The Great Instagram Experiment 


Over the past year I’ve being conducting an informal experiment on Instagram. Starting on January 1, 2016 I challenged myself to post a picture to Instagram every single day of the year. Even though it was challenging at times I kept up with it and never missed a day. The idea started when I saw the compilation of my 9 most liked images of 2015. Of the 9 pictures I was only in 7 of them and there was only 1 picture of me alone. Most of the pictures were of me and my boyfriend Russ which resulted in him also being in 7 of the pictures. My first instinct tugged at my low self-esteem and I instantly assumed that everyone’s favorite part of my account was my boyfriend and therefore I must be irrelevant. Before letting the negative shame spiral go too far I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and take action to change things. Whenever there is a problem I want to fix I always start by looking at what I can change or possibly do better. I considered the fact that I might not be putting in a solid effort with the app. Maybe there was a link between popularity and frequency. If I used the app more maybe I would get more attention. I had only been a casual user in the past so inconsistency might be to blame. If there was a secret algorithm that boosted visibility based on how often pictures where posted I was going to find it. I decided to give my thesis a try to see if I could win Instagram without being the hottest in the room. After a year of posts I learned a lot and got answers to all of my questions.  

At the beginning of the year when I started this experiment I investigated techniques for gaining followers and likes. For example I read a blog advising that posting pictures at the same time every day helps increase stats. It was also recommended to post pictures earlier in the day because most users look at Instagram early rather than later. Even though weekends tend to provide the most picture taking opportunities it’s not when people are actually looking at the app the most. In fact Instagram reports that week days, Tuesday morning specifically, is when the most people are using the app. It was useful information to learn. Other ways to connect with people such as using a lot of hashtags and following an excessive number of accounts to try and get them to follow you back felt a little less genuine and manufactured so I skipped those. After a couple weeks of consistent posting I did start to noticed a gradual increase in likes and followers. It was small but still an improvement.  

The more I used Instagram the more I noticed the 10% threshold. Regardless of how many followers a person had, it was difficult to get more than 10% of those followers to like a single post. When someone had hundreds of likes on a picture I would check their follower count and do the math. The ratio was almost always very similar. After looking at accounts of all different types I realized that the average post got 5% to 6% of a person’s followers to double tap. A special post, the type that will later be included in the best of the year, only got about 8% to 10% of a person’s followers to double tap. That means that about 90% of people ignore most posts. Either that or 90% of users rarely look at IG and therefore just miss a post all together. It was the great equalizer and I got some comfort to know that no matter what the follower count is we all are getting the same level of interaction.

In March I started to see the cracks in my experiment start to show. While out at a bar during TBRU I posted a picture of 4 of my friends. When the picture started to rack up tons of likes I was shocked because it broke all the rules that I had read about. There were no hashtags and it was posted late on Saturday night which in theory was the least ideal time for a post. The common denominator I was trying to ignore and overcome was staring me in the face. They were all hot. My 4 wonderful friends were and are all very good looking and incidentally I was not in the picture. At the time I shrugged it off as a freak occurrence and continued to tell myself that I would win in the end. I was certain this experiment would pay off. There must be a way to get attention on IG without being the hottest guy in the room. 

Now that the year has come to an end I looked my top 9 most liked images of the year. After 154 selfies I was hopeful that my efforts would pay off and I would end up being a bigger focus of my own account. Unfortunately when I saw the results it just confirmed what I had learned but tried to ignore over the past year. Of the 9 most liked pictures this year I was only in 5 of them with on 1 being a picture of me alone. All my diligent posting efforts resulted in me being included in even less pictures than the year before. Clearly success equals cuteness and there is no big secret to winning the IG game because it all boils down to looks. By the way that TBRU picture from March was included as one of the top 9. What I learned was that Instagram is not the level playing field I wanted it to be. Instead the app is just another reflection of our culture. A cute person (or even a dog) will rack up followers and likes much quicker than an average Joe like myself. While I consider myself to be handsome my looks don’t make me stand out from the crowd and therefore I guess I was fighting a losing battle from the start.

I must admit I’m really looking forward to January when I don’t need to post a picture every day. However after this year long process I still have a great fondness for Instagram. Even though it’s not perfect I like it better than Facebook because it’s all visual. It is and will continue to be my escape from the self-important political rants and ‘pick a number to get something special in your inbox’ bullshit of Facebook. Instagram is a shallow app ruled by hot people and I’m totally ok with that. In the end I’d much rather look at a picture of a wanna-be power lifter than read about his opinions on Aleppo.  


