There's a specific kind of selfie circulating online these days — one that would normally be considered a "thirst trap" in any other situation, but now it's something far bigger. "People are responding to being absolutely isolated, and that involves taking sexual photos and wanting human connection," says Ziwe Fumudoh, a New York City-based comedian, of why she thinks the photo trend has become so popular recently.
"The worst is when you post a thirst trap and it gets 32 likes over the course of 12 hours and you're just like, 'Should I just erase my account immediately?'" she jokes. "It's like: Isolation — having to wash every single one of your groceries, and posting sexy pictures online that get absolutely no love."
But what if love in the form of a "like" is not what people are currently after? While stay-at-home orders are in effect, typical thirst traps aren't really "trapping" anyone. Instead, they're a symbol of self-confidence in a time of limited social interaction.
As colleges and universities were forced to shut down during the spring 2020 semester due to COVID-19, thousands of students were told to leave campus with little to no warning and many were forced to move back in with their parents. Some post-graduates have also returned to their hometowns, leaving their city-based apartments and roommates to shelter with loved ones. So, whenever you see a girl posing on your feed in her underwear, just know that those were most likely snapped with family members on the other side of the door.
How are these photos even being taken, you ask? In some cases, parents play the role of photographer or videographer. But, in the majority of situations, photos are captured in more private moments or snapped using a self-timer. We turned to the experts — creators who have moved back into their childhood homes for quarantine, along with a few who take thirst traps regularly — to find out exactly how they make good content while hiding out from their parents (or roommates). Keep reading for their best tips.
Thirst Trap Tip #1: Don't care about what people are going to think
Probably the most important thing to remember before opening the camera app is that anything and everything you post online should make you feel amazing. "Everyone should be taking this time to learn their angles," says Greta Titelman, a stand-up comedian and the host of The Worst podcast. "This is all about the experience of you."
If something makes you feel uncomfortable, then don't post it. If you feel good, it will shine through in the photos that you take, and the ones that you eventually post. As hard as it can be to take the plunge, remember that no one is focusing on your photo as much as you are — your followers are not going to notice the parts of yourself that you've been obsessing over.
Consider why you are posting in the first place, too, and know that it is totally OK to want a little attention online during these times. "We all want to be seen, we all want to be loved, we all want to be accepted, whether you do that via a thirst trap or whether you do that posting a nice photo of you and your family, both are doing the same thing," continues Titelman. "The presentation is just different."
If you are afraid of what people might think, especially your parents or extended family members, try to have an open dialogue with them about the motives behind your post. "My grandma and my aunt follow me on Instagram," says Anaya Monette, a photographer based in North Carolina. "With my grandma, I always have a conversation with her and I tell her that this is what makes me feel confident. I don't think it's about oversexualizing my body — this is just my body!" There is no guarantee that they will understand completely, but opening up the discussion can reduce some of the negativity that you might be feeling.
Thirst Trap Tip #2: Prepare for (and embrace) those inevitable awkward moments
Moving back home with your family after being away for any amount of time can be a challenge. Equally difficult is the task of taking feed-worthy content in your childhood bedroom, where possibly embarrassing mementos of your past reside. It is better to embrace that awkwardness rather than try to cover it up entirely. "Now when your parents knock on your door you can act like a 13-year-old again and scream at them to get away," jokes Titelman.
If the thought of fending off a parent or sibling is killing your buzz, take photos in moments where you're guaranteed to have some privacy. "Find times when no one is going to interrupt you, like when you're doing your skin care," says Raquel Lopez, a student at New York University who is currently spending quarantine at her parents' house in Los Angeles. "You don't have to have makeup on. You don't have to have your hair done. Throw a towel on your head and make it look like you just got out of the shower." But embarrassing moments can be truly inevitable, no matter how good you are. "I was shooting one time and I was in more revealing clothing, and my dad just walks in," Monette says. "The mood was canceled."
Thirst Trap Tip #3: Plan out your shot — and take advantage of props
Nailing your perfect photo can require a bit of work. For Titelman, that usually starts well before she even gets out of bed in the morning. "All good thirst traps start in my dreams. I just think about how I want it to look," she says. Her favorite kind of shot? One that makes use of a good prop or two. "Don't be shy about using props," she says. "Sometimes props can give us the confidence we need to be ridiculous." Having fun with your photos can also reduce some of the awkwardness you have when taking them. (See Titelman posing with a lawnmower, below.)
If you don't happen to have a lawnmower handy, you can always use your trusty bedroom mirror to get the perfect shot. Once somewhat shunned across the internet, mirror photos have taken on an entirely new life while in quarantine. "Mirror pictures are really fun to play with because you can get really creative," says Lopez. If you've tried using every mirror in the house, try dragging your mirror out into your backyard for a more editorial approach. Not only will you look radiant in all of that natural light, but taking your photo outside will give your followers something to look at that isn't that one perfectly curated corner of your bedroom.
Thirst Trap Photo Tip #4: Dress up in what makes you feel good
There really isn't a wrong way to style a thirst trap at home. When asked about her ideal look, Fumudoh is quick to answer: "A bikini! I like thirst traps that are funny. I'm wearing my Inamorata tube top in my one-bedroom apartment. And then I make my roommate take photos of me." For maximum effect, Fumudoh also recommends anything "that is meant for Cabo in your Bushwick apartment."
If you've had to relocate to your parents' house without your favorite bathing suit, options can run the gamut. Monette goes for colors that make her feel good, like black or red, while Lopez prefers to make her photos more stylized — even if they're taken on a whim. "I love a lot more minimal clothing, whether it's just like underwear and a baby tee or jeans with a cute tank top or bralette," she says. "Not necessarily super sexual but more feminine." As long as you feel comfortable in it, feel free to experiment with whatever you have.
By reclaiming sensual images on Instagram during quarantine, content creators are showing a new way to stay positive through the tough times — and it's having an effect on their followers, too. "When I see people feeling like they have the strength to try and see things through a positive lens during this time, it's definitely more inspiring than seeing someone acting like we are in an impenetrable hole of doom," says Titelman. "Seeing one of your friends or someone you love or someone you admire taking ownership of themselves in that way, it's a really positive and powerful thing." It's possible to make light of even the darkest, most isolated times, and it can only be one snap away.