Here’s How To Be Cool On Instagram, According To A Teen

Go from InstaSHAM to InstaDAMN.

Let’s face it: Instagram is a game; cutthroat and at times agonizing. Garnering likes and followers is no easy task unless you’re a Kardashian (or have dated one).


But your social media luck is about to change, because I have a social media whiz to help step up your Instagram game.

Who have I enlisted to “achieve Instagram fire,” in her own words? My teenage sister, Grace.

Let’s face it: Teenagers are tastemakers. My sister routinely breaks 150 likes on Instagram, no sweat, because she just GETS it. Thankfully she was able to take time out of her busy schedule and break down the science of Instagram for us “old” folk. Here’s what to do and, more important, what not to do on the image-sharing app.

These are the Rules of Instagram:

1. Timing is EVERYTHING.


Rule No. 1 of Instagram: You can’t post photos willy-nilly. Think of it like sneaking grapes at the grocery store when a clerk isn’t watching: TIMING IS EVERYTHING.

So when DO you actually post? Sunday evening is “prime time” for likes, according to my sister, because “everyone is bored and not doing homework.” I guess that applies to the real world too!

When not to post? Mornings! The likes are “weird and sporadic.”

2. Also, don’t post too much.


I don’t care how much you’re feeling your look. No one needs to see eight pictures from your date night out with bae. This isn’t a buffet; we want small, indulgent morsels of your life. Remember, as my sister recommends, “You can’t give the people too much or they will be over it real quick.”

If you’re posting three to four times a week, my sister says to “reevaluate your life” and “chill a bit.” I see no lies!!!

3. BUT if it is a big week in your life, feel free to post more than usual.

Of course, there’s always the exception to the rule. After all, Instagram was meant to chronicle important moments in your life. The social media gods shouldn’t punish you for having a lot going on! Just remember to take it easy after, my sister said.

If it’s rush, or homecoming, or the holidays, “don’t feel bad for insta-ing a lot. It happens,” according to my sister. “Just make sure you chill out afterwards and let the people want more.”

4. Selfies have STRICT rules.

You can’t spell “selfie” without “sel” (minus an L), so think of it this way: You’re selling your look. By the simple capitalist laws of supply and demand (hello, Econ 101!!!) you need to leave the people wanting more, according to my sister.

Basically, don’t just go around throwing up random selfies like the world is ending tomorrow. It’s not a cute look. Here’s what my sister had to say about selfies:

1. Be “spontaneous and fun.”
2. “Not all the time” aka DO THEM SPARINGLY. “If you think you look good in a selfie fine Instagram it but wait a while before you do it again.”
3. Selfies are “not to be taken seriously.”
4. “Selfies should only be when you have a GOOD one.”

5. Filters are for Brita pitchers, not Instagram.

Your first instinct when you post an Instagram pic? Probably “What filter should I use?” BUT YOU’RE DEAD WRONG. More wrong than whoever decided Pumpkin Spice Oreos were a good idea.

My sister was adamantly against using Instagram filters, even with the new additions to the app. She said to “NEVER USE KELVIN!!!!!!” (emphasis hers) and download outside apps that have filters like VSCO and Afterlight instead.

6. Keep your caption game strong.

New Line

Think of your Instagram caption as the icing on top of the cake. Yeah, a cake is pretty good in and of itself. But the icing can seal the deal for you! Because, seriously, who wants cake with bad icing? Or an Instagram with a bad caption, for that matter?

My sister’s advice for your Instagram captions? Don’t tag people in the actual caption (it’s too “messy”) and use emojis to “spice it up.” As for hashtags? You should ONLY be using them ironically!!!

7. TBTs have to ACTUALLY be TBTs.

You aren’t fooling anyone if you TBT (Throwback Thursday) a recent photo.

“That’s simply not a throwback it’s just a ‘I forgot to insta this but I look cute,'” my sister said.

Instead, use TBTs for cute baby pics AND awkward middle school photos. “It’s funny,” according to our resident teen.

8. Be ruthless when it comes to following people.

Face it: We all want more followers, especially after the Great Instagram Purge of 2014. RIP to the ~100~ or so followers I lost, never to be seen again.

“Make sure your ratio [followers/following] is ON POINT!!” my sister said. She recommends unfollowing people who don’t follow you back, unless they are celebs.

Also, some other sage words of wisdom from my sister:

— “If the BÆ likes UR photo UR GOLDEN!!!”
— “Praise the person who was your 11th like.”

9. The Kardashians are a great example of what to do — and what NOT to do — on Instagram.

Hate them or love them — or plain old love to hate them — you have to tip the hat to America’s Royal Family, the Kardashians. With millions of followers each, they know a thing or two about Instagram. But they also are prone to bad habits, just like us plebeians! So wise up, and pay attention to how the pros are doing things.

My sister singled out Kendall and Kylie as celebs who show you need to “slow your roll and don’t post as many selfies as them” but with one caveat:

“If you feel your look, live and post your photo.”


10. Putting your account on private is just plain old weird.


My sister says you should set your profile to public because like, you should have nothing to hide.

Also, it gets you more followers… which is what you’re after, right?

11. Use the buddy system!

You know when you’re trying to decide between two pictures to upload, or maybe are struggling with which filter to apply! As the grand sea witch Ursula said in The Little Mermaid, “Life is full of difficult choices, isn’t it?”


It’s simple. My sister recommends having a buddy to confirm you’re making the right picture/filter choice. And in her words, “an honest friend is key.” (We’re actually each other’s buddy!)

So go out there and find the Robin to your Instagram Batman!

12. And most important, have some fun and don’t take it too seriously. It’s Instagram, after all.

In the wise words of our teen, “Life is too short. Eat dessert first.”

Happy ‘gramming!

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