How to Be a Polite Human on Instagram

I practiced for the school spelling bee for weeks in the fifth grade, and when the big day came, I spelled my way to safety through a dozen rounds. Eventually it was down to me and one other kid, standing in the front of the auditorium while the whole school sat and watched. My opponent had just flubbed a word, and if I spelled the next one correctly, I’d win the whole thing. A kindergartner in the front row held her breath while I walked up to the microphone.

“Corral,” I said. “C-O-R-R-A-L. Corral.”

Flag_Blank (1).jpg

Pictured: a dramatic pause.

The principal said, “Correct,” and the room blew up. The kindergartner screamed and jumped up and down. In the back of the auditorium, my class stood up and cheered. I turned away from the mic to smile like a maniac into my fist, and a photographer for the local paper caught it on camera and put me on the front page of that week’s issue. My classmates carried me back to our room on their shoulders. Nerds.

I got knocked out of the bee at the county level a couple of weeks later (P-I-L-L-I-O-N! I can spell it now! It’s not too late, is it?), but for a few days there, I was on top of the world. And although I’d always had a soft spot for words before, after that win I became a dedicated word nerd.

I tell you all of this for two reasons:

  1. To brag about how I can spell “corral” and “pillion.” I can even use them in sentences.
  2. To explain that I am not a visual thinker. At all. I’ll write you a paragraph in a heartbeat, but if you ask me to tell you what three-dimensional shape a particular two-dimensional figure would fold into, I will ask you to take your two-dimensional figure and shove it.

Because we’re not here to talk about the fifth grade spelling bee. We’re here to talk about Instagram.

I love Twitter. I tolerate Facebook. I accept Pinterest’s existence, even if I remain perplexed by it. Instagram, with its strong visuals and occasionally horrifying filters, leaves me baffled.

One of the problems, I think, is that venerable platforms like Facebook have unwritten etiquette. People ignore the rules a lot, but they’re still there. Instagram doesn’t seem to have that yet. Or maybe the rules are so unwritten that no one knows they exist.

And so I, Stephanie, super-fan of etiquette and holder of a degree in internet, have taken it upon myself to write those rules here.


Technically my degree is in emerging media, but that’s just a fancy way to say internet.

Post like Emily (Post)

  1. Cool it with the hashtags. You don’t have to use 47 of them, but if you’re going to, at least make sure they’re relevant. Some of us scroll through #CatsOfInstagram expecting cats. In all honesty, some of us are only on Instagram for the cats. This is an entire social platform dedicated to sharing pictures of cats. AMAZING.
  2. Avoid gratuitous selfies. Oh, look! It’s you by a wall. Then you by a different wall. Then you by that first wall again but this time looking sort of distracted and thoughtful. The black and white filter you’ve applied definitely makes me want to read your poetry on LiveJournal.
  3. Don’t clog up everyone’s feed with a zillion pictures. Unless it is with pictures of cats. Or books. Or, better yet, cats on books!
  4. Quit digging for compliments. The next time I see someone post a glamorous shot of themselves with a caption like, “Didn’t sleep at all and I look like King Kong’s hairy mole LOL,” I am going to agree and then tag that person in a bunch of pictures of actual hairy moles.
  5. Keep your comments meaningful. Don’t be like this guy, who commented something annoyingly upbeat on what is clearly the world’s saddest photo:
  6. Don’t be a jerk, jerk. The Golden Rule of Social Media applies here, too: Tweet others as you wish to be tweeted. Don’t write mean comments. Don’t post unflattering photos of your friends. Don’t use that eye-rolling emoji. That guy is a bad influence.
  7. Stop creeping. One delightful thing I’ve discovered about Instagram is that if you are a lady and you put up a picture of any part of your face — even a close-up of those weird hairs between your eyebrows that you’re not sure if you should pluck or not — there’s a good chance that a man will comment something about how beautiful you are. Which is nice, sort of, except that then he goes back and likes the last five months of your photos, which is like being stalked by a time traveler.
  8. Don’t share close-ups of those weird hairs between your eyebrows that you’re not sure if you should pluck or not.
  9. How about some more pictures of cats, people? Why are you posting anything else at all?

