Pics or It Didn’t Happen: Instagram’s Biggest Clichés


It’s apparent to anyone with an Internet connection that this generation is obsessed with documenting itself. Thanks to the rise of social media like Instagram, so many of us can’t seem to go through our day without sharing pictures of it. Why we continue to do it is a great question, but that’s not what Slate’s Katy Waldman asks in an article about the social photography site. “The Tragedy of the Sunset Photo” laments our inability to effectively photograph a sunset, contemplates their appeal, and offers suggestions for taking better pictures of them. But these aren’t the thoughts that linger after looking an Instagram photo of a sunset. The real “Tragedy of the Sunset Photo” is not that we can’t capture the beauty of a sunset — it’s that we can’t seem to put down our phones and just enjoy it. Below, we look into some of Instagram’s most unavoidable, revealing clichés.

Image via @sadowls


Parks & Recreation nailed the pointless nature of the food Instagram: “Tom considers himself a ‘foodie,’ which apparently means taking Instagrams of food instead of eating it.” Instagram is constantly covered in photos of untouched meals, but for what? A camera lens still can’t capture scent or taste, so the exercise of photographing your food is fairly pointless unless you’re trying to show your mom you aren’t starving. Or do we simply want to show the rest of the world just how much food we have in America? It’s one of the saddest examples of our inability to just enjoy what’s in front of us; if your first reaction to a piping hot meal is to get out your camera, I feel sorry for you.

Image via @xkuraihana

Cute animals

Between pets and food, it’s hard to say which Instagram cliché is more prevalent, but the former is all over the place. Yes, a lot of times they are really cute, but by definition, no one will appreciate a picture of your pet as much as you do.

Image via Flickr

Mirror selfies

Nowadays, selfies are less of a cliché than an inevitability. They’re here to stay, so we might as well get used to them. But the easiest, most common selfie is also the saddest: the mirror shot. While these pictures are obviously meant to capture the photographer’s appearance, the mirror makes their awkward surroundings just as apparent, if not more. Try as you might to show me your outfit, I just can’t take my eyes off all the shit on your bedroom floor.

Image via


Don’t get me wrong — a good, intricate manicure is seriously impressive, but the #nails hashtag rarely is. It’s filled with tired designs, mediocre paint jobs, and pointless pictures of solid manicures. Unless you’ve got M.I.A.-level nails, they’re not worth showing off.

Image via Rich Kids of Instagram


Thanks to social media, bragging is easier than ever before, and Rich Kids of Instagram shows just how far it can go. The results are like a debauched, modern version of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, and sad proof that the 1% is doing just about what you’d imagine with its money. The pictures may be fun in an escapist kind of way, but they’re so, so depressing.

Image via @_ki_no_ko_

Plane shots

Yes, flight is a miracle. It is so, so cool that you are literally above the clouds, and it is seriously sad that we forget the sheer wonder of flying. Unfortunately, a shot from the window seat does not give me that sense of wonder, and thanks to the abundance of these photos, the impossible act of defying gravity has become as mundane as baggage claim.

Image via @f_a_t_h_

Baby pictures

You were a baby once? No way! Me too! Do I care to see proof? Nope. The Internet is not your mom’s house, and I am not your prom date.

Image via @mahjar


The recently popular hashtag #nofilter is a collection of photos that are supposedly impressive for their lack of special effects, so you’d think it’d mostly be landscapes and selfies. Surprisingly, there is some super-unspectacular stuff attached to the hashtag. Bowls of fruit! Wads of cash! More nail pictures! But it seems that the users tagging their photos with #nofilter just want us to be proud of them for taking pictures that they feel are true to life. We may not be able to accurately depict our surroundings with a camera phone, but damn it, we’re trying.