I was recently hanging out with a friend, laying in bed scrolling through Instagram. I started revealing some of my weird and secretive Instagram habits. We then started discussing our saved photos, wondering specifically what the saves said about us.
I handed her my phone and she burst out laughing, “I can’t even tell you how much all of these embody your essence. Like, this is fully you: weird vagina videos and funny cat photos.” When she handed me her phone, I saw images of smoothies, healthy dinner recipes, and videos with quick workout routines.
I was floored at how drastically different her little squares looked compared to mine. The saved photos showed the different aspects of both of us so clearly, as if our phones were holding mirrors to the inner workings of our minds. It felt like my photos neatly displayed the different layers of my personality and things that I like — some embarrassing, some empowering, and some just hilarious.
Mixed in with cat videos, my saves highlight a very strong obsession with birth. It’s probably the first thing you would notice looking through them: water births, c-sections, and plenty of crowning, bloody vaginas. These messy and raw birth videos, as well as bloody menstrual cup images, tell that I am trying to shift the narrative around my body: accepting any fluids my body creates as normal and being in awe of what my body is capable of today or in the future. You’ll also see plenty of images of cellulite and women proudly showing off their bodies, tremendously helping me redefine my relationship with my body. I’m moving away from trying to obtain a thigh gap, and getting closer to accepting every kind of texture, dipple, lump, scar, and stretch mark on my body. Sprinkled in between body images, you will find quotes about equality, funny feminist memes, and many educational videos about race and white privilege. What my saved photos say about me, from birth to race, is that I am a continuous work in progress, trying to unlearn years of conditional messaging about what my body is capable of and what I’m capable of changing in this world.
Since Instagram added direct messaging, stories, and saving photos, the app has become much more than what it originally set out to do. It is not just a place where you share photos in real time, your habits can also reveal a lot about yourself. Look at the things you like, share, and especially, save.
This all got me thinking about how much I wish to see other people’s saved photos. So, I asked four ON OUR MOON writers to answer this question:
What do your saved Instagram photos say about you?
Read on and then check out your saves to tell us what yours say about you!
I have a lot of saved photos of skin care products and skin procedures. I became fixated with nourishing my face and skin a couple of years ago, after battling a fierce outbreak of adult acne. I even tried to take a break from makeup in an attempt to heal my skin. One night, laying on my couch scrolling through Instagram, with a tea tree oil mask settling into my pores, I discovered a woman who swears by monthly facials and diet as the key to managing her own skin. She described the importance of taking care of your skin with products that support the type of skin you have, and looking at acne face charts that reveal that the location of your breakouts might be triggered by inflammation elsewhere in the body. I now have this chart saved on my phone and reference it whenever I have a breakout or skin inflammation. The only issue with following skin influencers? While a lot of their tips and tricks are great, my budget doesn’t always support their suggestions. The other day, I came across a woman’s account who was reviewing a $500 cleanser! I skipped saving the picture of that one. I’ve come across so many women who promote “natural” beauty, but somehow always manage to look incredible. These women look nothing like me, and make it hard for me to embrace what I look like naturally — something I’m trying so hard to change. Luckily, there are real and raw accounts like @rawbeautytalks, and I have a lot of their pictures saved on my phone as a reminder that beauty comes in all forms, including mine.
My saved photos tell an accurate story of everything I am at this very moment. I’m deeply invested in mental health advocacy and enjoy scrolling through black liberation content as a source of inspiration. I love a good vintage aesthetic and am constantly on the hunt for organizations that are ethically working to dismantle patriarchal systems. I live my life by my astrology report. I’m engaged and dreaming of eloping, and am really unsure of my wedding dress but refuse to look at dresses out of my (minuscule) budget. I’m not a mom yet, but I have a collection of saved photos that encompass different facets of motherhood. Like the photo of mother who buys her child books that celebrate various cultures and customs, and the one of the mom who wears a Doen dress when picking up her kids from school. The mom who might take her daughter to a Kendrick Lamar concert, à la Beyonce, and the mom who teaches her son to be an activist and fight hard for what is right. I also have saved photos of women giving birth: close ups of babies crowning, bloody, and covered in the many different fluids I don’t know the names of, and vaginas stretched far further than I ever knew to be possible, giving breath to new life. These photos make me uncomfortable, but I turn to them because I hope I can condition myself to become comfortable with the beauty of birth. I was inspired to explore these photos both from getting to know some truly incredible doulas and from Alex sharing with me that she loves to watch birth videos. Birth scares me, but I’m trying to normalize the idea for myself. And then, I have saved posts that tell the stories of different birth outcomes. The posts that share the mothers who get their rainbow baby or those who share candidly about their struggle to conceive.
At the core of it, my saved photos reveal my hope. My hope for our mental health system. My hope for my wedding, for my soon-to-be marriage. My hope to become a mother one day. And my acceptance that though all might not be gold, there’s beauty regardless.
I mean, I’ve known this about myself for a long time, but if my saved photos confirm anything, I’m obsessed with different hair colors and cuts. I change my hair all the time. I’ve had it cut into a pixie, wore it long, in a bob, with bangs, blonde, brown, and even an accidental reddish purplely brown (never again). I clearly want another tattoo, probably a hydrangea or maybe an oyster shell. It will likely be stick and poke if the photos tell me anything. To no one’s surprise, I have an insane amount of shoe and jewelry posts saved (as if I don’t already own enough of either). But the real surprise in my saves? My obsession with bathroom tile and bathtubs. I’ve always been a #tubtime gal, but who knew my love for soaking in water went as far as appreciating the tub and tile itself? I guess it all means I like adorning myself with things — which actually makes me wonder, am I as comfortable in my skin as I think I am? Or rather, am I finally embracing who I am by literally wearing myself on my sleeves? I’d like to think it’s the latter, which is supported by all the saved self-help quotes and poems about accepting one’s self. Like the photo of an atticus poem that @kalypto.co posted, “Watch carefully, / the magic that occurs, / when you give a person, / just enough comfort, / to be themselves.”
My saved Insta photos are equal parts technological ineptitude and paranoia. I have viewed tons of photos that I would have loved to save, but I didn’t know how to at the time (cue me trying to right click, double tap, etc. to copy and save a photo onto my phone. I resorted to screenshots.) When I finally realized bookmarking equals saving, I became hyper aware of what I saved said about me. I was also convinced someone would see what I saved and judge me for it. I have four saved photos. My first was a sarcastic, but relatable, comic strip about the perils of applying and wearing nail polish. This was my attempt to create space for myself to have fun and be less rigid about letting a single thing define me completely. My second is a saved guest blog post I wrote for a friend’s website. When I felt guilty about saving and being proud of my work, I then saved a reminder from @justdavia to practice self-gratitude — something I rarely do because I am hard on myself. The last one is of the Sequoia Retreat Center in California, which inspires me to continue striving and applying for writer retreats and residencies in this new phase of my life. I can see myself saving more photos that allow me to celebrate myself and remind me to keep moving forward.