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7 impossible Instagram etiquette dilemmas we’ve definitely all had

Damn, you look fine in that photo! Strong hair, tick. Strong side, tick. Strong smile and and outfit, tick and tick again. If ever a picture cried out for an Insta, this on POINT piece of photography does.

There’s only one issue: one teeny tiny hurdle standing between you and 81 likes, one of which might just be from your crush. The mate you’re posing with is, just for that moment, really channelling the scary mermaid from Harry Potter 4.

You’ve tried every filter. You’ve adjusted and readjusted the warmth, contrast, structure and brightness. There is no finessing the greyish skin, wild mane and slightly underwater appearance your photography skills have somehow given her. Will she mind? And, given the context of how great you look and how badly you want @oreolover2002 to appreciate it, how much do you care? Before you lie, two options: either you sit tight, knowing all the while that this pic could be the difference between them asking you out ASAP and spurning you forever; OR you publish and be damned, hoping the algorithm gods look kindly on you and she doesn’t see it.

Basically, Instagram is a diplomatic minefield. Here are a few of the other dilemmas we all face on the regular.

The uninvited extras

Quite how she wormed her way into your photo is beyond you – which part of “Park Road massive, get in the frame!” did she not understand? – but there she is, clinging onto the end like a hangnail. You’re not even sure what her name is, but you think she’s a cousin of Rhiannon’s who came because was staying for the weekend. You want to, ahem, ‘edit’ her — but you can’t remove her telltale arm without slicing into Rhiannon so she’s bound to notice your attempt to cut her cuz, and you’re not 100% sure she’d be cool with that.

It’s a tough one to call, but if you really need a good group pic, a touch of tilt shift (radial, obvs) might just help you focus the attention on your posse without causing a diplomatic incident re Rhi’s family. You’re welcome.

Me, my selfie and I

There’s a fine line – oh, such a fine line – between posting enough selfies to earn you mega compliments, and posting so many you provoke criticism. No doubt scientists are conducting extensive research in order to determine the line’s precise coordinates as I write, but until they find it we must blunder on, hoping that there’s enough difference between sunglasses+pout selfie and the no sunglasses+smile selfie to get away with posting both.

Personally I work on the rough assumption that one a week is probably sufficient, unless you’re a Kardashian or an aspiring beauty blogger; and that ironic selfies (and we mean actually ironic, not an undeniably fresh and stunning picture of yourself captioned ‘So knackered lol’) have a free pass.

The relationpic

Forget Facebook official. Forget ‘the chat’ and introducing the parents. The truest, most real sign of their being your FR bae is you holding hands in a ’gram for all your followers to witness.

But when do you press the camera button? Do you need to ask first? How soon into a new relationship is too soon? Do you wait for them to make the first move or do you put your selfie out there? Jane Austen’s women didn’t know how good they had it, frankly. Sure Elizabeth Bennet had a hard time with Darcy, but at least there was no risk of her accidentally posting an oil painting of the pair of them when things still weren’t clear.

Like, how many times?

Sure, she’s your bff and you’d die for her and all of that – but that doesn’t mean you have to like a post that is CLEARLY substandard. Does it? DOES IT? After all, she likes all of your Instas, and instantly too. To not reciprocate seems – well, un-best-friendly, plus she’s pretty sensitive. Remember that time your phone ran out of juice so it was a full TWO HOURS before you liked her country walk (#sogreen) and she was definitely off with you for the next three days? Probs easier to just like it. Think of that less as lying, more of a brief twitch of the thumb.

Oh no, FOMO

Forget trees falling in forests and making or not making a sound; in this day and age the only real existential dilemma you need concern yourself with is: if a party happens at Sheena’s and that C-list mate isn’t invited to see it, do she really need to find out? I mean sure, it was a cracking night, and we’d all like to see the evidence, but it does seem a little savage to fill her feed with it. Salt in the wound and all that.

So the question is, how many people need to be there before it reaches a critical Instagram mass? A small gathering might – might – go unrecorded in the archives of history, but anything more than ten and an Insta’s kinda inevitable.. at which point you will almost certainly have to face the choice between getting in on the action, or sitting this hashtag out.

FOMO part II

This works the other way, too: when you find your mates where at a place you weren’t last Saturday via Instagram. Normally you’d like it, but that implies you’re cool with the situation – which, quite legitimately, you are not. You wish you could dislike it; comment ‘um, thanks for the invite guys?’ and trust and believe that you’d be flooded instantly with apologies. Knowing better, you like it and WhatsApp your bff immediately asking her quite wtf that was.

In too deep

Yes, that Italian beach your crush is lying on is to die. So’s he. So’s his border collie. But the reality is that photo was taken in August 2014, and you cannot simply like it without revealing you’ve been deep-sea diving in his Insta. So instead you hover, longingly, over the post, struggling with your instinctive need to tap that heart and reveal your true feelings. Eventually, after the longest six seconds of your life, you put the phone down and shiver at how close a shave that was. Phew.


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