It's been over 12 years since Instagram launched. It's changed our culture, how we interact with each other, and how we present ourselves to the outside world. And still, a lot of people have no clue how to act on the app. They post 45 stories from a concert, share quotes as if it's Facebook in 2007, drench their photos in the in-app filters, recycle captions from the last decade, and many, MANY more egregious things.
So, our BuzzFeed writers and editors submitted some rules for how to properly act on Instagram in 2023.
Here they are:
1. "If someone merely reacts to your story, you don't owe them anything more than 'liking' their reaction."
"They're 'go girl, give us nothing'-ing you with this reaction. Thus, the proper response is to either 'like' their reaction or send them back a single emoji (like a red heart or crying face) as a way of acknowledging them." —RD
2. "If you comment on a friend's Instagram pic, it's weird if you don't 'like' it, too."
"If you're going to do the Insta heavy lifting of commenting on someone's post and showing support, you should always throw them a like, too. Otherwise, you look stingy. However, you can obviously like their post without leaving a comment — but never just a singular comment." —RS
3. "Even if you were the photographer of your best friend's Instagram, you comment as if you've never seen it before."
"And you write a supportive comment and compliment them." —MS
4. "If someone posts about the death of a loved one but doesn't include any details, you obviously can't ask them directly what happened no matter how nosy you are."
"HOWEVER, you can comment and say something along the lines of 'So sorry for your loss/may their memory be a blessing/keeping you in my thoughts. Is there an organization or GoFundMe I can donate to in their memory?' That'll usually get you all the details you're looking for. (Remember: Supporting your friend/acquaintance should always be the priority. And don't even try to snoop if a child is involved.)" —AL
5. "Your Following list is public, so be careful who you follow."
"Whether you're a guy who follows a bunch of Instagram models or someone who follows right-wing pundits, just know that people will see that and make conclusions about you." —AS
6. "If someone likes a DM you sent them but hasn't replied, that's an end to the conversation."
"This is ESPECIALLY true if you're attempting to chat them up. It sucks, but they probably don't wanna hear from you." —SC
7. "Current coworkers do not belong on your close friends story."
"Close Friends stories are for nudes, complaining about work, and posting concerning memes." —DS
8. "If I reply to someone's story with words, like a compliment or a 'Happy birthday!' and they just 'like' my reply, it's rude."
"Liking someone's message, as per number two, is only acceptable if they send you an emoji. Written-out DMs from people should be responded to with written words." —AK
9. "If someone follows you and then likes three or more of your pics, that might be a come-on, and you can respond if you're so inclined."
"It does depend on the person and what they liked, of course. I'd say liking more than five of your pics is way too keen, though. Avoid that person." —SC
10. "I'd recommend never linking your Instagram to your dating app profiles at all."
"When I did this, I'd get guys who I purposefully didn't match with trying to slide into my DMs, and frankly — at least as a woman — it felt a little unsafe letting random guys I haven't met in on my personal life via social media." —SM
11. "If you attend a concert, you get three stories maximum."
"The clip needs to be clear with no background singing from you." —JH
12. "If you’ve already sent me three Reels in a row and I haven’t reacted, don’t send me any more — at all."
"No hard feelings, I’m not trying to watch all that, though. Plus, I already saw it on TikTok three months ago." —LF
13. "You're not obligated to stay up to date on your friends' lives through Instagram."
"If someone close to you experiences a major life moment — a wedding, breakup, loss of a loved one, pregnancy announcement, etc. — it's not your job to follow their every move via social media. Instagram updates and Close Friends stories don't take precedence over IRL catchups, and if your friends are ever shady to you about missing an Instagram 'moment' of theirs, remind them that they're welcome to text you a heads-up moving forward." —RY
14. "Don't link to your Instagram in your dating app profile if your Instagram account is private."
"It's the clickbait of social media: adding your IG handle to your Tinder/Hinge/Grindr profile so that when people click through or look you up, they're forced to request to follow you. It's also a waste of everyone's time. Fine if you have a private IG account, but keep it that way instead of teasing it." —JP
15. "Don’t read too much into who watches your IG stories."
"Seriously, people do it to pass time on the toilet. It's a very slim chance that they're stalking you." —EL
16. "Don't write a long caption on your photo with your S.O. — everyone knows the longer the caption on a couple pic, the worse the relationship."
"Your paragraph on all your 'ups and downs' throughout the years isn't fooling anyone — it's actually concerning us." —SR
17. "If you're going to post about something you love on your stories (recipe, product, etc.), share the link."
