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Too much time spent on social media makes the world seem like a tempestuously strange place that exists somewhere between Weird Twitter and the blurry Facebook memes your aunt posts. Instagram in particular is a branded purgatory, with a smattering of your friends’ FOMO-bait photos amid accounts you followed and don’t care enough to unfollow.
But when you search beyond that, there’s a warm, human side to Instagram—perhaps the best archive we’ve got of the human experience in 2015.
Hashtags provide an actual function, and are a basic Internet thing I mostly forget about and never use. Luckily, a lot of folks do, and what’s resulted is an accidentally beautiful, endless grid of the more candid, genuine side of society. We’ll seek to explore these unappreciated nooks and crannies with a series we’re calling “The Realest Hashtag On Instagram”—starting with the seasonally-appropriate #funeral.
At face value, #funeral really isn’t that different from #LasVegas. Less debauchery, but similar vibe, you know? Searching #funeral brings up a lot of threatening quote overlays (“I wear all black to remind you not to mess with me, because I’m already dressed for your funeral.”) In cases like these, #funeral is taken as a metaphorical hashtag.
It’s also good hashtag to cruise to visit if you’re feeling nostalgic for your high school emo self. Like mall goths, scene kids will never totally go away. User _itsaprincessthing_ is “#stillanemoatheart.”
A photo posted by Ellie🌸 (@ellie_brxwn) on
Most of the photos under this hashtag are, surprisingly, actually taken at funerals. I won’t front with this one: Taking a photo at or around the time of a funeral is something that would never occur to me. Fortunately, there are people who go harder than I do on Instagram (and, also, in life). Logistically speaking, it makes sense to take a photo at a funeral. Life offers far too few occasions to dress up; then someone dies, and you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take in life.
A photo posted by Ready Frost (@archaic_frost_23) on
User _santtu15_ understands this. He is also a #boybelieber. The boys of Frost_Machine_27’s photo get it, too. They are also “#savage” and “#ladykillers.” (Side note: the one on the right is the spitting image of a boy who once wrote “Hellow Sexi” in my yearbook. I wasn’t sure if the misspelling of “hello” was intentional, but it didn’t matter because I was too scared to ever talk to him again.) Youngmurdertraplord has also seized the opportunity to make a “joke for the Internet” with the accompanying hashtags #loss, #sadboy, and #illfuckyourbitch.
A photo posted by Anthony Danger Hernandez (@chillantro69) on
On the other side of the spectrum, I discovered this gem in the rough that captures the business of dying:
A photo posted by Natalie Okai (@natalie_okai) on
This is a selfie taken by a young Nashville woman training to be a funeral director. Her other hashtag, “#allblackeverything,” was very good, and I want to hear the stories she has to tell.
There was recently a quietly devastating New York Times article about dying alone. In comparison, #funeral seems like a real CELEBRATION OF LIFE. If your funeral somehow made a cameo on Instagram, that means you definitely haven’t died alone. Far from it! You have relatives and friends there that knew you and probably cared, but weren’t emotionally wrecked enough to not have the presence of mind to take a quick photo.
In fact, it sees the deceased featured in #funeral posts probably had a lot of friends. A tribute photo for someone named Coxy tells me that he was the life of the party, mostly because he got this BMW license plate tribute.
RIP Coxy #madting #mandem #RIP #young #funeral #wow #lifestyle #life #sendoff #lifeisgood #behappy #igers #igdaily #igaddict #bmw #x5 #movements #famliy #gonebutnotforgotten #mates #lifesshort #livegood
A photo posted by M R W H I T E L A B E L (@superguyjatti) on
Then again, perhaps this meme saying “Nobody loves you till your preacher is holding a bible and everyone is dressed in black [100 emoji]” holds some dark truth.
See what I mean? No matter which way you come at this, #funeral remains unflinchingly raw. That is why #funeral is the realest hashtag on Instagram.
Photo via Stephan Ridgway/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)