Instagram cracks down on these adorable travel selfies.

If you're a social media maven, you may have noticed a bloom of animal selfies over the past few years.

A baby monkey grasps a tourist's fingers at a temple in Thailand. While many wildlife tourist sites are legitimate, an Instagram campaign is highlighting how some are more sinister in the ways they promote animal selfies. Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images.

You know the ones I'm talking about — a friend or celebrity posing with a monkey on their trip to Thailand, or holding a koala in Australia, or bench-pressing a whale. (I kid. Please don't try to bench-press whales).


A few years ago, these photos only showed up here and there. But lately, they've really taken off — along with the popularity of selfie-friendly apps like Snapchat and Instagram. In fact, there's been nearly a 300% increase in animal selfies since 2014.

But as cute as these animal pictures are, and as empowering as it can be to take a great selfie, there's simply something rotten going on with many of them — no matter how pure the intentions are of anyone individual using the #monkeyselfie hashtag.

It turns out that many of those seemingly innocent, totally adorable images are at the end of a very dark chain of events.

So from now on, if you search certain hashtags on Instagram (like #monkeyselfie, #koalaselfie, or #tigerselfies — along with hundreds of other unannounced hashtags, according to National Geographic), you'll likely trigger a message like this:

Image from James Gaines/Instagram.

But what could be so wrong with a cute picture with an animal? Most of these images aren't exactly clear-cut cases of animal abuse (like the time a baby dolphin was accidentally killed during a mass selfie spree in Argentina).

The real problem is much more insidious — one that Instagrammers might not even realize is going on.

In many parts of the world, tour guides or hot spots might try to provide guests with the opportunity to meet some wild animals. Some might be on the level, but in others, unscrupulous guides or agencies will actually capture animals from the wild, cage them, and use drugs or cruelty to tame them.

All in the name of five seconds of hugging a sloth.

Of course, tourists don't get to see the sad part. All they're aware of is that they snapped a selfie — and possibly scored a couple hundred likes or faves.

In a way, by trying to educate its entire audience through these warnings, Instagram is acting kind of like a whistle-blower on this issue.

Wildlife protection agencies are a fan of Instagram's decision. Cassandra Koenen, who works at the nonprofit World Animal Protection, says she hopes it'll make people pause before sharing something.

“If someone's behavior is interrupted, hopefully they'll think, 'Maybe there's something more here, or maybe I shouldn't just automatically like something or forward something or repost something if Instagram is saying to me there's a problem with this photo,'" Koenen told National Geographic.

In fact, Instagram worked with agencies, such as World Animal Protection and the World Wildlife Fund, for months to make sure they got this right.

The filter will also pop up for hashtags related to the often abusive exotic wildlife trade, such as #exoticanimalsforsale. Instagram hopes this will help disrupt wildlife traffickers' ability to find buyers via social media.

Social media is a powerful tool, but one that often unwittingly enables or hosts abuse. Instagram stepping up, recognizing the role they play, and taking steps to act responsibly is huge.

Hopefully it could help inspire individual users or even other social media sites to join in.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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