What Happened When I Posted Really Ugly Stuff On Instagram For A Week

This is how to do Instagram all wrong.

woman taking photo of food Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock

When I first joined Instagram a few years ago, I was bombarded with photos of everything from someone's new pedicure to the glass of wine they were having with dinner. I wasn't exactly sure what the point of Instagram was, but I was definitely intrigued.

Pretty soon I found myself checking my stream daily and eventually started to post a few photos of my own. Mostly, pictures of my dogs and an occasional vacation snap.


Almost as soon as I posted a photo, someone would "like" it. (Of course, I'd like to believe it's because my dogs are the cutest things in the world and that people were living vicariously through me with my vacations, but I wondered if there was more to the story.)

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Did it matter what I posted? Were people just being nice? I didn't know — but I wanted answers. 

Then it came to me: For one week I was going to post only gross and ugly things on my Instagram page, in hopes of solving the mystery of whether people "liked" my dog's pics because they really do look cute in their matching rain slickers (they do) — or if people were just being polite.


The key to this social experiment wasn't to let anyone know what I was doing, as it would defeat the purpose if people knew my intentions beforehand.

I started off simple enough with a photo of something random I found on the sidewalk. I didn't caption it or say anything about what it was or why I was posting it. This got a few raised eyebrows and even a few "WTF?" responses. 


A photo posted by Lisa Newlin (@lisanewlin30) on Jul 1, 2015 at 7:36am PDT

Then I decided to kick it up a notch. Why not add something inspirational to the photos of ugly things? I noticed a lot of people posted photos of everyday objects, accompanied by uplifting quotes. So, why not do the same thing with ugly stuff? If nothing else, I could crack myself up.


A photo posted by Lisa Newlin (@lisanewlin30) on Jul 2, 2015 at 8:41am PDT

These are dusty electrical cords that were sitting dangerously close to the water basin where I was getting a pedicure. I wanted to post this photo but also wanted to include another inspirational quote. 

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I went that route and said, "If everyone did their part we could conserve and save the planet." It's true and was definitely a win.


A photo posted by Lisa Newlin (@lisanewlin30) on Jul 1, 2015 at 4:57pm PDT

What is this? It's paint on the windowsill of a window in the bathroom of a bowling alley in a small town in central Missouri. You couldn't tell that by looking at it? I added my insightful commentary: "Even when covered up, imperfections show through." Beautiful.

A photo posted by Lisa Newlin (@lisanewlin30) on Jul 6, 2015 at 10:33am PDT

This gem isn't only gross, but it reminds us all to clean the bottom of our refrigerators near the filter. So, I pretty much consider this one a PSA. People liked this one even though I didn't include a caption — most likely because the bottom of everyone's refrigerator looks like this.


I did, however, get a comment that said, "This is a fridge? Your posts are freaking me out a little."

Her freak-out = great success. At least people were noticing I was doing Instagram ALL WRONG.


A photo posted by Lisa Newlin (@lisanewlin30) on Jul 6, 2015 at 5:38pm PDT

I think this is some sort of strange stingray wearing a necklace and smiling, but I can't be sure. Whatever it is, people "liked" it without asking questions, which is good because I don't have answers. 


A photo posted by Lisa Newlin (@lisanewlin30) on Jul 7, 2015 at 8:37pm PDT

The takeaway from this experiment: Apparently posting something ugly is totally OK if it's coupled with something mildly insightful. I'd like to think it's because I'm brilliant and forward-thinking. (After all, why else would someone "like" a photo of an ashtray filled with cigarette butts?)  

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A photo posted by Lisa Newlin (@lisanewlin30) on Jul 3, 2015 at 10:43am PDT

As the week progressed, I received just a few raised eyebrows from people. One friend texted and said she was both intrigued and concerned about my recent Instagram activity. Someone else commented toward the end of the week that my photos were starting to disturb her.


So, what did I learn from this strange social experiment? I'm not sure. I was hoping for more comments or concerns about why I was posting a photo of the inside of a trash can, but it didn't really happen.

My suspicions are that most people scroll through their feed and double-click on every photo to "like" it, regardless of whether they do, in fact, find the photo aesthetically pleasing.

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Maybe they "liked" my photos because they were trying to be polite. Maybe they thought I was having a meltdown and were trying to be supportive. Or maybe they just weren't really looking at my pictures that closely. Who knows? Probably a combo of all of the above.


Either way: I'll happily to return to posting photos of my dogs in matching rain slickers. They're cuter than a nail on the wall and bonus: they don't even need a filter.

Lisa Newlin is a humor contributor to Yourtango.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published in 2015.