Instagram Stats for 2016: 

  • Number of pictures posted: 428
  • Number of followers gained: approx 600
  • Number of selfies (pictures of me alone or with Phoebe the dog): 154
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2016 Year In Review

Reviewing the best of 2016

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Best of the YearHamilton

What can I say about Hamilton that hasn’t already been said. The hit Broadway musical is not only as good as you’ve heard, it’s better. I’ve listened to the cast recording none stop all year long and I truly believe it’s one of the greatest works of our generation. It’s educational, entertaining, and enlightening.

  • Favorite Upbeat Song- Schuyler Sisters
  • Favorite Emotional Song- Burn
  • Favorite Historical Song- Election of 1800
  • Favorite Rap Battle- Cabinet Battle #1
  • I Cry Every Time- It’s Quiet Uptown

 

Music

Song of the YearAdele’s Send My Love to Your New Lover. This song came out early in the year and has managed to stick around. It was hard to turn on the radio in 2016 and not hear it on several stations. It stuck around as other songs came and went which made me happy since it was my instant favorite on 25.

 

Best VideoBeyonce’s Formation. The imagery in this video is epic. Beyonce went from throwing up middle fingers to laying on the roof of a sinking New Orleans police car. This was not the polite “I want everyone to like me” Beyonce. This was bad ass take charge Beyonce and I loved it.

 

Hidden Power HouseSia. With her signature face hiding wig Sia has had a great year. When she performed songs from her 2016 album on Saturday Night Live I was skeptical. However after listening to the songs a few more time I have come to love them. Alive was my personal favorite but Cheap Thrills and The Greatest were also stand out hits.

 

Sophomore SuccessThe Weeknd. When an artist gets huge success from an album it can be very hard to maintain the same level of popularity on the follow up. The Weeknd not only avoided that curse but did it in remarkably short time releasing Star Boy just over a year after his 2015 breakout hit Beauty Behind the Madness.

 

Spotify Streaming KingDrake. Drake won a landslide victory (for the second year in a row) when he came in as the number 1 most streamed artist on Spotify in 2016 with 4.7 billion streams. He beat his own wining record of 1.8 billion streams last year. No other man or woman came close.

 

Best Dirty Song in DisguiseAriana Grande’s Side to Side. Like The Weeknd, Grande’s Dangerous Woman album was a follow up to her massively successful 2014 hit My Everything. With her bunny ears on she sung her way in our hearts with her hit Side to Side. The song was so subtle that most people didn’t realize it was about getting fucked really good. Those bunny ears also became a popular Halloween costume for gay boys around the world.

 

Honorable MentionLady Gaga’s pink Joanne hat. At first I wasn’t impressed with Lady Gaga’s Joanne album. However I instantly fell in love with the pink hat she wore on the cover of the album. When I realized the hat cost $800 I decided to give up my dream of owning it and actually listen to the music. Over time I must say Joanne has seriously grown on me and become a favorite. The song Million Reasons is clearly the standout that tugs at every heart string.

 

TV

Performance of the YearSarah Paulson as Marcia Clark in The People vs OJ Simpson. There was no other single performance on TV that was better in 2016. Her performance could easily stand up against any Best Actress nominee at the Oscars. The whole mini series was amazing in fact. If you missed it believe me it’s worth the full 10 hours. Every actor deserves applause for their performance.

 

Best Reality Show Ever CreatedRuPaul’s Drag Race & All Stars 2. In 2016 we were spoiled with two seasons of Drag Race. RuPaul’s Drag Race season 8 early in the year and then Drag Race All Stars 2 over the summer. All Stars 2 was my gay fantasy come true. Alaska hitting the Runway as Lil Poundcake, Alyssa Edwards dancing as Annie Oakley, and Katya owning the runway in a aqua marine Esther Williams fantasy. Tatianna returned and Adore left. Every episode was better then the last. Earlier in the year we watched Season 8 which introduced us to the funny and talented Thorgy Thor and the outrageously talented Kim Chi. Bob The Drag Queen won the crown but I suspect we’ll see many season 8 faces on All Stars 3.

  • The Ultimate All Star– Alaska. From the beginning the All Star crown was Alaska’s to lose. Since her time on season 5 she has crushed the competition and become the best none winner the series has ever had.
  • Miss Congeniality– Alyssa Edwards. Alaska may have won the crown but Alyssa Edwards won our hearts as the funniest part of All Stars 2. She brought joy and laughs to every episode. BEAST!
  • The Musician– Thorgy Thor. Thorgy won my heart early in season 8 as the funny queen who was constantly out shined by her friend Bob. When I got to see video of her amazing violin skills it only made me love her more.
  • The Artist– Kim Chi. No other drag queen has shown us such astounding runway looks. She is leaps and bounds ahead of anyone else providing runway looks that were both exciting and emotionally moving. When she dressed up as her mother it was incredibly moving and beautiful.