Some questions remain: Should you politely like someone’s latest photo if they follow you? Is it polite to follow back? How far back is too far back when scrolling through someone’s photos? Does it depend on what your purpose is, or how awesome their life is, or if you used to date that person? Does he still secretly love me? He does, doesn’t he? Wait a minute, who is she? She looks mean, right? Whatever, where can I find more cat photos? OHMIGOD, HOW CUTE IS THAT ONE?!

These are pressing issues, and I promise I will find out the answers. Just as soon as I finish posting this one picture of my cats.

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 10.38.25 PM.png


P.S., You can follow me on Instagram, if you want. We’ll explore together!

Life inside a Slapstick Routine

On my way to work on Monday, I shut a part of my body in the car door.

This happens often, actually. I’ve shut my fingers in there more than once, and when I had long hair, it would get caught in the door all the time. I wouldn’t notice this until I whipped my head around to try to execute a tricky merge. I’d merge alright, but I’d have to check later for bald spots.

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 8.07.26 PM

This kind of thing has decreased by 4,000% since I got a pixie cut. I recommend them for that reason alone.

But Monday’s door smash was not like that. It wasn’t a finger, or a foot, or a long sweater on its way to becoming a much shorter sweater. No, the part of me that got shut in the door on Monday was my head.

It didn’t feel great. I knocked my glasses off of my face and bent the frames so that now they slip off my nose if I look too far down.

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 8.09.04 PM.png

Which is a bummer, because that’s where all the best stuff is.

There’s a goose egg under my eyebrow that won’t shrink, and I spent the hour afterwards gaining a deep understanding of why Yosemite Sam walks around in a daze with birds chirping around his head whenever someone drops an anvil on him.

When I called my boyfriend later, he looked up concussions symptoms for me.

What He Asked and What I Answered

  1. “Does it hurt?” “Very much.”
  2. “Did you pass out?” “…How would I know?”
  3. “Are you feeling pressure?” “Constantly. Mostly from myself but also society, I guess.”
  4. “Are you fatigued?” “It’s 3pm on a Monday.”

Eventually we determined that I was fine, just bruised and cranky. This did not prevent me from dramatically telling him goodbye in case I didn’t wake up the next morning.

I woke up. I’m totally fine, except for some lingering confusion. Namely, about how I managed to shut my head — a body part I rank in my top five — in the car door.

I wish I could say this is the first time I’ve done such a thing, but unfortunately it’s not even a little rare. I’m a member of the species Klutz, genus NoHandEyeCoordination ToSpeakOf. Things like this are my lot in life.

Perhaps you’ve seen my people misrepresented in Hollywood films. Anne Hathaway trips endearingly down a staircase at work, papers flying everywhere, right into James Marsden’s handsome arms. Sandra Bullock runs headlong into traffic after an adorable mutt she doesn’t even like that is already safely across the street tilting his head at her like she’s crazy. And she is crazy — crazy for Hugh Grant, who has just tackled her out of the way of a honking semi. Anne looks at James. Sandra looks at Hugh. They fall deeply in love.

As my frequently bruised brethren know, this is not how being clumsy works in real life. Oh, we fall into things all the time. It’s not love, though. It’s usually a ditch or an elevator shaft. My inability to move my body smoothly has never landed me a man. Sometimes I accidentally spit while choking on my own tongue, and that has landed on a man. That’s sort of similar.


I’d spit on him any time.

Why do I walk around shutting my head in doors, slipping on supposedly slip-proof surfaces, and ramming my hands into any sharp pieces of metal within a two-foot radius? I’m not sure, but I have some theories.

Why I Am Like This

  1. At the moment of my birth, the universe said, “Hmm. Weird forehead vein? Jaw that won’t open quite right? Skin that burns instantly in the sun? That’s ok, but you know what would really be good? If she also couldn’t walk right or open or hold things.”
  2. I have a superpower! I am Captain Trips-a-Lot. Able to catch objects invisible to everyone else with my foot! Less steady than a wonky table everyone hates! Marvel at her might, and then help her up off the floor!
  3. My senses of balance and knowing-where-my-body-is-in-relation-to-itself-and-other-objects are underdeveloped. I probably came from the caveman family who wrote think pieces about mammoth hunting, rather than the ones doing the actual hunting. It’s a miracle we survived this long.
  4. I have no understanding of the laws of physics.
  5. I subscribe to the sort of magical thinking that assumes those laws do not apply to me.

