My fingers have been tapping on gay men’s bodies for quite some time now, and I don’t mean in a sexual way.
On Instagram, my thumb (and occasionally my pointer finger) have created a conveyor belt of men who are either dangerously attractive, lost in Joshua Tree with a tripod, or finally promoting their new favorite drink. What does standing in a jock strap have to do with the kombucha you’re obsessed with, anyway?
These examples all have one thing in common: You can find them all in the hashtag #instagay.
I have always been fascinated by queer culture on Instagram. It has a magical blend of art, activism, and community, all of which are great ways to show self-expression and teach others about sexuality and gender. While Instagram continues to create a platform for people whose voices aren’t loud enough yet, in my opinion, I have found that there can also be traces of vanity. Here are some examples of queer content that have appeared on my Instagram feed:
- An interactive post from the gaytimes that reads “Nine Harmful Myths About Bisexual People and Why They’re Wrong.” (The day I wrote this, September 23, was Bi Visibility Day.)
- An ad for boxer briefs that have a section to safely hold a man’s crotch. The tagline says “Your balls will thank you.” I personally would never want to have a conversation with that part of my body, but I can say I have bought underwear off Instagram before. That’s a story for another day.
- An ad for Colgate Optic White High Impact Toothpaste in which a shirtless Everett Williams holds a toothbrush and smiles into a mirror. A tattoo reading “Live Love Life” is partially visible on his unreasonably chiseled and hairless chest. Should I be brushing my teeth shirtless? If I have body dysmorphia should I just stop brushing my teeth?
There is a lot of positive content on Instagram that shows members of the LGBTQ community in a wonderful light, and it’s great when people tell their stories on social media, especially when it comes to identity and social justice. And there is no doubt that Instagram is a great place to promote yourself, your art, your web-based business, or even news and politics.
But what is the fine line between posts of self-expression and inauthenticity? What happens when business and sexuality get intertwined? Is it healthy for an influencer to have a positive message for me while simultaneously trying to sell me something? Can I have love for my community but still feel nauseous when I go into overdraft because an instagay influencer does squats and my credit card is connected to my thumbprint?
Couples who sell together stay together?
When I first signed up for Instagram, I loved seeing images of gay weddings. It’s a small visual, but it’s still one of Instagram’s superpowers that can quickly offer hope for a lot of young people like me who were trying to work out who they are.
But can all that gay magic be tainted by brands? Can I only hold a relationship if I use a promo code? I find myself dissecting gay brand ambassadors and asking a lot of questions these days.
This stunning couple were able to conjure up a seamless picnic on the perfect day in California, with the perfect bodies, perfect charcuterie board, and perfect teeth (probably from Colgate Optic White High Impact Toothpaste). Is this an accurate portrayal of their relationship when the post is centered around the Absolut Vodka bottle nestled on their vintage picnic blanket?
Here, a cute couple cuddles on the couch in sweatpants and playfully watch an AT&T ad on their flatscreen TV. Why did I find multiple paid partnership posts from AT&T TV with gay couples? Are gay men’s WiFi connections stronger for streaming services? If these two beautiful gays break up, will they still get tickets free to Coachella next year?
Some final thoughts
This blog is completely based on my own observations, opinions, and self-deprecating images I see of myself. (Don’t worry—I see a therapist.) But I wanted to leave this conversation as an open-ended question to start thinking about who we are on social media, especially as a single gay man who needs money and a boyfriend.
I’ve decided to make some new guidelines when checking out instagay content on Instagram.
- Don’t always feel the need to actually follow the blue-check-marked accounts, but feel free to peek in on that instagay and see how his squats are going from time to time.
- If the bio says something like “I spend too much time taking selfies, going to the gym, and being gay,” it’s probably not worth it to follow the YouTube link in their bio.
- Don’t keep your phone next to your bed for everyone’s safety.
Finally, for anyone interested in queer brand ambassadorship: Be gay first, then an influencer.
Thanks for reading! Love, your friendly neighborhood vegan witch. Just kidding, I took that from an instagay bio, and I have no idea what it means.