#Nightshift is the realest hashtag on Instagram

The hours between 2am and dawn are when the thin rubber gloves of pleasant, socially obligated interaction come off. They are the hours when you’re a more stripped-down, honest, stranger version of yourself. Ideally, we would not be held accountable for the well-being of anyone or anything during these hours, yet people get sick, oil is still coming out of the ground, and highways are at their emptiest—waiting to be worked on.

These witching hours are either a quiet purgatory or blacked-out wilderness, rarely something in between. Those who have worked a night shift understand how surreal it is to be doing what the rest of the world does during human, light-filled hours. I’ve been routinely searching #Nightshift on Instagram since the New York Times ran a piece on it last January. Try it when you can’t sleep and need to feel less alone.

#Nightshift, above all, expresses solidarity. You need comfort during this time, and that comes in the form of a shot of your Starbucks order, a selfie that you know will garner at least a few likes in the morning, and memes that aren’t all that funny but also articulate how you feel better than you could really really hope to at that particular moment.

This could not be more true 😫

A photo posted by Kieran Samuels (@kieran_samuels) on

These are the shifts where you’re not afraid to get weird with your coworkers. Dumb things seem hilarious, and the next thing you know, you’re singing along to, like, the Verve Pipe’s “The Freshmen” or something. Things that would seem odd and maybe concerning during the day, seem goddamn funny at night. These dudes in the kitchen (accompanying hashtag: “#chingon”)  would be the ones to keep you laughing, even while mopping the floors.

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We’re coming for u. #nightshift #cooks #chingon

A photo posted by Andres Rodriguez (@undrez1502) on

There’s an inordinate amount of nurse selfies, and someone noticed this long before I did, because there is a hot_rns_of_ig account featuring a cute stethoscope-sporting boy and attractive RNs who also look like co-eds. 

The crowning achievement of this particular #Nightshift deep dive was discovering the world’s most insanely hot, how-is-this-even-real doctor.

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This woman! WHAT IN THE HELL IS HAPPENING! Dr. Merita Waldorf, according to her bio, is both a Doctor of Medicine and Fancy Lifestyle Enthusiast. She’s what would result if Julie Cooper, Lisa Ann, and Sophia Loren morphed together and went to med school. I know for a fact this woman intimidates any man she comes within 20 miles of.

If you are not a nurse or a security guard on a night shift, you’re probably working to extract a natural element from the earth in an unnatural way. This means fluorescent football field lights against uprooted gravel, white hardhats and big machines with Japanese names.

#letthegoodtimesroll #nightshift #longestpipelineunderariver #swamperlife #oilfield #oilfieldlife #bringiton

A photo posted by Jesse Sidoryk (@deformedsharktit) on

Working on a rig is one of the last wild west professions. Predominantly a field of unkempt masculinity, it’s nice to see this really lovely woman who took a selfie coming home from her job at Shell. I also very much appreciate the Drake-inspired hashtag from these dudes: #startedatwinndixienowwehere.

Home from the night shift. Now it’s bed time #work #nightshift #shell #tired #job

A photo posted by Amy Metcalfe (@amy_maria1990) on

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Looking through these photos, pretty but ashen self-portraits, you can just feel that specific tiredness of waking up too early—and immediately feel a little bit nauseous. Sanity and normal functions are barely maintained with coffee and loud rap music. At the same time, these people of the night know there’s a fantastic, fever-dream beauty to their surroundings, so they capture it, whether it’s a castle of refinery lights or the empty aisles of Kroger’s. 

#nightshift #views

A photo posted by Jesse Groemm (@jgroemm) on

Each one of these photos unmistakably says “You up? I’m up.” And that is why #Nightshift is the realest hashtag on Instagram. 

Photo via André Hofmeister/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)