Whatever it is, it makes me feel a little better to know there are people out there like me. You’ll know us by the way we’re often on the floor. By the wounds on our knuckles and the unexplainable bruises on our shins. By the fear in our eyes when confronted with anything fragile, heavy, hot, sharp, or remotely resembling a cliff.

If you’re not one of us, all we ask is that you turn a blind eye to our zany pratfalls and provide us with ice or band-aids when we need them.

If you are one of us, please feel free to join our club! We meet the third Wednesday of every month, helmets are complimentary, and all the corners in our clubhouse are padded.


P.S. If you’re into misrepresentation in Hollywood, here is a Life & Steph lecture about hotties vs. attractive people, and also Johnny Depp.

How to Write a Blog and Earn Stacks of Cash


It’s me, Stephanie. I know, it’s been a while. I have a slightly different haircut now. I’m a little taller. I grew this impressive mustache. But behind this virile handlebar is the same old Stephanie, back at Listful Thinking and ready to blog.

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 10.34.28 PM

This picture is a few years old. You wouldn’t believe my mustache now.

That’s what we do here, right? Blogging? Haha, just kidding. I know that’s what we do here. I know blogging is a real thing and not a made-up, fake word that sounds like a euphemism for vomit.

I know all about blogging, from the part at the beginning where you have to perform a wedding ceremony for two leeches under a full moon, to the part at the end where you apply a coat of clear polish and then flap your hands around waiting for them to dry. Blogging! It’s just like riding a bike — you need two wheels and a tiny bell to really do it right.

OK, fine. I admit it. I forgot how to blog. It’s been too long since I’ve done it without relying on a YouTube video as a crutch. So I thought I’d get back in the game by writing a how-to guide that will hopefully guide me, too. I think it’s working so far. These words are coming together in something resembling a paragraph, artichoke hippo gazebo?

How to Write a Blog

  • Every blog needs a theme so that it’s not just you whining about your dumb life, pretending that lists are a theme and not a dumb gimmick. I always thought I’d be a good fashion blogger, for example.

    Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 10.34.28 PM

    We’ll be done looking at this when I say we’re done and not a minute before.

  • Now your blog needs a title, and preferably it should be a pun that vaguely relates to the theme. For example, if your blog is about yachts owned by members of parliament, you could call your blog “Boat of No Confidence.” I see that one blowing up.
  • Brainstorm an idea for your first post. I like to list every single thing that’s bothering me at that moment and then see if I can complain about any of them for 800 words.
  • Once you have an idea, it’s time to write a click-bait headline. With that in mind, I’d like to retitle this list.

This Blogger Has Thousands of Subscribers, Many of Whom Are Likely Robots. What’s Her Secret?

Doctors Hate This Blogger! (Because She’s Bad About Getting Regular Physicals, and Doctors Are Like, “Hey, Preventative Care Is Super Important!” and She’s Like, “Yeah, I Understand That but I Feel Nervous Around Tongue Depressors.”)

Hot Singles in Your Area Want to Know How to Blog. They’re More Than Pretty Faces and Great Bods, You Know.

  • Gather your supplies. You’ll need a working computer, something to drink, and knowledge that somewhere in your home there is candy that you shouldn’t eat because you’re not really even hungry, just bored. I also never sit down to write without a cat ready to instantly fall asleep on my keyboard the moment I hit a good flow.

    Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 10.42.46 PM.png

    I believe Hemingway had a similar process.

  • Start writing! Start with a strong hook, maybe about your mustache. Stick with short paragraphs since internet people don’t have the attention span for long ones. Don’t use lists. Those are my thing. I also call dibs on sentences.
  • Four paragraphs in, succumb to the cloud of despair that’s been rapidly closing in on you. Nothing is coming out right. You’re a joke and you should give up. Go order a pizza large enough to fill the hole in your heart where a successful blog should be.
  • Get extra cheese. This is a really sad pizza.
  • Have an idea while thinking about all that cheese. This blog post just might turn out yet! Cancel that sadness pizza and sit back down!
  • Get back up and go find the candy you can’t stop thinking about. Put it in your mouth. Can you focus now, you child?
  • Type! Type harder! I know you’re tired! I know that candy tasted weird! I know the cat keeps head-butting you for no reason at all! TYPE, DAMMIT.
  • OK, stop typing. That’s enough typing. That’s way too much typing, actually.
  • Go back and edit your work. If you’re like me, you used the word “just” 3,000 times in your post and spelled “illiterate” incorrectly without a trace of irony.
  • Add some relevant tags to your post so people can find it when they Google stuff. Cross your fingers that everyone is Googling really specific stuff.
  • Give it one last read-through before you hit the Publish button, making sure everything is spelled right and that you kept the promises you made in your ridiculous headline.


