A Naturist’s Labyrinth on Instagram

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?