Sometimes I get bored. I stumble onto whatever form of social media calls for my attention. Occasionally it’s Facebook, other times Snapchat, and rarely Twitter, but most of the time it’s Instagram.
Instagram has rapidly become one of the top social media outlets within the past few years. I myself use it mostly to post pictures of sunsets (creative, I know), selfies, and the occasional bikini pic when I’m not feeling too shitty about myself. I don’t have a huge following. I post mostly for my family and friends to see.
But one of the things that fascinates me most about Instagram is the ability to become what some people call, “Instafamous.” By that I mean a user who has an extremely large amount of followers and a pretty big following for their page. I am not “instafamous” and I recently learned that I will never have the desire to be, for more than one reason.
During one of my many spurs of boredom, I curiously scrolled through a popular Instagram account called TFMGirls (short for Total Frat Move Girls). Total Frat Move is the popular website that produces articles and videos targeted towards college men, mostly those in fraternities. The Instagram account, while aimed toward the same audience, features only pictures of hot college girls or what some who are in a more pornographic state of mind may refer to as “co-eds.”
Looking through the page, I saw pictures of thousands of girls (most of them in bikinis) with thousands of likes and comments on each one. I wondered, what would it be like to achieve “Instafame,” even if it were only for a few hours? Before I could even process some of the consequences of this, my mind was already made up.
The bio of the page boasts, “All babes, all the time.” And they aren’t wrong. The page includes woman who are undoubtedly beautiful and also college students (isn’t that the American dream?).
In real life, I wouldn’t call myself babe material. I am 5’2, I hardly wear makeup during the week, and ripped jeans are my go to apparel. On Instagram and other social media though, I appear as someone completely different then who I really am. The pictures I post show someone who is confident, smiling, and loves her body.
The reality is that I am not always positive, I have a much goofier smile than shown, and loving my body is a challenge that I spend everyday trying to learn how to do. So what if I could be on this incredibly popular page, even if it were just for a short amount of time? What would happen? Would people find me “babe” enough?
I followed the directions listed in the bio and sent the most scenic bikini picture I could find of me in a direct message. I included my school as directed and that was it.
To be completely honest, I forgot about it, assuming they would most likely look at my submission and move on to the next potential feature. I was terribly wrong.
I landed in my summer vacation destination completely ignorant to my past-week actions. The moment I logged on Instagram, I knew something was strange. In the requests for follow section (my account is private), there were over 100 accounts asking for permission to follow my page. I recognized none of the users and went to reject all of them.
Immediately after getting through the requests, an entire new round appeared, more people requesting to see my page. Still confused by what was actually a direct result of my own actions, I looked below the follow requests and there it was. I had been tagged in the bikini picture of myself on the infamous page that I had willingly submitted to.
I clicked on the picture nervously, my hands shaking more than usual (I have a tremor). The picture had over 5,000 likes and 50 comments. I, being the not so smart Instagram user that I am, quickly went to view the comments. First mistake.
Nothing could have prepared me for both the love and hate I would receive. While some of the comments were positive (some told me I look like Emma Watson which I absolutely do not but I’ll take it anyway), others were visibly posted with the intention of shaming my body.
“What have they come to?” posted one girl follower.
“No thank you” posted another user. I immediately felt sick. The confident girl that I pose as online quickly realized how insecure she really is.
I knew that looking through the comments wasn’t a good idea but for some reason, I read on. Before I could come to a pause I noticed a longer comment posted by someone who went to my high school.
Here was someone who I barely knew then and definitely don’t know now, shaming me publicly and questioning my feminist beliefs. I wanted to reach through my phone, grab his name, and violently explain to him what feminism is. I am 100% a feminist, an advocate for women’s rights of all sorts and there will never be a time when I refute that.
As someone who undoubtedly owns her sexuality and body, I was disgusted at the idea that embracing it makes me any less of a feminist. Before I could even digest the slap in the face, a message popped up from Facebook messenger.
Great, I thought, somebody else has seen it. To my surprise though, it was a message from the same guy (let me remind you we aren’t Facebook friends or friends in real life) notifying me of the picture and the fact that guys were making vulgar comments.
The nausea in my stomach swiftly turned to rage as I read the rest of the message. This person, who had taken the time to comment publicly that I am “feeding the machine I am trying to destroy,” was messaging me to tell me that he knows my views and supports them. Hold up, what? Instead of taking my own time to reply angrily, I blocked him on all forms and continued on with this ridiculous venture.
Within the few hours after the picture was posted, I received texts from classmates and friends who had seen it. There were friends tagging friends in the comments, some of those who attend the same school as me.
“Let’s find her,” one user posted. It made me laugh. Find me? These people couldn’t notice me on any given day, what makes them think they would recognize me in real life in anything other than a bikini?
What interested me about this the most was the newfound knowledge of which of my friends and acquaintances actually followed this account and/or looked at it regularly. Some friends told me I should be honored to have been posted.
“Do you know how many girls want that?” another said.
I showed my parents the picture and explained to them what all of this was. They didn’t really understand any of it but did understand the negative effects.
“Maybe you should have them take it down,” they suggested. I agreed but for some reason wanted to soak in this ordeal for a few more hours.
During this time, I went through hundreds of follow requests, deleting all except for a few girls (they looked nice), discussed it with my friend Lauren, and foolishly read more comments. What bothered/intrigued me the most were the comments that tagged my cousin and older brother in them. Why would anyone, especially a friend of his or mine, want to call his attention to that? They don’t want to see me in a bikini in real life, let alone on a popular hot-girl-oriented social media account.
After my few hours of terrifying Internet fame, friend requests from people who went to my high school but never talked to me, and a habitual routine of rejecting follow requests, I sent an email to Total Frat Move asking them to remove the picture.
I went to bed, exhausted from my half-day of overwhelming Instagram exposure, and woke up with one question on my mind; was it still there? I quickly went to look at the account and to my relief it was gone. Twelve hours later and I felt incredibly strange.
My head, while relieved of ache, had a lot of questions going through it. What did I get myself into? Will people see me differently after this? Will anybody even remember? Does this public showing of myself on a page whose main goal can often seem to objectify women conflict with my feminist beliefs? Will people take me seriously if I continue to share pictures of myself with less clothing? Do I even give a shit?
The only answer I really have is to the last question. No, I don’t. I am mature enough to understand that the showing of my body doesn’t make me any less of a person. I will never judge another woman (or man) for their choice to flaunt what’s theirs.
And if someone wants to be featured on a popular Instagram account? Then more power to them. As for myself? No thanks. And I’ll no longer be reading the comments section. On anything.