Naturism… and Instagram. Two words that are inherently problematic when they appear in the same sentence.

I have several Instagram accounts, though it’s only been within the past six months or so that I’ve become one one might consider an active IG contributor. I find it quite annoying that the platform is almost impossible to maneuver from a real computer (as there are things that can only be done from your mobile device – like posting a new photo!) and it’s even more annoying that IG has been swallowed up by the Facebook conglomerate (where I have multiple personalities as well), and you simply have to concede to the fact all those platforms are connected and it’s pretty easy to inadvertently get your wires crossed.

Why so many different accounts? Well, at the risk of invoking a cascade of rage comments from the “bare all or go home” crowd, it’s a simple fact that while what you do in your free time shouldn’t matter in your professional circles… it matters; especially when your work involves interactions with minors. Looking for an annoying example? Read this ridiculous article about the locals who staged a protest against a British Naturism event held at a water park in Great Britain last week!

And so, I have IG accounts that are connected to various elements of my professional life, but two accounts that I actually care about: one dedicated to our love of world travel (@mileagerundan), and another specifically focusing on… well, our naked asses (@naturistdan) as we’ve sought out naturist places all over the world.

Photos from @mileagerundan

I’m a little surprised at myself that I’ve gotten into the IG thing at all, but it’s turned out to be strangely cathartic! For starters, we’ve amassed over 100,000 photos since the advent of digital photography in the early 2000s, and digging back through the archives that document our travels – naked or otherwise – immediately lifts me out of the daily grind, if only to take a moment to muse over places we’ve been, people we’ve met, or moments of reveling in a great meal in a quirky cafe in Thailand.

But beyond that, it has been fascinating to watch the feed develop as the list of people I am following – naked and otherwise – has grown. Sometimes a quick shot of “naked in nature” is simply that inspirational jolt you need to augment that morning Cup of Joe. And on the mainstream travel feed, I’m forever finding places to add to our bucket list, quietly envious of some twenty-eight-year-old dude who’s working his way across Asia with one spare t-shirt and a smartphone, capturing images of nature and humanity along the way.

Photos from @naturistdan

So, this all sounds lovely, I suppose, but there are decisions to be made and strategies to be considered in shaping one’s IG presence. These perils are best documented by a recent post from Nick and Lins blog (@n_wanderings is their new IG account!) where we were fortunate enough to make their Top Twelve List of IG naturist accounts. This, after they’ve been going through something of a reconciliation process with Instagram since their account with 42,000 followers was suddenly dropped after posting a screenshot from Austin Powers that, ostensibly, was well within the criteria for acceptability.

The image that got Naked Wanderings thrown off of Instagram

I wrote to Nick and asked him about their appeal to Instagram, and whether they were able to elicit a response from an actual human. “Nope! Just automated bot responses to reiterate IG’s Terms of Agreement.” But he did send me the most recent press release that explains Instagram’s updated policy on nudity. By all counts, Nick and Lins passed the test, but alas… DELETED!

FORTY-TWO THOUSAND FOLLOWERS!! THINK ABOUT THAT! Knowing that in the current format, you get a sponsored ad for about every four or five “organic” posts on your feed, and here was an account that was playing by the rules, attracting a diverse and highly engaged audience, and POOF! Disappeared without a trace with no recourse or process for an appeal. In an age when people are so paranoid about censorship from the government, doesn’t anyone give a flip about censorship from commercial social media?

As I write this, my naturist IG account is creeping up on 1600 followers; the fully-clothed travel account continues to hover around 300 followers. Which brings up an intriguing element of the psychology of posting on social media altogether. Quite directly… Why bother?

The fervent naturist community likes to tout the mission of normalizing nudity in mainstream media. That’s certainly been my stated modus-operandus, though quite honestly, I can’t really tell if a presence on social media is actually helping or hurting the cause. It seems there are three positions on that front:

  • Converting the Converted: I don’t know that other naturists need to be convinced about the virtues of social nudity, though that sense of solidarity is sort of nice.
  • Entangling with Erotica: With all the preaching (from naturists) that nudity is not inherently sexual, I find it challenging to decide who I’m willing to follow on IG under the banner of naturism. A photo of a naked person walking in the woods, that draws you into their feed where you find photos of a couple in a deep embrace, then you scroll down and there she is posed in a decidedly seductive position. And then you’re suddenly getting suggestions for other accounts that are downright pornographic or hook-up leads for swingers. Again, no wonder people are so confused about social nudity!
  • Sustained Success to Sudden Death: So, you amass 1000 followers, or 10,000 followers, or 100,000 followers, then suddenly some algorithm in the nipple detection software catches one of your images and your entire identity disappears from the internet! Just like that! So many naturist profiles that read, “my last two accounts were deleted – Starting over!”

