Tony Hawk’s Golden Rules of Instagram
On Oct. 6, 2010 — four years ago Monday — a little mobile app called Instagram publicly launched. The following month, skateboarding legend Tony Hawk joined, becoming the first major public figure to make an account. The month after that, Instagram announced hitting the 1 million user mark.
Today Instagram boasts more than 200 million users; 1.4 million of them follow Hawk. He uses it to share more or less what you’d expect — cool skateboarding clips, travel photos and the occasional righteous #TBT post — but says it’s actually most valuable to him in a completely different way.
“If I hear a name of a younger guy from out there in the skateboarding wild, the first thing I do is look at their Instagram,” he says. “That’s going to be the most telling of what they’re doing and what they’re into and how far they’ve come as a skater. Especially for younger skaters now, that’s their priority social network. That’s where they go to show off.”
More than 3,000 posts later, the 46-year-old Hawk has some go-to filters (Hudson stands out, he says) and Instagram pet peeves. Celebrities: They’re just like us, even on Instagram!
We talked all that and more in a short phone interview last week; read on for Hawk’s take on poor Instagram etiquette, what makes a post “worth it” and the story of when he met Tupac Shakur way back in 1991 — before either of them really hit it big.
Q&A with Tony Hawk
Mashable: So you follow about 375 people on Instagram. Which accounts are your favorites?
Hawk: The Fat Jewish is always hilarious. He’s good for at least one or two laughs per day. Then there are a couple photographers I love following. Camera Jesus from Detroit. My wife’s from Detroit and he takes a lot of awesome photos of the city, has a lot of pride in the city. Jason Peterson is a photographer in Chicago who stands out.
OK, now everyone has their Instagram pet peeves. What makes you reach for the ol’ unfollow button?
Yeah, once people start posting photos of everything they have for lunch, I’m out. The things that turn me off are like, well, obviously flooding the feed with just whatever, for one thing. I don’t want to know every little thing you’re doing, minute-by-minute. And definitely food and pet photos are pet peeves. Also anything that’s overtly religious and a constant thing — I’m out.
For some of us, posting a photo that doesn’t get many Likes can lead to a lot of introspection and take us to some pretty dark, self-doubting places. Even with a million followers, do you have a ‘Like-threshold’ that makes a post worth it or not?
[Laughs] I can tell if something is going to be big and sort of transcend just living in Instagram to start showing up other places as well. I can see it’s going to go off like that when it immediately starts getting tagged by people with their comments. If they’re not just writing comments, but tagging their friends too, then that’s when it’s going to go huge because it means other people who don’t follow me are being led to it. So, I’d say for me, anywhere between 30,000 and 50,000 likes is a hit. Anything below 20,000 is kind of a dud.
Damn, my number is 11. I saw one photo you posted from a time you apparently met Tupac at the American Music Awards in 1991, before either of you really got huge. Tony Hawk meets Tupac — what’s the full story there?
That’s of my first wife, my oldest son’s mom. We got invited because my sister sang backup for Michael Bolton at the time. We were stoked to just get photos with celebrities or whatever, just going around the green room. It was funny how we got this glimpse of the different types of personalities — that was my first time I’d really been around people who were that famous.
Cyndi Lauper just shut us down, like, ‘No, no, you know what? I don’t want a photo.’ But Gene Simmons from KISS agreed to a photo with me. That was super exciting to me.
Then I saw Tupac over standing alone. I was kind of scared, because I knew of him but I didn’t know if he’d be cool or what. But he was so excited that we recognized him. And I think in the excitement I forgot to get my own photo, and just took that picture of Cindy (Hawk’s wife at the time) with him. I just told him that I really liked his stuff with Digital Underground. He was just starting to do his own music, but I hadn’t really heard it yet.
It was a really small interaction, but the funny thing is I’d been bugging Cindy to find that photo ever since I’ve been on Instagram. She finally found it this year, and I put it up there.
You’re a father, too. Is it weird for you as a parent managing this world of social media and selfies and comments? Do you let your kids have Instagram accounts?
They’re on there, but the younger ones have private accounts. My oldest son [Riley] is 21. He can handle whatever. He knows the people trying to get your attention, all the haters and whatnot, aren’t to be taken seriously. But the younger ones can be more affected by it. They had public accounts and there were a few times where those types of people did exactly what they do: Say really mean shit to rile you up.
So then they took themselves into private mode. They like that they can still interact with their friends and stuff but at the same time they want to expand their horizons, so it’s a bit of a delicate balance.
Do they ever get embarrassed, like ‘Oh God, Dad’s Instagramming again?’
[Laughs] Once in a while there’ll be a photo I’ll put up and they’ll be little embarrassed, but they’re cool with it. I try to respect their space. I’m not, like, commenting on all their photos. I’m not a helicopter, Instagrammer parent, if you know what I mean.
Scroll on to see some more of Hawk’s Instagram posts.