TBH: I “Like” You

Amelia Diamond | March 19, 2014

Instagram has now taken flirting to a whole new level.


Nothing gets the eyeballs rolling faster than when a 25-year-old proclaims she feels old, but a recent perusal of a 12-year-old family friend’s Instagram account made me feel — I am sorry to say it — old.

He’d posted a picture of himself with the caption “Like for a TBH.” And when I commented “What’s a TBH?!” as if I were my own dad, he quickly deleted it (because I’m now considered embarrassing) and texted me on the side to say that it meant “To Be Honest.”

Social Media Anthropologist that I am, I watched his photo accrue “likes” and found myself fascinated by the subsequent comments.

“TBH @angelspuppieslemons you seem cool and nice.”

“TBH @harrystylesgrl4evr you’re cute.”

“TBH @dinosaursrule2014 you’re in my math class and funny.”

They were honest, if not exactly earth-shatteringly revealing. Most involved innocent iterations of the word “hot”and there were more wink-y faced emojis than I felt comfortable with.

When I saw him later while visiting my family, I asked if this is how The Kids flirted today. He glared at me — because again, I’m embarrassing — but I took it to mean one very definite yes. It wasn’t until I shared my scientific findings with my friends, however, that I learned Instagram is how we all flirt now.

Everyone seemed to have a similar story: “I dated this guy and then things never really took off. Whenever I text him to hang out, he can’t, and yet he continues to ‘like’ and comment on my Instagrams.”

Gender-swap the pronouns or replace the word “date” with “bone,” but this anecdote was repeated and lamented so many times over that I realized it was simply a by-product of our over-digitalized age. Where middle school flirting used to advance no further than “Hey ugly!,” everyone knew the insult meant somebody had a little crush. Now that life lives on Instagram, the flirting is obvious. It’s visual. It’s a friggen’ button in the shape of a red heart.

I’m just not so sure it’s honest.

Similar to an idea Esther had last week wherein digital platforms play by their own set of rules, it made me wonder if Instagram, like the middle school playground, had its own rules too…meaning that a “like” on Instagram could very well mean, “You look hot in your pic,” but has no further intentions than going beyond your Insta-feed.

How many times have I double-tapped the photos of an unrequited pursuer, simply because I liked the strange animal he was holding or I don’t know, his filter choice was exceptional? Plenty. And does that mean I’d wink “come hither” should we find ourselves face to face at the bar? Uh, no, Instagram. No it does not.

But to that, how many times have I been annoyed that the-guy-from-the-beach just liked my exceptionally tan TBT and yet the number of times he’s said “hi” IRL has been zero?

Don’t answer that.

The moral of the story is we inhabit a world that revolves around both the web and a Valencia filtered sun, and unless we’d like to go insane or bald the only way to truly know what’s real is to double tap the human of our choice who is standing in front of us, in person, and say, “Hey. TBH: You’re cute.”

Illustration Courtesy of Heather Allen, Georgie Pearl Designs 

  • lavieenliz

    so many times I find myself on a double tap tangent!


  • Aubrey Green

    I have a 14, 17 and 19 year old sister, as well as a 16 year old brother, I completely understand this whole post. I’m not 25 however, I’m 31, so, I am old ;). I also get my comments deleted, so don’t feel bad.

    • Amelia Diamond

      ugh! one day they will be sad they don’t have a paper trail of our nosy instagram inquiries.

      • Valerie Klein Ward

        So true :)

    • Valerie Klein Ward

      I know how you feel, Aubrey! I’m 45, and my 3 baby brothers are 29, 29, and 30. I feel like such an old woman wueh with them, and I avoid commenting on their FB posts ’cause I look like an idiot! lol

  • http://www.lucidnewyork.com HandmadeJewelrybyLucid

    Wow, flirting in the 21st century… so much easier and effortless than passing the handwritten letters through a friend back in the days…

  • http://www.productdoll.com/ Bobbi Whitney

    Back in the days of facebook poking, I had a poking war going with this guy that I had a crush on, but our friendship never grew passed facebook. So one day I saw him on campus and impulsively decided to literally poked him. He thought it was funny, and he started texting me. In the end the guy turned out to be lame and a flake, so maybe it is better to let the internet weed out the guys who want to hide behind their computers.


