Urban Dictionary defines a thirst trap as: A sexy photograph or flirty message posted on social media for the intent of causing others to publicly profess their attraction. In the age of Instagram, thirst traps have entered the cultural lexicon and become an inevitable part of the way millennials form interpersonal relationships online. Thirst trap culture is highly specific to visually driven platforms like IG and Snapchat while being seen as uncouth on Facebook (too many family members) and Twitter (too many colleagues and semi-professionals.)
When Snapchat first launched, everyone assumed it was an app primarily for sending nudes since the pictures people sent quickly disappeared. Adding the ‘story’ feature not only changed how we communicated with our friends, as we posed as YouTube vloggers––posting videos and pictures of what we’re doing. The story feature also became a space where the person you wanted attention from the most could be watching––and when they didn’t, most of us, well, at least I, became a little disappointed. This waiting game existed on Facebook with the ‘poke’ that, fortunately, has been replaced with the ‘like’ on Instagram and on Twitter.
Way back when, when MSN was something people used, my friends and I would giggle as we’d watch one of our friends go online and offline multiple times in an effort to get attention from a boy in our class. Today, I only need to click on my ‘following’ tab to see who is active on Instagram, or I can creep through someone’s likes to see if they’ve been active on Twitter. Recently, Instagram introduced an activity status in an update, which makes thirst trapping easier, and if it weren’t for the Instagram algorithm––thirst trapping could’ve been frightfully efficient. (This is one of the stronger cases for bringing back a chronological feed, in my humble opinion, but I digress.)
The boastful sports bra-and-booty shorts selfies taken while perched on bathroom counters become anathema, objects of ridicule but also desire.
When our crush doesn’t view our story or like our thirst traps, the efforts seem futile, the attention from everyone else is empty. No amount of likes or comments will fill the void of putting in that amount of effort for one measly like from a person that, at least for me, doesn’t know that I’m sending them signals that I like them. Many have tried to dissect the anatomy, or art of the thirst trap, and when I asked people what they think a thirst trap is I learned that timing matters. It’s not only about the kind of picture that is posted, it’s also about when it’s posted. Timing is the most important aspect of the thirst trap, because if I’m trying to solicit attention from my crush, I want to be sure they’re online.
Just by calling them “traps,” we’re assuming deception and ill will on the part of the one posting, instead of just acknowledging the celebration of the female form these selfies are.
The derision of the thirst trap has also become yet another way to shame women who embrace and capitalize on their sexuality. The boastful sports bra-and-booty shorts selfies taken while perched on bathroom counters become anathema, objects of ridicule but also desire. It must be that the Instagram sirens on our feeds are bent on men’s destruction and corruption—Eves precipitating the fall of Adam with each ‘like,” damning us to earth and flat tummy teas. Just by calling them “traps,” we’re assuming deception and ill will on the part of the one posting, instead of just acknowledging the celebration of the female form these selfies are. I vote we stop calling them traps––they’re more like thirst treats. Even the unintended audience is treated to a visual delight.