I feel a great sadness at the state of one of my favorite social networks - Instagram. It’s not their fault - they provide a great service with great features. Their problem is their users. Wait… it’s not even their users. It’s their users interpretation of what the service is for. I catch several types of off-topic posts on Instagram.

  • Selfshots. These don’t belong on Instagram. The point of Instagram isn’t to have people look at you. It’s to have them look at your moments and experiences. Putting image effects on your face and throwing it online to get attention is called vanity. Portraits of people in events are different, however. Take a group picture of your event! Pick the best filter! But don’t include the cameraperson in the picture. Composition in selfshots misses too much of the experience surrounding whatever emotion you’re trying to capture.

  • Bookshots / Pictures of Screens. I keep catching people taking pictures of their computer screens and highlighted books. What are you trying to show off? Something ironic to a small group of people? That you’re literate? That you’re reading a specific book? If you’re trying to show off a quote, a Facebook status will suffice. A blog post is nice. But Instagram and your Bible highlights doesn’t make sense. Remember the context of the network, my friends.

  • Screenshots (different than pictures of screen). Why are you Instagramming pictures of private conversions? Why are you Instrgramming pictures of your notes app? Instagram effects are not really suitable for use on illustrations, such as interfaces. It makes them look wonky. Screenshots also aren’t high quality content. Take the theme of that screenshot and find the real-world equivalent. Instagram that. If you’re trying to share music, try Twitter or Facebook. Music doesn’t fit the context of Instagram (but cool concert shots do!)

  • Memes. If you didn’t take the image, why are you Instagramming it? Instagram is a network for original content. Also, memes aren’t very high quality and are often in the moment. Instagram can be an incredible, high quality, timeless image archive if we let it.

  • Advertisements. This is just irritating. Not because they’re ads, but because people make not attempt to make them quirky, interesting, or fit into Instagram. If you’re going to try to use Instagram as a business tool, appeal to your target audience personally. I’ve seen it done very well and I’ve seen it done very poorly. The same image you shared on Facebook and Twitter 2 minutes ago probably isn’t interesting enough to share it on a network that has a more specific purpose.

  • Pictures with words / Photoshopped. I usually see these and think they’re being uploaded just to get extra eyes on pictures. Captions work fine, and don’t take away from images. Why are you uploading pictures that aren’t square to Instragram? The square format is part of the experience and letterboxing images on phone screens is an insult to your viewers! Again, Instagram is an original content network and photoshopping and uploading images is kind of cheesy.

  • Food. Why. This is a decision often made without thought. Food photography is an intricate science and you may even being the restaurant a disservice if you take a bad picture of their food.

So what can I Instagram, Kyle, you ask. I see incredible work all the time! Here are some ideas of the stuff I’ve seen people like the most.

  • Landscapes / Cityscapes. Nature and architecture are both great places to start with Instagram. People love these. Take a picture down your favorite street. Nail the composition! Pick the perfect effect. It’s so often these pictures that make me the most happy when I run across them.

  • Events / Groups. Instragram can be a great testament to your event if you grab some great shots! Don’t overdo it, a single event doesn’t need 10 entries in your followers timeline to make a difference in them. Pick the perfect one and stick with it.

  • Animals. Hey, people love animals and they’re pretty hard to capture, but a nice shot of your favorite pet works well on Instragram.

  • Quirky Happenings / Portraits. People love seeing how you’re goofing off by the river or downtown with friends. Makes for great portraits too!

  • Quirky Things. Thrift up something awesome? Share it. I enjoy those a lot.

I hope these ideas help you reconsider their usage of Instragram so that it can prosper as one of the finest historical testaments to our time. I have no problem going back and deleting images that I think weren’t interesting enough or weren’t capturing an event the right way. Where Facebook and the News can show events as they happen to groups of people, Instagram helps us capture events through our own eyes and worldview. The problem with a lot of content on Instagram is that we miss that point by uploading silly things that don’t hold a lot of weight to us. There’s nothing wrong with these images, but they’re better placed elsewhere. Help our children see our times the way we do: before you post that image, ask “is this Instragrammable?”