  • leonorjr

    TBH, I heart you. (and yes, I am basically trolling your posts with love for you)

  • Hannah

    I was recently talking to a friend about this and we questioned whether teenagers these days even talk! Like have a normal conversation. I’ve seen TBH and honestly, it kinda freaked me out. Don’t we have to hangout and talk to learn how we feel about each other? I don’t know where this is going, but it can only get worse.

    And don’t even get me started on the “dude likes all my pics but has never actually said hi”. I just don’t get it.

    • Sara

      I totally agree with you.

    • Cristina Feather

      I agree!!! I’m so creeped out right now. The online communication is transforming us in weird non-communicative persons. I can see a “HER” future within this situation. And it’s not good folks, it’s not good!

    • Nicholas

      Just so you know we do talk face-to-face we love Instagram but we also know how to have normal conversation.(I’m 15)

      • DuvalPride

        Its true it just rarely happens lol im eighteen and even i have to lok up these acronyms sometimes lol

  • Rebeka Osborne

    I had been wondering what “TBH” means (while looking at my little cousin’s IG account last night) so THANK YOU for filling me in on that one. TBH: I loved this post.

  • Zaz

    I’m not on instagram. My boyfriend is. I have always trusted him to a good level, but TBH, I’ve realized I can’t ignore the number of hearts he gets for every picture he posts. I tend to take a sneaky look at his page, looking up the names of the heart-givers ( a.k.a potential boyfriend stealer bitches) and somehow crack the codes if you know what I mean. Quite depressing. I should stop it, eh?

  • http://insertwth.com/ Denisse

    Haha I completely agree with this! I felt I was old (though I’m only 21) when I was watching the Grammys, and realized I didn’t know any of the new artists. I also didn’t know what TBH meant, so thanks!

  • http://pulpdujour.blogspot.com/ Eileen

    Ahh the feels of a college student opening her facebook feed to tons of these by high school underclassmen I “friended” before I graduated.

  • Stephanie

    That Valencia filtered sun.. priceless

  • Quinn Halman

    “tbh you’re nice and we should hang out more” litters my Facebook feed constantly on the ever-so-popular “like for a tbh” status. Being 16 and being, well, myself I know what all the lingo means I just I don’t get why people do it. Also do none of your friends post highly suggestive pictures? This one girl posted a picture of a snapchat of her with her sports bra obviously hiked up and the snapchat writing read “when ur sports bra gets too small” with that fucking see no evil monkey as the instagram caption. Like, why?!!?

    • Kandeel

      Theyre just so full of lies. You obviously dont even want to hang out with that person????? Ive honestly never seen a mean tbh where there should have been one bc i clearly know they dont like that person…

    • http://adeliberateimagination.wordpress.com/ CJKEYS2

      “that fucking see no evil monkey” dying. correct me if i’m wrong, but wasn’t there a facebook thing that started “truth is….” is that the same thing?! how are you only 16 by the way?

      • Quinn Halman

        Ohhh ya. And we can’t forget about the “like for a rating out of 10” status. Where is the actual communication, people?! There are better ways to use social media.
        The stork brought me to my parents’ door April 13, 1997, so cue Stevie Nicks because I’m pretty much on the edge of seventeen

        • Kate

          You are quite possibly the only 16 year old that doesn’t suck.

  • Kandeel

    The TBH began on facebook. “LMS for a TBH” (like my status) for a (to be honest) and this included comments saying “me first!” “no way! IM FIRST” and short tbh’s ending with “I dont really know you that well. We should talk more!” or HUGE paragraphs for friends with a list of inside jokes. People still do this. I’m proud to say i have never partaken in this activity.

