I used to think a lot about the things that could happen if people on the subway talked to each other like regular humans. Just imagine the networking possibilities! The friendships that could arise! The problems that could be solved! But I’ve since stopped fantasizing about disrupting the Don’t-Start-Conversations policy of subway riders — because if we all started talking to each other we probably wouldn’t have time to Instagram the many weird and wonderful things the city’s underground has to offer.
We’ve found the best, funniest, and weirdest subway-themed Instagram accounts and created a guide based on a set of objective/scientific criteria. Follow at will; just remember to refresh your feed before you head down the stairs.
Quality: Are the photos any good? Rated from “grandparent with an off-brand smartphone” to “Cindy Sherman.”
Originality: Is the concept original? From “yet another video of that guy playing the electric drum machine at Union Square” to “the guy who invented ‘It’s showtime!’”
Why you should follow: Is it worth my precious newsfeed space? From “I don’t care about your breakfast foods” to “omg this is giving me life right now.”
Concept: Pictures of people’s hands, on the subway.
Quality: For all that zoom, the photos are remarkably clear.
Why you should follow: They tried to tell us the eyes are the windows to the soul — but it’s been hands all along. After following this you’ll never look at your digits the same way again.
People of Penn Station
Concept: Long Island and New Jersey’s finest.
Quality: The pictures are low-quality, but it helps give them the proper “Penn Station” vibe. Anything better wouldn’t be appropriate.
Originality: We’ve seen these people. We’ve been these people. Still, the wasted WASP sitting on the floor without pants is still pretty funny to look at.
Why you should follow: A fabulous way to love-hate the worst municipal building in New York.
Concept: Defaced ads.
Quality: Lots of bad angles. I want some art in my cell-phone photography of sloppy graffiti, dammit.
Originality: Did you ever notice in that StreetEasy ad the graduate is holding a mug that says ‘I ♥️ clit?’ This guy did.
Why you should follow: When marketing is democratically edited, it’s actually really creative and funny. Oooor really vulgar and funny. Or both!
Concept: Where the Wild Things Are, if they were on the subway.
Quality: I could stare at these fuzzy blue monsters all day.
Originality: Oh, to feel so free and unburdened to imagine a world beyond the dude jacking off through his jeans across from you …
Why you should follow: An accurate depiction of how we feel inside, but our faces will never reveal, because we’re DOING JUST FINE HERE, OKAY? Let your soul get its recognition.
Hot Dudes Reading
Concept: Exactly what it sounds like.
Quality: The necessary secrecy of the photography means lots of errant poles and off-kilter angles. But the dudes are, in fact, hot.
Originality: Objectifying men! Giving men credit for being literate! How unusual.
Why you should follow: How many hot guys reading have you actually seen on the subway? Who cares, here they’re all consolidated for you. Extra points for the lusty captions.
Subway Book Review
Concept: Like a style blog, but about books.
Quality: Nice use of the inkwell filter (so everyone has good skin), but the photos tend to look the same.
Originality: A highbrow twist on Humans of New York, although a really accurate one would feature people holding up Kindles with copies of Grey and admitting to their recent experiments in bondage.
Why you should follow: Constantly updated book recommendations!
Concept: All the wonderful New York weirdos you find on the subway.
Quality of photos: Lots of re-grammed Snapchat stories, for those who can stomach social media crossover.
Originality: The only idea older than photographing weirdos on the subway is photographing buskers, but there’s a reason they remain an endless source of inspiration.
Why you should follow: “Subway Creatures” is an off-putting name, but this is still the closest we might get to Planet Earth: Public Transit.
Concept: Subway nostalgia.
Quality: Sometimes grainy, mostly gets the job done.
Originality: Someone else called @subwayinsides is doing the same thing, but with graffiti from inside the cars. Also worth noting: Martha Cooper, the GOAT of this genre, has her own account, but she’s mostly past taking subway pictures.
Why you should follow: A reminder of what life was like before broken-windows policing, when the subway had some character. Not shown: increased crime.
MTA NYC Transit
Concept: The official MTA account where they attempt to make the subway look like something they care about.
Quality: Looks like this might be the same photographer as @MTAArtsdesign …
Originality: Is there anything new about a brand trying to expand its cool factor with nice pics on social media? No.
Why you should follow: Trick yourself into believing they’ll actually finish the Second Avenue subway.
MTA Arts Design
Concept: The official artsy MTA account.
Quality: The MTA spends more time choosing filters than balancing budgets.
Originality of concept: Kudos to the MTA for figuring out a way to sign up for two Instagram accounts, but still only have one subway to Greenpoint.
Why you should follow: Trick yourself into believing the subway is a haven of public art (instead of a smelly, rat-infested underground labyrinth that no amount of mosaics will save).