Think twice about posting your provocative Instagram photos

Photo Credit: Momo Lin

When you post a picture on Instagram, your main concerns are most likely how sweet it looks with the brand new filters, and whether or not it’ll be ‘liked’ a coveted 11 times or more. You aren’t typically concerned with the fact that people could take these Instagram photos — which don’t actually belong to you — and do whatever they’d like with them.

Most people do not recognize Instagram as an extension of the public sphere; it is, and it needs to be treated as such. Is an artist who takes a photo of you from Instagram really that different from a candid photo taken on the train? I would argue no. The image cultivated by a person on social media should not be any different than the image you create through one’s daily life.

If you wouldn’t be willing to walk down a street during rush hour in the same provocative position, maybe you shouldn’t be posting an image of it on Instagram.

Recently, artist Richard Prince caused a stir when he took Instagram screenshots, many of them sexually charged, and made slight changes to them, and sold them in a public gallery for around $90,000 each, all unbeknownst to the original owners of the images. Instagram’s Terms of Use states that “once you have shared user content or made it public, [it] may be re-shared by others” — a line that permits anyone to do things like this with your photos, no matter if you like or benefit from them.

I find the idea of artists appropriating our Instagram images to be less concerning than the lack of awareness on part of the people who originally posted the photos. The number of listicles that sites like BuzzFeed post containing public Instagram photos should be a dead giveaway that what goes on the Internet can be easily found, classified, and appropriated for a purpose other than what the original poster may have intended.

Hence, it may be best to keep well-mannered photos of yourself online, and ditch those that make it look like you’re about to ‘fool around.’ The adage that you shouldn’t post something you wouldn’t want your current or future employer to see doesn’t seem to resonate with people enough to deter them from posting these images.

I suggest a new adage: don’t post something that you wouldn’t be willing to send in the Christmas card to grandma. Having met numerous grandmothers in my life, I can attest to the fact that they are much more intimidating and capable of instilling guilt than any employer.

So when posting images to social media, remember two key points. First, if grandma saw this, would she write me out of her will,  or lecture me for hours on how I am a better person than this image would suggest? Second, would I get arrested for a criminal offence if I did this while walking down the street? If you answer ‘yes’ to either of these questions, turn off your phone, and don’t post.


  1. “Having met numerous grandmothers in my life, I can attest to the fact that they are much more intimidating and capable of instilling guilt than any employer.” haha Hilarious!

    It is really absurd that people post such provocative snapshots on such a wide-reaching social platform with an innocent mind-set of gaining attention through likes and shares. Most of us do not really consider ourselves becoming victims of unscrupulous internet activities due to the wide gap prevalent between the first hand data up-loader to the multiple chains of sources extracting and modifying the graphical data according to their intentions. A person doesn’t really know where his/her data is circulating once it enters the public domain, and this nonchalance is extremely hazardous to the owner if it gets in the wrong hands. It gives sweet gratification to get numerous likes on our pictures and posts, but the sweetness could rot instantaneously when you see the same picture being morphed into something unpleasant that you wouldn’t really appreciate. So let’s think twice before hash-tagging that selfie that you wouldn’t necessarily show it to your gam-gam.