Starting over! Why bother? And what is that addictive drug that causes us to covet followers in the first place? That same impulse that causes you to check-in every few hours to see if your Pic of the Day is getting the love it deserves (measured in likes and comments). But if we’re going to be honest, there’s a clear hierarchy that garners “likes” in the Instagram game…

  • Pics of your family vacation will draw a handful of followers and a smattering of likes
  • Put humans in the picture (clothed) and you’ll get more
  • Put a naked human in the picture (Sorry – but especially an attractive female*) – and you’ll get a truckload of hits.
  • Hint at full frontal nudity and WOO-HOO… You’re an instant celebrity!

*I use the word “attractive” with a good bit of trepidation in this analysis, as naturists like to embrace the idea that every body is beautiful, but I think it illustrates the point.

This whole concept became a bit more curious when this topic came up with an IG-savvy friend who pointed out to me how people will follow your page just to get you to follow them back, then as soon as you do, they unfollow you! Huh! Turns out my social media friends aren’t such great friends at all!! They just liked my pic of the Golden Gate Bridge to curry my favor in adding one more follower to their own feed! Jeez! We humans are so petty!

My point in all this? Well for starters, I’m mad as hell that advocates like Nick and Lins have followed all the rules while doing all the right things to promote something I feel so passionately about – the right to embrace social nudity in an appropriate context. But in the last place, their efforts have been thwarted by the very cause they’re rallying against.

Thanks Nick and Lins. Keep up the good fight!

And what does that say for the rest of us who are chipping away at the social nudity acceptance cause. In the end, it seems that us naturist types can be as altruistic as we’d like, but amazingly enough, even given the bottomless pit of every kind of pornography anyone could ever hope for on the internet, the naturist cause will always fall victim the biological desires that sustain the human race. (Thank you for sharing your picture of Mt. Rushmore, but could you just put up a photo of a naked woman instead?) It’s simply a mystery to me why someone would spend time trolling naturist social media accounts for a glimpse of nipplage when there has never been such easy access to so much erotic material at one’s fingertips at any time. And this says nothing about the number of times I’ve gone searching for “genuine naturist information” on these very same prudish social media platforms, only to accidentally click into a thread of hardcore sex videos that have yet to be detected by the nipple and buttock detector bots. It seems those sites can survive for months – unnoticed and unfettered, even with direct links to porn sites.

Here we are in 2019. People in my age bracket have seen a fleeting image of Janet Jackson’s nipple – blurred of course, for our safety – and it’s almost impossible to set parental controls on the family computer to keep your seven-year-old from stumbling into a hard-core fetish site. All the while, protesters are gathering outside organized naturist events to “protect the children (they don’t even know) from psychological damage,” and butt recognition software is routinely freezing and deleting legitimate accounts that are lobbying for one simple concept: “A body part is a body part is a body part. Don’t objectify or sexualize. Just realize that most humans have one set of parts or the other, and they are all attractive and beautiful in their own right.”

And so, I’ll play the Instagram game for another day, knowing I’d best avoid posting an image of Austin Powers lest my followers and I are eliminated in an instant – just like that.

Humans! How can we be some complicated and so simple minded all at the same time? Can’t we all just be naked and get along?

9 thoughts

  1. In our instagram account @mynudebeaches we balance the number of photos of empty beaches and those that include naked people, trying to respect diversity (men/women, different body types…). Like you, I’ve been analyzing for a while the distribution of likes, and it fits perfectly your hierarchy:

    * If the picture only shows a landscape, no matter how spectacular it is, 50-100 likes
    * If you can see a male bum, about 100-150
    * But if there is a naked woman on the picture, it will easily reach 200-300 likes

    I guess what would happen if frontal nudity was allowed.

