It’s a common occurrence: I unlock my phone and my finger gravitates, as if magnetically, to Instagram — the photo app that has undoubtedly shaped the way my generation shares and documents memories and moments and crafts our public selves.
With each scroll I make on my feed, I’m brought face-to-face with the friends and acquaintances I follow, along with their coffees, gameday outfits, rainbow sprinkle ice cream cones, golden retriever encounters, travel throwbacks and artistic renditions of last night’s Gainesville sunset — which is all great and expected as a part of the Instagram culture I subscribe to, along with millions of other users.
But what I never signed up for are photo captions with rogue apostrophes in places where no apostrophe should ever live, and puns that are wrongly but proudly sporting the wrong “you’re” or “your.” If I see one more football-esque caption that says “Saturday’s are for the boys” (where the apostrophe in "Saturdays" is not needed because it completely changes the meaning of the sentence), I forfeit.
Perhaps my most juicy grammar police confession is that I sometimes opt out of “liking” photos with captions that have glaring mistakes.
Of course, typos and slip-ups are bound to happen, especially when typing lengthy descriptions with a cramped phone keyboard in a rather small photo-editing app — but it’s the constant errors on simple words and phrases (and lack of utilizing the “edit caption” feature) that make me concerned about the rusty grammar skills of the many “Saturday’s are for the boys”-culprits in my life and in younger generations.
While the captions clad with misused contractions or commas certainly bother me, that’s not actually the most frustrating part of this whole Instagrammar debacle.
I find that the more time I spend on Instagram simply viewing and mentally correcting these mistakes that would make any grammar police officer cringe, the more I notice myself making the same careless errors in my own writing. It’s as if scrolling past the wrong forms of “they’re,” “there” and “their” is giving me second-hand word misusage.
This makes me consider how messages and images on Instagram can linger in our minds, even if they’re not favorable — and how social media, especially Instagram, can normalize poor writing habits.
For example, I’ve even noticed some companies and lifestyle brands I follow posting captions or quotes and graphics with similar mistakes as those described above, like wrong word usage or misplaced apostrophes. Although I notice the errors, it’s likely some followers of those accounts don’t believe anything could be wrong with the text because the post is from a reputable brand, which means they could repost the photo and caption for their friends, who may see it and think it’s great and that its spelling and grammar are perfect.
Some people may argue that Instagram is just for fun, and having a comma or apostrophe in the right place doesn’t really matter as long as the majority of people get the general message or idea of a post. That’s certainly a lovely sentiment, but in my mind, it does matter that we treat our Instagram captions with the care and proofreading they deserve.
If we become lackadaisical with the grammar on our social media posts, we’ll be more likely to make similar mistakes in our own writing, whether we’re penning an important email or a big project for work or school.
Plus, in an era in which our social media profiles can act as extensions of our professional portfolios, we should be conscious of what we’re posting and writing under our name. While a caption with a comma splice isn’t exactly violent or offensive (depending on your career path, that is), I think incorporating best writing practices in our personal content would do us well.
After all, using the proper word choice or double-checking whether or not to use a comma or a hyphen isn’t as nerdy as you think — and it won’t cramp your aesthetic or color theme. I promise.
Darcy Schild is a UF journalism senior. Her column appears on Wednesdays.