Fortunately, we have answers for you on all fronts. One of the best ways to figure out what you should do on Instagram is to familiarize yourself with what you shouldn’t do. In the name of winning at Instagram (and having fun while doing it), let’s check out some of the worst types of Instagram captions people use. We wouldn’t recommend posting these kinds of captions (or the sorts of Instagram quotes we’ll also take a look at) — at least not if you don’t want your friends to roll their eyes when they scroll past your posts.
We get it. Writing a good Instagram caption is difficult. But don’t try to make up for your lack of caption ideas by appending every hashtag known to man to your photo. A few carefully chosen, specific hashtags are great. They can help other people find your photo. But if you’re tagging every word you can think of or using super vague tags nobody will ever search, you aren’t doing yourself any favors. And what if you’re adding a giant block of hashtags in lieu of a real caption? Everybody who sees that post is judging you.
We all know you think you look great. (Why else would you be posting a selfie?) Post a selfie (or a series of selfies), and you have people wondering whether you’re a narcissist, even when, obviously, you’re just having a great hair day. But don’t make it worse by adding one of those far-too-common “inspirational” Instagram quotes to your selfie captions. The quote probably has nothing to do with your photo. And it’s a poor excuse for posting another selfie when you can’t think of anything more interesting to photograph. Inspirational quotes of nebulous origin are the worst. So don’t push your luck by trying to pass off one as a selfie caption.
Another common offense when it comes to Instagram? Adding lame quotes about laughter or happiness to a “candid” photo of you smiling with your friends. First of all, we’re well aware you all knew the photo was being taken. And we can’t understand why you chose to caption that photo with something vague and cliched when you could say something about what actually makes you so happy to be hanging out with your friends. At least explain what you were pretending to laugh about.
How many times have you seen someone who’s traveling post a photo with the caption, “Not all who wander are lost”? We’ll refrain from naming other examples. But there are some quotes that are so overused they feel like a cliche, even if they came from pretty great origins. Most of the time, people are following you on Instagram because they’re interested in seeing what you’re doing. You don’t give them any insight by using cliched quotes as captions. Whatever happened to writing something witty about what you’re doing or sharing something funny that happened?
If you’re wondering whether you should repost an Instagram image that has a quote in a cutesy typeface, the answer is almost always a resounding “no.” But those aren’t the only Instagram quotes you should avoid. Let’s say you see a couple of Instagram quotes that you like but have the self-control to avoid reposting them. A more acceptable way to share a quote you like is to add it to an Instagram caption. But here’s the catch: You should always make sure the quote is correct (and was actually said or written by the person to whom you’re attributing it) before you add it to one of your Instagram captions. Otherwise, you’ll just be spreading a misattributed quote — and looking kind of silly in the process.
Everybody reacts differently upon the death of a movie star, musical artist, or TV personality whose work they enjoyed. But one of the worst ways to react is to fill your feed with Instagram quotes attributed to every celebrity whose death makes a splash on Facebook. The quotes you’re copying and pasting might not be accurate or even attributed to the right person. It’s tempting to jump on the bandwagon and join the public mourning. But if you don’t have anything sincere or interesting to say, Instagram quotes can’t help you.
If you routinely use the same block of hashtags, chances are you have them saved in a note on your phone. But think twice before copying and pasting them for all of your captions. Are you using six hashtags about food on a photo of the beach? Did you append all of your favorite travel hashtags to a photo that clearly shows that you’re sitting on the couch at home? Instagram captions should be at least tangentially related to the photos they accompany.
Sometimes, you’re doing something interesting (or photogenic) enough that you want to post more than a single photo. But if you’re going to do that, at least take the time to write proper Instagram captions for each of them. Just captioning them “part one,” “part two,” and “part three,” or something similar, is pretty lazy. It also means you’re foregoing the opportunity to give your followers a little bit of context on where you are or what you’re doing. It’s not the worst Instagram offense in the world. But it can get annoying if you make a habit of it.
This fill-in-the-blank formula has led to far too many captions that feel painfully unoriginal. You might be talking about your outfit or latte. Perhaps it’s your nail polish or cat eye. Maybe you’re talking about your workout routine or choice to stay in bed. Whatever you’d say in the caption is already pretty obvious from the photo. So what’s the point?
Way too many Instagram users write selfie captions that include the hashtag #ineverdothis. That’s totally true for some of them. (Not everybody posts a selfie every day or two.) The hashtag is definitely more of a stretch for other people. But honestly, that’s beside the point. You don’t have to justify your selfies to anybody, especially not with overused hashtags reminding people of the frequency with which you do (or don’t) post photos of your face.
If you want to send somebody a message, well, send them a message. (Instagram even offers that functionality with Instagram Direct.) So don’t post a photo, and add a long, weepy caption addressed directly to the person you’re tagging. It’s fine to tell your Instagram followers your mom is great or your partner is awesome. But your followers probably don’t want to read a long, drawn out caption that reads like a love letter. Keep things short and sweet. And don’t directly address anybody in your Instagram captions.
Does this really have to be said? Scroll through Instagram for a few minutes, and you’ll realize it does. Bullying somebody or making fun of other people is never acceptable. And it’s especially obnoxious on Instagram. Do you really want that kind of negativity on your feed? Posting Instagram photos just to make fun of other people is mean and sad. Writing snarky Instagram captions that explain why you’re better than somebody else is similarly obnoxious. And even something as innocuous as selfie captions that gloat that you’re more attractive than somebody else are ill advised. If you disagree with somebody’s posts, ideas, or choices, try to have an intelligent conversation about it. Don’t turn to Instagram captions to shame them.
The phrase “real women” is kind of the worst. It’s gotten more popular as people talk about the difference between airbrushed images and what women look like without the help of Photoshop and a dedicated makeup artist. But all women are real women. Popular Instagram captions, such as, “Real women have curves,” alienate just as many women as they include. All women are real women, whether they’re models, fast-food workers, movie stars, or scientists. They are real women whether they’re black, white, cis, trans, curvy, or thin. There are so many ways to be a woman. Your selfie captions shouldn’t indicate otherwise.
There’s a reason why social networks moved to block hashtags, such as “thinspiration.” And there’s also a reason why many people don’t like related hashtags, such as “fitspiration.” They set standards that are unreachable for most people. And they send the message that what you look like is more important than how you feel or what you do. Don’t buy into hashtags and messages that encourage you to change your habits just to improve your appearance. (We all know those #fitspo images aren’t really posted by people who are just so happy to feel healthy.) No matter how trendy the hashtag, don’t contribute to messaging that puts an idealized body over a healthy body. No matter how bright your sports bra, that’s never a good look.