    Sometimes it can be a bit disheartening, especially when a new follower likes all the pictures of women, but only them (or only those of men, it doesn’t matter). One can only wonder if our message is really understood.

  2. Good article. I have an Instagram account but it’s been a long time since I’ve posted on it, mainly because I find it inconvenient to do so. I object to the Terms of Service rules regarding nudity on nearly all social media platforms. I think they’re puritanical and largely abstract and it seems they’re very inconsistent in enforcing their policies.

    I’m not sure a lot of nudists understand the naturist message. Or maybe I’m too early 20th century in my naturist ideas.

  3. It seems to me there’s a fundamental problem that needs to be confronted. Those who support naturism/social nudity tend to be fairly rational about the topic. Those who do not and are vocal about it tend to be fairly IRrational on the topic. Attempt at discussion often seems to accomplish little other than giving the naturist first-hand examples of the Dunning-Kruger Effect, the Backfire Effect, etc.

    This phenomenon is not limited to naturism, of course. But the fact remains that we naturists need to find a way to constructively engage with individuals who drop all rationality and logic as soon as this topic comes up.

    Sometimes it feels like this is project for to take up.

    1. Don’t know if you clicked through to read the article about the waterpark event protests. Random people demonstrating to protect children, assuming parents were incapable of doing that for themselves. Ironically, especially in Europe, we always felt our children were safer at a naturist place than almost any place else,as the entire community was looking out FOR them!

      To use that as the premise of shutting the thing down goes to the bigger theme of “How does my desire to participate in social nudity impact YOUR life in any meaningful way? Please mind your own damn business!”

      And to that point, we can loop back to the IG debates. Like so many put in their profiles…. “Don’t report, just unfollow!” It seems so simple.

      1. No, I haven’t. But I will. regarding naked Wanderings’ account deletion not getting a response from a human, I think it is quite simple. A human DID look at it and realized that the pic in question did NOT violate the TOS. S/he immediately tagged it as a problem to be handled by higher-ups and passed it up the food chain where it probably still sits. Maybe I’m just cynical and jaded. Maybe this is an overapplication of Occam’s razor. But that’s my bet.

  4. Very nice read and thanks a lot for mentioning us 🙂

    Why do we bother to put an enormous effort in building a 42K audience, have it banned, cry about it for a week or two and then start again from scratch?
    Never before has it been so easy for individuals to spread the word about something. We don’t have to pitch our story to newspapers or wait for a TV show about nudism (and hope they just don’t laugh with us). Billions of people are using social media and it’s very easy for them to see our message pass by. Even if they weren’t searching for it.

    Most other options are, as you say, “converting the converted”. Our blog has a large amount of readers but these are not specifically the public we want to target with Instagram. Our blog readers are already nudists or at least interested in nudism. By publishing fun pictures about nudism on Instagram we hope to gain interest in the lifestyle and then people can continue to our blog (or any other website about the topic) to read more.

    Of course there’s always the other side of the medal. Ever since nudism gained popularity more obscure businesses have been using the name with the wrong intentions. There are lots of porn accounts trying to surf the way wave that nudism has caused. For some more disturbing examples, Google the terms “family nudism” and see which websites come up first… Paying money to see holiday pictures of someone else’s kids? Come on…

    Anyway, one could say that nudity is still not universally accepted and that many people are still shocked by seeing a picture of our nude butt pass by on Instagram. We certainly believe that. And we would love to believe that the nice Facebook company wants to protect those poor souls.
    But it doesn’t work like that.

    Facebook is most of all an advertising business and apparently there are a lot of other businesses which don’t want to have their ads published anywhere near nudity. So basically we are a burden for them. Add to that that with Naked Wanderings we’ve never spent a dollar on Instagram advertising. We’re a problem of which they don’t make any money either. The decision to shut us down mustn’t have been that hard…
    An example to prove this is that PornHub still has an active Instagram account with more than 6 million followers… It’s a weird world when their pictures are apparently accepted by the general audience but ours are not…

    1. A brilliant postscript! Thanks Nick and Lins. Hadn’t really considered the “nudity near my ad” thing, but then again, they let the Pornhub thing happen. So I guess there’s the answer…. $$$$$