 

Best Season FinaleGame of Thrones. The first 5 seasons Game of Thrones moved slowly and steadily along from episode to episode. The glacially slow pace is what the show became know for. Now that they’ve caught up to the books the pace is much quicker much to everyone’s delight. The season finale was one jaw dropping surprise after another.

 

Favorite History Lesson The Crown. My most recent obsession has been this historical Netflix drama that follows the life and career of Elizabeth 2. (the current queen of England) Season 1 dealt with the early years of her reign and provided incredible insight into many of the background details that I am too young to know. As one of the most expensive shows in Netflix history they have already started shooting season 2 and the whole series is planned for 6 seasons total.

 

Best BBC ImportGreat British Baking Show. Whether you call it the Great British Baking Show of The Great British Bake Off it’s still the one of my absolute favorite shows. The calm and friendly atmosphere is like a warn escape from this years’ ugly reality. The first season is on Netflix and there are newer season shown in PBS in the summer months. If you can’t wait for new seasons, ABC is currently airing The Great American Baking Show which is an American version of the same show hosted by Nia Vardalos. I must admit it’s a very respectable substitute.

 

Digital 

Best Late Night Segment OnlineJames Corden’s Carpool Karaoke. It’s simply delightful. Look up Lady Gaga, Adele, & Michelle Obama.

 

Best MemeMe vs Me featuring Kermit and Miss Piggy

 

Best YouTube ShowUnhhhh with Trixie Mattel and Katya. I always liked Trixie Mattel but honestly I never knew why people made such a fuss over her. This web series made me realize how funny and amazing she is. She and Katya make a perfect comedic pair and shout out to those editors for all the hilarious visuals. Trixie forever!

 

Funniest PodcastMy Dad Wrote a Porno. Hands down this podcast is one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard and it’s caused me to laugh out loud at work multiple times. If you are not familiar with Belinda Blinked you need to download and listen to it now.


Missed Movements– Pokémon Go, Stranger Things, David Bowie, and Prince. There were many things this year that I simply wasn’t interested in or apart of. I didn’t play Pokémon Go, my only interest in Stranger Things was the return of Winona Ryder, and Bowie and Prince never made an impact on me. While they deserve a mention unfortunately I am not the person to do so.

 

 

Slacktivism


Unfortunately tragedies and injustices have filled our news feeds for much of 2016. The year brought a crushing election defeat, a pipeline standoff, and a devastating mass shooting in  Orlando. As our hearts go out to all the victims in need we look for any possible way to help. Actually let me re-phrase that, we look for the easiest way to help. The way that requires the absolute least amount of effort. Forget volunteering, is there a way we can help by clicking a button on our phones? That way we can shit on the toilet and still check-in at the North Dakota standoff sight and feel like we’re being justice warriors. It’s important that we can show everyone how kind we are on social media but that doesn’t mean we have to go out and actually do anything. Minimum effort and (perceived) maximum reward. Welcome to era of the slacktivist. 

Social media is the one and only tool of the slacktivist and the photo filter for a cause on Facebook is the perfect example of slactivism at its best. Just by clicking a button your profile photo will tell all your friends that you are a good person. We had rainbows for Orlando and French flags for Paris. While the idea has good intentions at its heart it’s by far the laziest form of support we can give. A visual show of support is nice but I doubt the real victims see your photo much less get comfort from it. Maybe I’m wrong but if I had a loved one killed in Orlando a rainbow filter would not make me feel better. Personally my favorite part of the filter for a cause phenomenon is when everyone starts to switch their photos back to normal. I mean I’m totally united with Orlando but this picture from last night is too cute to go to waste. I’ve been guilty of being a slacktivist just like everyone else. I had so much anxiety over this election yet it still wasn’t enough to get me to go out and get involved in the process. I could have volunteered at a voting site or donated to Hillary’s campaign. Nope, I just talked about it to like minded friends and posted a picture of Hillary on Instagram. I’m sure she appreciates my valuable contribution. I mean that Instagram picture got 37 likes. You’re welcome Hillary. Yes you’d also be correct to assume that most slacktivists are also self righteous. If you try and tell a them that their profile photo doesn’t matter they’ll get very defensive because to them profile photos really do change lives.

This topic inspired me to take action. I wasn’t sure where to start so I set up a reoccurring  monthly donation to charity. I know it would be best if I volunteered but I’m starting out small. Going into the new year I hope that complacency doesn’t take over because we need to stay active. I challenge everyone to take action in anyway they now how as long as it goes beyond social media. We are so busy complaining that 2016 was awful that we are failing to realize that 2017 might actually be much worse and an angry rant on Facebook isn’t going change that. Donations of time or money are what matters.  Let’s all do our part to help fight against the urge to be slacktivists. 

