TIME Sex

#AfterSex: The Instagram Selfie Trend We Don’t Need

Woman using a smartphone
Getty Images

Just put the phone down

The Internet’s latest infatuation is the #AfterSex selfie, which is exactly what it sounds like. In fact, taking a selfie after you’ve had sex might just be the new post-coital cigarette. (Unless, of course, it’s scrolling through your phone to see what you missed while otherwise occupied.)

Browse through the feed on Instagram (NSFW), and you’ll see people using the hashtag on a variety of photos: raunchy cartoons, eyeroll-worthy memes, a very relaxed looking open hand (get it?) and a surprising number of photos of actor Dave Franco (why it’s not James, the weirder brother, is anyone’s guess). But once you wade through the joke images, you get to the good stuff.

Look for the carefully filtered photos of attractive couples with bedroom eyes and tousled hair, smily coyly amid twisted bedclothes, or on sofas, or elsewhere. There’s also a number of singular selfies of one person staring moodily into the camera, often with a strategic amount of skin bared for the camera. These images have an identifiable post-coital aesthetic, a messy hint of real life that differs from the very posed, strained “sexy” selfies that populate the web. These people look… relaxed.

A similar hashtag #AfterSexHair shows a series of people showing off with beachy waves meant to emulate the carefree, look someone might have after a roll in the hay.

Of course it’s not like there’s anything new about showing off your relationship bliss. After all, couples around the world have been posting cutsey photos and status updates referencing “the boy” and “the gf” for years. But in the era of the groupie (and the belfie and the lelfie and who even knows what else), the #AfterSex selfie is a way of pushing digital boundaries (and boasting) to a new level. Anyone who sees one of the better versions of these photos will realize how amazing you are, how fulfilled you are in life and love, and damn if you don’t look good in the process.

These may seem like the ultimate overshare of life’s most intimate and private moments, but it’s an extension of a culture that places a premium on constantly sharing details about your good fortune, even though it’s actually making us miserable. CNET even posits that this could be part of a confessional trend started by apps like Secret and Whisper, both of which encourage users to share their true thoughts — often about sex, love and bodily functions — anonymously.

There’s no doubt many of the #aftersex photos are fake — because let’s be real, it takes a sincere lack of awareness to post a picture of yourself in any state of undress to the Internet at this point — but that doesn’t even matter. By declaring it a trend, it will become one. And certainly, articles like this might inspire more people to share pictures of themselves in posed, heavy-lidded bliss. The Internet knows that we can’t stop scrolling through our social networks, which is why we end up looking at a friend’s vacation photos on Facebook even though we know that it’ll only make us feel bad about ourselves. Creating and posting an evocative image is a guaranteed way to get more likes, more comments, more compliments. And any attention that accompanies an extra interesting or sexy shot will no doubt validate our sex lives or coupledom.

In an era where we decide on an outfit in a store because we’ve already snapped the perfect Instagram photo of ourselves wearing it in our mind, it’s scary to think about whether we’ll start consciously staging our most uninhibited moments. And soon, instead of thinking about what’s just happened with another human being, we’ll be arranging our every move the way we arrange our food on plates so that everything looks right before you decide on an image filter.

There are social scientists who think that posting selfies can be a healthy exercise for young people who are struggling to express themselves. But #aftersex might be the definition of taking it slightly too far.

[h/t to Nerve for spotting the trend]

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