"Don't be a gatekeeper." —FB
18. "Don't unfollow your coworkers."
"It's just awkward and weird. Even the most professional person won't be able to not interpret this gesture as a rude move. And if you're leaving the company, wait until you've left to unfollow." —DG
19. "Posting any kind of Boomerang also shows that you're an older millennial."
"Posting Boomerangs today is the same kind of cringe you'd feel when you saw your mom sharing some cheesy quote on Facebook." —RA
20. "Consent checks on Close Friends stories are actually great."
"Every couple months, check in with whom you've added to your CF and make sure they still are OK with being there. Give them a guilt-free way of saying, 'I don't wanna be here' with a poll." —QD
21. "If I share my own post to my story, don't just like the story, you should like the post, too."
"For the love of the Instagram algorithm, like the actual post!" —CB
22. "Actually, don't announce on your story when you post a new Instagram."
"And definitely don't add the 'NEW POST' emoji to cover it up." —LG
23. "If you're over the age of 19, stop posting quotes to your stories."
"You get, like, one to three of these moments a year. But ultimately, the FacebookMomQuotes vibes are embarrassing. I love you, Ashley, but I'm talking about you, luv." —TB
24. "If someone posts a birthday tribute to you, thank them in the DM or in the repost."
"Just reposting the tribute to your story is ungrateful." —ER
25. "Do not post unapproved photos of me."
"Make sure you run it by me first. Nobody likes seeing an embarrassing tagged photo of themselves pop up." —LR
26. "Birthday tribute posts should not be collages."
"One photo and a short message is enough. If you're close with the person, 2-3 stories. No collages. It's 2023." —IY
27. "Don't go 'Live.' No one cares."
28. "If you're a cringe person, do not turn off the feature that allows people to send your stories."
"If you're going to be cringe, at least let people send it to others. Embrace your cringe." —FW
29. "Don't send me YOUR horoscope."
"I don't care." —DP
30. "You are not obligated to acknowledge every message in a group chat, unless it's addressed specifically to you."
"Group chats are for fun. It shouldn't feel like work." —JF
31. "If you're posting a photo dump, always make the first picture be a picture of yourself or you with others."
"No one cares about a nature pic, and faces get more attention." —BN
32. "Don't you dare share a TikTok in an Instagram group chat. Yes, people do this."
"The effort, the loading speed, the switching of apps — no." —PP
33. "If you edit yourself in a photo (smooth blemishes, whiten teeth, etc.), do it on everyone in the photo."
"Yassifying yourself and not others is really selfish." —KL
34. "Using the built-in Instagram filters is not socially acceptable. They're too intense and distort the photo, and they show that you're clearly above the age of 32."
"But it's acceptable to use Insta's brightness, temperature, shadows, etc. features." —MR
35. "Don't post songs on your story to 'send a message' to someone."
"They won't listen, look up the lyrics, or care." —EJ
36. "Hashtags are over. Don't use them in your captions."
"Weddings or event-specific hashtags are acceptable." —SW & LG
37. "If you have an Instagram account for your pet, you better not be posting as if it were them talking."
"If you made them an account, fine, but pretending it's from their POV is cringy." —ST
38. "Same for babies."
"Like, no?" —SW
39. "Don't send me memes if we're not friends."
"If we're not on the level, it's kinda weird." —GH
40. "If you're going to post food pics, please make them look appetizing."
"No ugly food pics. Also, your partner is not a 'chef.' That looks disgusting." —LG & SW
41. "You don't need to demand or ask for 'photo creds' if it's not a professional pic."
"You're not building a portfolio. It's not going in a magazine. It's a picture on the street. Obviously, the person in the photo didn't take it." —LG
42. "A hard launch of your relationship should never come before a soft launch."
"If you've already given us the reveal, I don't need to see their headless photo at dinner." —JK
43. "You do not have to acknowledge your friend when they tag you in a giveaway post."
"Just like it (if you want) and move on." —SW
44. "All these captions should be left in 2014."
"'I did a thing...'
'Snip snip' (when you get a haircut)
'In my (hair color) era'
'Partner in crime'
'My forever wedding date'
'My ride or die'
'I said yes 💍'
(Any song lyric).'"
What unspoken IG rules did we miss? Do you agree or disagree with these? Tell us in the comments below. 😘
Remember, these responses are from multiple people — not one individual writer.