 

 

You’re Tacky But I Don’t Hate You


Tacky (adjective): Showing poor taste or quality. 

There is a lot of noise made about what is and isn’t offensive. I’m sure if you search the internet there are lengthy articles about the current state of political correctness and our society’s penchant toward the offensive. Personally I’m a huge fan of political correctness and I think it’s gets an undeserved bad rap. I tend to think a lack of language is partly to blame for the problem. There are not enough words to describe the complexities of the situation. Gray areas exist such as when a person isn’t truly offended themselves however they see something wrong with a statement. In that case offensive really isn’t appropriate because no one was actually offended but it still isn’t totally cool either. I thought about it and I purpose we bring back the word tacky. Tacky behavior or language usually comes from a place of bad judgment and ignorance rather than genuine hate and malice. Here’s an example of when to use the word tacky:

Recently I was listening to the podcast Alison Rosen Is Your New Best Friend and she was interviewing comedian Greg Fitzsimmons. Right of the bat Greg started talking about a gay friend. He used adjectives like fruity and light in the loafers. At one point he took a second to think of a better word to describe the man and he landed on the word faggy. Yes faggy. Their whole conversation continued to be a minefield because they were talking about gay men (without any gay men present) and making so many incorrect stereotypical assumptions my mind was spinning. It reminded me of that one straight friend who’s been told about Grindr hookups so now he thinks he has complete insight into the entire gay world. I wasn’t offended and in fact the only emotion I felt was a twinge of disappointment. This is a situation that I would call tacky. Greg  Fitzsimmons said some incredibly tacky things. Do I think Greg is homophobic? No. I think he was trying to be funny and used astoundingly poor taste in order to make a point. No real harm done because he just being tacky. As we’ve seen society can sometimes overuse the word offensive and that’s why we need the word tacky. I challenge you to use tacky more often when you encounter these types of situations. When someone posts an inappropriate comment on a Facebook picture of your family: tacky. When you hear someone blame all the world’s problems on millennials: tacky. When a friend posts outlandish bullshit just to get attention: tacky. Like so many overused buzzwords before it (diva, genius, literally) the word offensive has a purpose and place but it isn’t always the best word for every situation. It’s time for tacky to make a comeback.

 

Dear Netflix 


Dear Netflix,

First let me congratulate you on your continued success. Even though you started out as a video rental service you’ve morphed into the leading streaming service for original content. My recent obsession has been The Crown and I can’t wait for season 2. You’ve influenced our culture and changed the way we watch television. Your policy of releasing entire seasons at once also brought the idea of binge watching into our lives. Great shows like Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, and Stranger Things have made you a true competitor with HBO. Now that your original content has proven its worth I would like to recommend that you start building up other areas of your catalogue.

While your service has become the go to standard for online content it still lacks in the area of classic television. One of the things I like best about cable is landing on a marathon of a classic show that I’ve seen a hundred times and that I’d watch one hundred more. I’ve seen every episode of The Golden Girls at least 30 times and I want to watch each one 30 more. As a viewer sometimes it’s nice just to have the television on in the background while I do something else and a classic show is the perfect fit. I don’t have to pay close attention yet I can still easily follow along. I know you are constantly bringing full seasons of current cable shows to your site but don’t forget to bring the old ones too. For example there are several shows that I want to watch over and over again only to discover that they don’t exist online other than to pay by episode on iTunes:

  • Will & Grace
  • Murphy Brown 
  • Designing Women
  • The Golden Girls
  • The Carol Burnett Show
  • Looney Tunes

Those are just some of the shows I wish were more available for streaming but I also have a lot of friends who love science fiction fantasy and I’m sure they’d love to see classic episodes of Saturday morning cartoons like Transformers and Thundercats. I feel like this idea is simple, cheap, and would be a big hit with many viewers.

While I have you I would also like to make a push for more classic movies. Every so often I like to watch classic movies that I’ve never seen before because I feel they are part of cinematic history and I want to be an educated viewer. In the past I’ve sought out movies like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof only to find that the only way I can watch it is to pay for it on iTunes. My current obsession is to see Cabaret staring Liza Minnelli and Joel Gray. It doesn’t exist anywhere except again for iTunes. This leads me to my last point. I know your focus tends only to be on shows but don’t forget your roots as a movie rental service. It seems like the movie side of your business hasn’t been given the attention it deserves in the past few years. Looking into the future it’s easy to predict that iTunes might start a streaming option for their already enormous catalogue of movies. If they did so they would take a serious chunk of your business. Whenever I look for a specific movie, 90% of the time I can’t find it on Netflix. I know I’d much rather pay a monthly fee for iTunes knowing they would have a movie when I go look for it. While I know you can’t totally match iTunes for content, you can at least start to diversify and get ahead before they realize the goldmine they’re sitting on.

