: “I look amazing in Valencia.” Note that the Kelvin filter is to be avoided at all costs. If it really does make a picture better, it is to be used sparingly and with extreme caution. Never, under any circumstances, may the Kelvin with border be used. Fun fact: Black-and-white filters help hide everything from a bad sunburn or spray tan to red wine lips.

The #nofilter hashtag is best for pictures that are actually beautiful on their own and really do not need a filter. The ironic #nofilter is acceptable on a few occasions (e.g., a picture of someone’s butt).

It is never appropriate to use more than four hashtags per picture. If you have to create a second comment just to add more hashtags, you are doing something wrong. If it adds further explanation to a picture, a made-up hashtag is totally fine (example: #idontevenknowthisguy). But if it’s completely random and clearly not a common hashtag (#LateLunchAfterSephoraTrip), then you are an idiot.

The #blessed hashtag is only acceptable when used ironically. Note: The #blessed hashtag used unironically (e.g., an image of a green juice with the caption “#greenjuice #cleanliving #lovemylife #healthy #gogreen #blessed #soblessed”) is a clear indicator that you should unfollow that girl and avoid her in real life at all costs.


If your picture doesn’t get more than eleven likes, you need to take it down because it sucks. Note: This applies to users with 100 followers or more. If you are new and have fewer than 100 followers, then hurry up and get cooler. If you’ve been on there for a while and still don’t have more than 100 followers, then maybe Instagram isn’t for you. You can always try Tumblr or Myspace.

It is never acceptable to like your own ’gram. The simple act of posting the picture to Instagram indicates that you do, in fact, like it. Adding a like is obvious and sad.

A selfie is only acceptable on a few occasions: if you work in fashion and are showcasing an outfit or specific part of an outfit for work purposes, if you are somewhere awesome and there is no one to take your picture (e.g., a chairlift on Mount Kilimanjaro or jury duty with Oprah).

Any selfie that involves the “kissy” face is not acceptable. These pictures are not sexy. You look like an idiot. Also taxicab selfies are rarely acceptable, we’ve all been bored in a cab before and taken a picture of ourselves. Best to Snapchat that or perhaps just delete it—no matter how skinny you think your arm looks or how big you think your eyes are.

The Selfie Stick

Are you a member of the Kardashian family? No? Then please don’t engage in the use of a selfie stick. If your arm isn’t able to capture a desired angle of a selfie, perhaps you should rethink said picture all together.

If you are in a group of people and want a picture of all of you, please just stick to the time-honored ritual of choosing an odd man out to take the picture. It’s not like getting picked last in softball; you can still insist on a photo credit and be included in the ’gram so everyone knows you were there (that is, after all, the goal, right?).

It is the personal opinion of the author of this guide that the selfie stick is the single most embarrassing invention of our generation, but also perhaps the most elucidatory: The simple fact that necessity has called for the invention of a stick with which one can take a picture of themselves is case in point for millennials to inherit the Me Generation moniker.
The #TBT

The #TBT (throwback Thursday) is a great chance to post funny pictures from the past that are timely. For example, a vintage holiday picture during the holiday season is very acceptable (though not that creative). It’s not appropriate to do a #TBT every single Thursday. If you have two great pictures to share, then by all means, do two weeks in a row. But don’t you dare post a pic on the third week.

Posting your #TBT before 9:00 a.m. is embarrassing and obvious that you’ve been waiting all week long to post it. If you are merely posting an old picture of yourself because you think you look noticeably thinner, cuter, or more attractive to the opposite sex than you do now, don’t post it. People will notice and it will have the opposite effect of what you intended. Also, the #FBF is a poor excuse for forgetting to post your picture on Thursday. Get it together.

Videos and Diptics

In general, videos tend to get fewer likes than images simply because it requires your followers to spend a whole fifteen seconds watching it. Save videos for funny or unique experiences that simply can’t be displayed in a pic. A Diptic or Pic Stitch of several images from your vacation is not a good idea. (Are you making a collage for your sixth-grade scrapbook?)
Puppies and Babies

People love puppies and all babies. Pictures of puppies and/or babies are a guaranteed golden ’gram. But limit yourself to one post per week. More than that and people will start to hate your puppies and babies. Do not Instagram cats. Please just spare us all.
Location Matters

No matter how great a pic you snapped, please remember it is never acceptable to ’gram from: any sort of medical situation, a funeral, Lavo, Catch Roof, Bagatelle, Provocateur (or any equally douche-y place), the DMV, or your iTunes library. (If you find yourself wanting to share screenshots of iTunes, maybe Spotify is a better option for you.)

Finally, please do not post pictures at the gym. Unless you’re working out with Jay Z and Beyoncé, nobody cares. I’m actually thinking about creating an entirely new social network just for you people because there seem to be so many of you. Possible names include Gymtrest, Limber, Liftter.

Now that you’ve read the rules, pick up that iPhone (if you’ve managed to put it down for the duration of this post), snap away, and get ’gramming! Unless, of course, you’ve already posted three pictures today. . . .


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