Why Is Everyone Using NGL on Instagram?

Why Is Everyone Using NGL on Instagram?
Screenshot: Lindsey Ellefson

Since introducing trendy new apps like BeReal and Dimensional is my schtick now, it’s important I bring you news of NGL, an app that pairs with your Instagram account and gives people the ability to send you completely anonymous messages.

What is NGL?

NGL is just the latest in a long line of anonymous messaging services like Formspring and YikYak. If you were ever on Tumblr, you’ll remember being able to send anonymous messages to other users (and the absolute havoc that followed). There’s also been a lot of reasonable concern about the potential for misuse that comes baked into these apps’ signature anonymity, like bullying and harassment.

In this way, NGL isn’t new — it’s just new to Instagram, and arrived there after Snapchat suspended rival apps Yolo and LMK last year after all three entities were sued by the mother of a teen who killed himself, allegedly after receiving anonymous taunts on Snapchat. The anonymous messaging trend just migrated from Snap to Instagram.

How do you use NGL?

The app’s interface is simple. You download it — it’s available on both Apple and Android — and enter your Instagram username. The app gives you a unique URL you then share to your Story, which is possible now because Instagram gave every user the ability to share links in Stories last fall. NGL even creates a graphics template for you to use to make it easier. From there, anyone who views your Story or gets your link can send an anonymous message without needing to download the app themselves.

How anonymous is NGL?

To respond to a message, you need to share it to your Story again, which means anyone who views your Story can read it. This functions almost exactly like Instagram’s native “Questions” feature, where users can enter text into a box in response to a question and the original poster can share the answers for everyone to see. When using Questions, though, the original poster can see who sent each reply, even though Story viewers won’t. NGL eliminates that by making the sender of each reply completely anonymous.

You can change the prompt a person sees when they click your link, but only to a prewritten one like “send me anonymous messages!” or “send a name for a rate.” If that second one doesn’t make sense to you, you might be too old for this. Other prompts include, “truth or dare, I’ll do it deadass” and “flood my inbox if ur a real one” with an evocative water-droplet emoji added for good measure.

What kinds of questions do people get on NGL?

When I downloaded NGL last week, I was aware I have absolutely aged out of the period in my life where it’s appropriate to solicit anonymous comments online, if it was ever appropriate at all. Still, I persisted, but accidentally set my prompt to “send a name for a rate.” Fortunately, my followers ignored that. Unfortunately, they quickly encouraged me to “make an OnlyFans” and asked me a bunch of extremely invasive questions.

I posted my link again, requesting they shape up and be pleasant. I offered to give advice or something like that. Shortly after, I got a string of specific compliments and some vague requests for advice. I answered one question, mostly because it seemed funny to continue participating in something so embarrassing, and didn’t post any compliments because it felt mortifying and unjustifiable. Meanwhile, my friends posted all of their messages, and I dutifully read through each one.

After you respond to a message by posting it, a green checkmark appears on it in your app inbox. Unread messages are a different colour than read ones. The colour-coding is simple, but useful if you’re worried about missing a message or accidentally sharing one twice.

Should you download NGL?

The cons might outweigh the pros. There is the potential for abuse (though I did send a very NSFW message to my friend to test out the filters and she reported she never received it) and the equally strong potential for outright embarrassment. To be clear, begging for anonymous feedback is kind of debasing, even if you’re doing it on a bright new app.

Still, it can be fun. It was nice to read the sweet things people had to say. It was funny to see how many people used it like we used to use its predecessors in college, dropping hints about who they were or being low-stakes sex pests. (If you’re super desperate to see who sent something, you can pay $US9.99 ($14) for a “pro” membership that will give you “hints” about the person’s device model or general location.)

NGL could also come in handy in a more practical way: Instagram’s Questions feature includes usernames, but NGL could be used to solicit feedback on more delicate subjects, which could facilitate better (or more honest) responses. Plus, NGL has a much bigger character limit than the Questions box.

If any of that sounds good to you for whatever reason, go ahead and get the app. You can tell me all about it on Instagram @ellefs0n. Here’s my NGL link.

Log in to comment on this story!