To wrap up please continue to create wonderful original content but don’t forget you can also look to the past to fill in some of the areas where you’re lacking.

Sincerely, 

The Gay Gasp 

 

How to Find a Boyfriend 

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I’ve been with my wonderful boyfriend Russ for 4 years however before that I was single for my entire life other than a short 3 month long distance thing in my early 20s. Trust me when I tell you that I know the struggle of being perpetually single because I’ve been there and made a lot of mistakes along the way. This is what I’ve learned.

  1. There’s no right and wrong way to do it. Ask couples you know how they met you’ll learn that there are a variety of ways a relationship can start. You’ll also learn that while they’ve stayed together the beginning wasn’t always a smooth storybook romance. Stories of a break up early on or a horrible first date are just some of the unconventional things you’ll hear. Try not to have a rigid script in your head of how things should go.
  2. Work on yourself. If you’ve been single for a long time really consider the fact that you may just be happier being alone. Although the idea of a relationship is nice the actual reality isn’t always for everyone.
  3. Use every resource available. Look as much on Growlr as you do when going out to bars. You’re going to get a lot of bad advice from all directions. A lot of guys over 40 will endlessly shit on hook up aps due to their own discomfort with technology’s increasing persistence in our lives. Younger guys will denounce bars as impossible to meet new people because they’ve grown up online and don’t know how to talk in person. Treat advice like a buffet and take samples from everyone as neither side is right or wrong. Fun fact, Russ and I first saw each other at a bar but we didn’t talk until later that night on Growlr. 
  4. Work on yourself. Do you have an appropriate level of emotional availability? In the past I tended to not show enough emotion because I always wanted to come off as cool and collected. I’ve also met guys who tend to dump every emotion and feeling on you in the first conversation. The key to success is finding a healthy balance. Be available but not codependent.
  5. Stay busy. Have hobbies and interests beyond finding a man. If single is the first word you use to describe yourself than you’re probably a little too focused on it. Think of it this way: If I was going to make a movie about you would you have a story-line beyond your search for a guy? Is it the only thing you talk about? Join a club, play a sport, volunteer. Obsessing over your dating life is like a nail in the coffin.
  6. Work on yourself. Do you need therapy? Talking to a neutral third party can do wonders to help see thing clearly. I’m a huge proponent of talking to a therapist.
  7. Have standards not requirements. I notice a lot of guys get stuck on a list of requirements based on a guy’s physical traits (age, weight, race) but never look at how he acts. As time goes by the guy who is the ideal weight and age turns to be a total asshole. It’s seems like no one ever lists kindness and decency as requirements. Don’t be so strict with the physical requirements because they can blind you to the personal realities.
  8. Work on yourself. Are you hung up on a guy from the past who’s comfortable but bad for you? Being hung up on someone from your past (or present) will subconsciously hold you back  until you get that skeleton out of your closet.
  9. Get to know people. A good person with a sense of humor doesn’t always look his best in pictures. Be open to getting to know someone before you write them off. Personally I’ve found that some of the guys who I’ve had the strongest first attraction to ended up being the most toxic long-term. Also attraction can change and develop the more you get to know someone. I’ve also met plenty of guys who I completely overlooked who ended up being unexpectedly great. 
  10. Work on yourself. If you’re searching for someone to complete you then you’ll be searching forever. Finding a boyfriend is great but it won’t fix your life. You’ll bring all the problems you had before into your relationship.
  11. Change. Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you’ve been single for many years it’s time to shake things up. For example, if you already know every guy in your city them maybe it’s time to find a new city. A lot of guys wait to make a big move until they’ve found someone. That only adds pressure to a new relationship and you start out behind the eight ball. Instead consider moving to a new city while you’re still single and finding love once you’re there. It worked for me.
  12. Work on yourself. Time for some tough love. If you’re perpetually single it’s because of you not them. I tell you this from personal experience. While other factors hindered my love life the one major reason I was single for so long was my own bullshit. I had to work on myself first. As RuPaul says, “If you can’t love yourself how the hell are you going to love somebody else.”
  13. Get ready for a long road. With all that said, you can work on everything in your life and that doesn’t mean a boyfriend will just magically appear. It’s still going to be a frustrating journey ahead filled with a lot of boring first dates. Stay strong.