How to Earn Stacks of Cash

  • Invent Facebook.
  • Be Oprah.
  • Befriend J.K. Rowling, establishing a deep and genuine connection with that delightful lady, but always remembering to stay a little healthier than she is so you outlive her and she includes you in her will.

Yep. That’s how it’s done.

How to Talk to Babes

There are two kinds of people in this world:

  1. Those of us who struggle with talking to really, really, really good looking people
  2. Those of us who are liars

And within those two categories, there are two more kinds of people:

  1. Those of us who prefer wordy blog posts describing girls making weird noises
  2. Those of us who prefer watching videos of girls making weird noises

That’s just the way of the world. Once you know where you fall in those two categories, you’ll know how you approach any problem. Any problem related to really, really, really good looking people and girls who make weird noises, anyway.

If you found that you were the first kind of person both times, here is a long blog post about talking to the most handsome man in the world!

If you found that you were the first kind of person the first time and the second kind of person the second time, here’s this:

And if you found yourself in the second group the first time, well…

Nobody likes a dirty, rotten liar.

Should You Flirt with this Person? A Quiz.

The word “flirt” has always sounded like a gross bodily function to me. Like something you don’t talk about in polite company and certainly not something you do in front of people you have a crush on. If you find yourself flirting often and without shame, you should seek medical attention.

Nice people don’t flirt.

Only nice people do flirt, and some of them do it for fun. And even though I felt totally disgusting, I said the word “flirt” approximately 7,463 times in the newest episode of Life & Steph so we could talk about the weird, weird weirdness of the whole business.

That video is 14 minutes long. It’s got a cameo appearance by Tommy Lee Jones and a subplot involving an old-timey radio show. It’s pretty in-depth, is what I’m saying. But there’s one super-important, super-confusing element of flirting that I didn’t get into in the video.

There have been a couple occasions when I’ve found myself talking to a real cutie-patootie but I’m not sure if it’s the time or the place to whip out that classic Stephanie charm (which mostly involves choking on my own spit and covering my forehead vein with various strategically placed objects — large handbags, small animals, you get the idea.) So I made this little quiz!


Here at ListfulThinking, we challenge your beliefs about what a list actually is. Also, sometimes we just want to make a quiz. Whatever.

Should You Flirt with This Person?

1. How old are they?
a. My age, probably? The lights are dim
b. Very, very old
c. Distressingly young

2. Where are you?
a. A fun party!
b. My therapist’s office!
c. A funeral!

3. What’s the mood?
a. Fun and fearless. Like two-thirds of Cosmo
b. There isn’t really a mood, but there is a weird smell and for a second I thought it was coming from me. It’s not, though. For the record
c. Business-like

4. Is this person working and maybe only being receptive to you because of that?
a. No
b. Yes
c. They assure me they’ve never held a job

5. Are they in a situation where they might feel uncomfortable if you flirt with them?
a. They are conveniently alone. But not so alone that me walking over to them would be threatening or anything
b. Their parents and grandparents are present
c. Their priest is here

6. Is this person married or in a committed relationship?
a. Everyone likes it, but no one’s put a ring on it
b. I attended their wedding yesterday, but a lot can change in 24 hours. Just ask Kiefer Sutherland.
c. I’m not sure, but they have a giant tattoo of someone’s face and I’m pretty sure I see the same face across the room glaring at me.


Make that faces, plural.

If you answered mostly a’s, you can flirt with this person! I’m not sure how. Try choking on your spit.

If you answered mostly b’s, you probably shouldn’t flirt with this person. It’s just not the right time. Give it a decade or four.

If you answered mostly c’s, I’m very sorry for your loss. Also, please step away from the tattooed child.