Do you make the Insta-Girl cut?
By this point we are all familiar with the Instagram Girlfriend, the girl who poses professionally in trendy outfits in front of a stunning background while being photographed by her dutiful boyfriend. She posts her photo on Instagram with some random caption about the beautiful view. She is attempting to trick the viewer into thinking the photo is about her experience in the location, rather than her carefully constructed and on-trend, patriarchy-approved outfit. We reassure ourselves that it is OK to ridicule this Instagram Girlfriend because in so doing we are telling society that we are better than this girl. Yet, we are tricked by her perfect photos and are jealous of her seemingly perfect life.
Of course the reality of the Instagram Girlfriend is not as glamorous as her sleek Instagram account advertises. Her carefree bio quote underneath her name by Walt Whitman, Bob Marley, Coco Chanel, or Audrey Hepburn belies the truth of the trudge up the hill to get her photos, dragging her complaining boyfriend with four professional level cameras strapped to his neck. The sunny and vaguely vintage-y photo doesn’t show her goose bumps as she stands in the Pacific gale at Big Sur or shuddering under an icy waterfall in Washington State.
So, this is the Instagram Girlfriend. We all know her. We know her secrets, though we overlook them as we greedily peruse her account.
But what about the Instagram Boyfriend? Does he exist? And what of him?
Last October my boyfriend and I took our dog for a hike up Mt. Abraham in the Green Mountains of Vermont. It was picture perfect fall day: brisk, sunny, breezy, and gloriously full of the heady drunkenness of dying summer. We hiked up an obscure trail on the side of the mountain and for most of the hike we saw no one. When our trail joined onto the Long Trail, we encountered a few people—families with their dogs, enjoying the last days of warmth, and a few diehard hikers in tie-die bandanas who looked with distain at our athletic clothes. However, everyone we passed was pleasant and friendly. We finally scrambled up the bare stones to the summit and caught our breath in awe. It was a clear day and we looked out across the Champlain Valley to Lake Champlain and the blue Adirondacks beyond.
Several breathless seconds passed as my boyfriend, myself and our dog caught our breath and felt the cold high mountain air whip around us. Then, from the depths of the stone wind shelter behind us, came a disgusted voice.
“You will need to take your dog away now. I am afraid of dogs.”
We looked around and saw a man and a woman locked in each other’s arms, clearly mid-make out session in the wind shelter.
“Oh,” we said, in surprise. There were two other families on the summit, one with a Leonberger and one with a Golden Retriever.
“Yes, you will need to take your dog away now,” repeated the voice. It was the woman and she spoke with a heavy French accent. We moved as far away from them as we could, somewhat disgruntled. We had our dog on the leash, as is the rule at the summit, and he hadn’t so much as looked their way, let alone approach them as they kissed. As we moved away they resumed making-out in the wind shelter, so clearly our dog wasn’t that threatening. We enjoyed the view for a few minutes and then made our way back down the path to a more sheltered area to eat our picnic lunch. As we passed the couple in the wind shelter we heard the woman clearly hiss, “Instagram Girl,” and something that sounded like, “so stupid.”
Indignant, I hurried after my boyfriend and our dog. My boyfriend had recently become very passionate about photography, particularly landscape photography, and he had his camera around his neck to photograph the summit. Though he does often take pictures of me, they are usually for his own website and I have to plead, barter and wrestle them off his computer and onto my Instagram account. I suppose the woman on the summit would not have know this, but even so, her nasty hiss rankled. My boyfriend had been taking pictures of the view and of our dog. For a second I posed with our dog and he took a few photos, but I felt myself a world away from the glossy Insta-girls I drool over on my phone. And I had hardly dressed to impress!
The unpleasant couple passed us on their way down as we sat by the side of the trail and ate our picnic. They looked at us with distain as they sidled past our dog and camera with its ostentatious strap.
When we got home, my boyfriend downloaded the photos and posted them on his own social media accounts and we joked that he was the Instagram Boyfriend and I was the companion unnoticed in the photos, rather than the reverse as the people on our hike assumed. I did eventually post a photo, when I finally wrested it from my boyfriend’s intensive scrutiny in post-production! However, I look a sad imitation of the leggy, tan, wind-in-your-hair photos of real Instagram Girlfriends.