  • Savannah W.

    Amelia, what college did you go to? I’m just asking out of sheer curiosity.

    • Amelia Diamond

      Hey Savannah! A small school in NY called St. Bonaventure.

  • wherethestyledthingsare.com

    hahaha my 16 year old niece always deletes my instagram comments, mostly because I am not as cool as her and also because i am that (at least i think i am) cool aunty who bags out their nieces and nephews. CLEARLY…that is also embarrassing hahaha

  • http://www.asequinloveaffair.com/ Shira

    ha I’m the 25 year old who feels old. :) I totally freaked out at my quarter century birthday! I think it’s because I live in a super religious community and everyone I know is married with kids…. ha!

  • Sara

    Nothing more worse than a bunch of stupid kids (and their stupid parents!). Soon they will be completely incapable of talking to each other thanks to Instagrams, Facebooks, and other stupidities. Not that they are that much capable right now.

  • Mackenzie Mancuso

    I love your commentary on these kinds of things. I agree 100% with everything you said, and in my own experience, I would definitely say that Instagram has become the new way to flirt. It’s sad really. It can be fun – But ultimately, it’s sad!

    x Kenzie

  • therealdp


  • withluckblog

    I definitely did not know what TBH meant. How the heck are we supposed to know that?! On one hand it also makes me feel old (cue the world’s smallest violin), but on the other it also makes me feel a little bit better about my life choices. It’s almost like a confirmation that I’m not actually as connected to the digital world as I thought.

  • Perry

    Am I only the only one who deleted Instragram after they sold it to Facebook?

  • C.A.

    About a month ago, my 13-year-old sister enlightened me about TBH. I’m only 26 and felt like 100 years old when she said “but please don’t use it because that’s when things stop being cool. Old people don’t know when to stop. That’s what happened with hashtags.” Needless to say, and in case you didn’t know, youngsters do not longer use hashtags. We, apparently, ruined it for them lol. (It’s probably important to note that my sister is a NYC kid, who spends most of her time hanging out around Soho. So, it might or might not be possible that she is a bit more crude than the average middle schooler).

  • Shannon

    I’m 26 and follow my 13 year old sister-in-law on Instagram and recently learned what #tbh was from her…same story, it made me feel old. I also watched the first episode of Ja’mie Private School Girl with her, and I know that she probably shouldn’t have been watching it with me, but if it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have known what #ily was, pronounced by Ja’mie as ‘ill-y’. It’s I love you, but instead of saying the full sentence, you say “ill-y”.

  • Addison Joel Butler

    I thought TBH meant Truth Be Had. I’m not even 20 yet….

    *Giving myself permission to cry for the next 30 minutes*

  • mmmhm preach

    really well written i like

  • Modupe Oloruntoba

    this is all so true. I’m only 21 and my 16 year old sister thinks I’m embarrassing. It’s also very interesting, because back when it was all handwritten notes, and even now when it’s likes and cheeky emoji’s, I have never been successful at flirting. I’m socially inept. Anyway. Viva Valencia! :)

  • taz

    I thought TBH meant Tight Butt Hole (from Workaholics) – subsequently I would us it like so: “no line at the bar TBH!” “those Chloe sandals are TBH”. My little sister corrected me. I still like my acronym better.

    • Amelia Diamond


  • http://www.lezu.com/ L’ezu

    This is so funny and SO accurate. Social media is taking over, and getting especially absorbed by the younger generation. Now girls don’t wait by the phone for a boys attention, they refresh their Instagram feed! http://www.LEZU.com

  • http://poopstainedversace.blogspot.com Albert De Fontoy

    I totally agree with you. I am 21, and have been called an idiot by my same-age-friends for not knowing most of the internet slang used nowadays. But there is more to life than social media.

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