With social media, eavesdropping has never been easier (or more hilarious)

One big difference between talking to people in real time and interacting on social media is the ease of one-sided interactions, or “parasocial interaction” as it’s known academically (yes, people do research on this). Before Facebook, you would have needed to burgle somebody’s house if you wanted to see their holiday bikini photos without them knowing, but now you can check them out at your leisure, in full privacy, while they remain none the wiser. While following our favorite celebrities or reading our friends’ wall posts is mostly harmless, there’s some potential for damage: stalking ex-partners on social media is not only objectively creepy, research has shown it’s emotionally unhealthy. In spite of all this, we still delight in peering through our neighbor’s virtual windows.

Hot Dudes Reading

Everyone has a secret voyeur streak, and some smart Instagrammers have capitalized on this, featuring candid shots paired with smart captions. The ‘grams are mostly harmless, but still a little dubious: after all, the people pictured here didn’t know they were being photographed, and didn’t consent to the shots being published. But could anyone really object to being featured on @hotdudesreading?

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Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 2.04.52 PMOh, and they have a book out:

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How Meta.


Miserable Men

Being described as “miserable” is hardly the same as being outed as a literate hottie, but somehow @miserable_men, which features men waiting outside shops for their significant others, inspires empathy rather than snickers. They’re just so… miserable. The poignancy appeals to common human experiences;  who hasn’t been forced to wait somewhere that they really didn’t want to be? Or maybe they remind us of the men in our life who show their love by sacrificing their time, even if they’d rather be literally anywhere else.

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In a time when election rhetoric is ramping up and Trump continues to play on anti-Muslim paranoia, @miserable_men remind us that some things are common to all cultures. Perhaps we are more alike than different.

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People You Know Are the Worst

Knowing that we all share certain experiences reminds us that we’re not alone, and Instagrams that allow a peek into candid moments in other’s lives are popular because they make us feel a little bit better about our own unglamorous existence. The fact that our house is a messy wreck doesn’t bother us as much when we know that our neighbor’s house is messy too.

For example, parenthood can be an incredibly hard and isolating, but @kidsaretheworst reassures moms and dads that they’re not the only ones looking at their spawn and thinking “WTF?”

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But however messy, inconsiderate and unsettling kids can be, they give us hope for the future (well, sometimes). Just like the inspiring hope displayed in this offering from @textsfromyourex:

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 2.08.19 PM @textfromsfromyourex have been so successful, they’ve started a spin off blog featuring equally awful texts from users’ family members.

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Speaking of family, writer Kate E Siegel has an Instagram goldmine in the form of her stereotypical Jewish mom.

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Well, almost stereotypical: I never heard the one about the Jewish mother who used to deal mescaline:

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@textsfromyourex and @crazyjewishmom prove that Instagram and text based images work great together, so long as the text has something original to say. That said, plenty of Instagrams rely on “inspiring” (and trite) quotes, rendered in fancy typography on stock photography. @_eavedropper takes this concept and steps it up a notch by taking bizarre overheard snippets of conversation, and using them to create beautiful calligraphy art.

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 This Instagrammer has thought of a particularly clever way to cash in on their popularity: online calligraphy classes.

The common thread here is that these Instagrams let us indulge our inner voyeur, but go beyond that, by taking an original idea and presenting it in a way that reminds us about our own life. Online voyeurism can make us feel worse if it’s acted out by stalking our exes or successful classmates, but these Instagrams, while entertaining, also remind us that we’re not alone.

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(Image credit: andrewhallpics/flickr)