A Safe Way to be #ForTheGram

July 2, 2019

Have you ever been in a restaurant and observed someone taking a picture of their food? You might overhear them telling their tablemates it was #ForTheGram. Or at home, your child just advocated for their summer vacation suggestion to be chosen because it was #ForTheGram. What does that mean? The intent behind doing something #ForTheGram is to complete an action with photo or video evidence in order to post that content to Instagram.

There are plenty of harmless instances of this: going to a niche restaurant, standing in a long line, and posting a picture of the first bite; traveling to an off-the-beaten-path location during a trip because you saw another tourist post a picture from the same area; or uploading pictures at a game you went to even if you do not like sports.

But what about harmful instances of being #ForTheGram? It’s quite common to see initials carved on trees or signs in National Parks and Forests. Or perhaps someone on your Instagram feed took photos with a bouquet of wildflowers from the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve this spring. Even more daring, how many times have you seen people taking pictures “hanging off a ledge” at the Grand Canyon?

Sometimes, being #ForTheGram creates issues for users who put themselves in risky situations to gain the elusive, perfect piece of Instagram content. Perhaps they do it because they know the photograph will do well with their followers or because they want to showcase how exciting their lives are. Both celebrities and people close to you chase the thrill of maintaining their social media presence, and want to share interesting content for their friends and fans.

But how exactly is taking a photograph similar to the previous examples of harmful behavior? First, it is quite possible to put yourself at physical risk when taking pictures due to inexperience or quick judgement. For example, one might hike further on a trail, climb higher on a tree, or swim farther than normal under the promise of a cool photograph. Pushing yourself athletically past previous experiences is a healthy way to improve fitness, but it should not come at the hands of poor judgement or because of social media.

Additionally, you could unintentionally damage nature and wildlife. Trampling plants, carving trees, snapping branches, picking flowers, and otherwise disturbing federal, state, or private land is against National Park guidelines where plants are protected by law. Citations and tickets can be issued for the illegal collection of plants, among other things like crossing property lines.

In an effort to educate its users on the relationship between wildlife exploitation and posting to the platform, the Instagram Help Center provides language about environmental considerations and interactions with wild animals. They advise being mindful of the environment around you and note that it is never worth a few likes to risk damage to your surroundings.

Suggestions to consider for healthy, safe, and secure Instagramming:
  • Take a step back and read the situation:

    • Much like thinking before posting or sharing an article on social media, stop and think before taking a picture. Assess if you are able to take the photograph from a safe location. Are you being respectful to your environmental surroundings and of other people? Will any plants, animals, or other humans be harmed to capture your image? Is there a secondary way to capture the same image without putting yourself in harm?

  • Set and reinforce family social media guidelines:

    • As a parent, discuss with your child the rules they should follow when posting content online. Don’t forget to discuss the actual action of taking pictures or video. And if your child does put themselves in a risky situation in order to post something to Instagram, treat it as a learning lesson. Calmly explain why their behavior scared you and don’t forget to enforce the family’s agreed upon rules. Remove your child’s tech privileges when necessary.

  • Praise and Support Creativity:

    • Instagram is for fun! It is an excellent resource for gathering ideas, gaining inspiration, and learning about new places, culture, and things to do in your city. Check out tagged locations on photos or search for a specific restaurant to see countless examples of user generated content. Invite your children to participate in information sharing on Instagram and encourage them to be their genuine self online. Spread good intentions and be sure both you and they are posting snapshots in a positive, safe way.

Written by

Erin McCowey

Erin McCowey is the Program Coordinator for the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) where she curates the Good Digital Parenting (GDP) program, supporting parents and educators as they navigate the digital world with their children and students. Erin coordinates resources and external contributions to GDP; publishing blogs, parenting resources, and parenting tools. In her work with GDP, she aims to boost the work of other experts in this space so that parents, educators, and other stakeholders are able to benefit from an overall greater digital experience. Erin contributes to FOSI’s events and communications practice, and regularly consults with member organizations on their parenting related resources.

Erin studied Political Science and International Studies at the University of Michigan, graduating in 2017. She joined FOSI as the Program Assistant in 2018 after previously serving as a Program Intern in the summer of 2016.