Like Twitter and Facebook before it, Instagram is a massive, rapidly expanding beast of a social network. Instagram combines two things that people these days really seem to value: a captive audience to view their excessive collection of selfies and not having to read.
Requiring no reading or writing, it's definitely the laziest social network in that the ability to see is pretty much all that's required to utilize it. That doesn't paint a pretty picture for the future of humanity, but it does allow us to follow hundreds of people with the bare minimum of investment.
The only major issue with Instagram is, after it's imported every existing contact on your computer, not knowing who else to follow. There aren't really any comprehensive lists out there, so a fair amount of "legwork" (which doesn't involve the actual moving of legs) is required to keep a steady stream of interesting photos in your feed.
That is, obviously, where I come in. I follow hundreds of athletes and various folks from the wide world of sports on Instagram, giving me a pretty good grasp on who's worth a follow. Women in sports are particularly active on Instagram, because they have the good sense to know that photos are far less likely to spark controversy than running your mouth on Twitter.
Here are 30 women in sports you absolutely, positively should be following on Instagram.
Famously "not impressed" gymnast McKayla Maroney has been a pretty big deal since shooting to stardom during the 2012 London Olympics as the star of one of the greatest sports memes of all time. Oh, and she won a silver and gold medal while she was there, too!
I can't say that the obsessive fawning over her by grown men hasn't been a little bit on the creepy side, because it has. But since Maroney recently turned 18, and the law no longer objects to that kind of attention, then why the heck should I?
So if you got a fever and the only prescription is more McKayla Maroney, follow her on Instagram. She'll keep you in adorable selfie heaven, morning, noon and night.
At 19 years old, American sprint hurdler Queen Harrison was the youngest member of the track and field team that qualified for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. She's still competing today, but seems just as comfortable in stilettos as she does in tennis shoes.
Harrison doesn't post to Instagram around the clock, but it's usually a welcome treat when she does. Particularly when she shares videos like this one, suggesting her offseason training regimen involves dancing on a stripper pole.
Tara Lipinski won the gold medal in ladies singles figure skating at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan. She retired later that year—at the age of 15!—but has remained visible in the sport ever since.
Lipinski will be working as a special correspondent through the upcoming Sochi Olympics and has been chronicling her travels, and everything else, on Instagram. She's busy and quite easy on the eyes.
Actress Gabrielle Union is a star in her own right, but her recent engagement to Heat superstar Dwyane Wade makes her all the more interesting a follow on Instagram.
In fact, if you don't follow either Union or Wade on some form of social media, you may have missed their recent official engagement announcement.
BTW, she said yes!
Ashley Alana is a veteran member of the Washington Redskins cheerleaders and, quite obviously, one of the most adorable humans on Earth. A year ago I wouldn't have said she was worth a follow on Instagram, but she's really picked up her game in recent months.
Alana's posts have always been solid, but they're far less sporadic these days. You can count on her for 4-5 photos per month, many of which feature her equally stunning cheerleader friends in various states of dress/undress. She's definitely an Instagram up-and-comer.
Australian swimmer Stephanie Rice may have disappointed in a big way at the 2012 Olympics in London, but at least she never disappoints on Instagram.
Rice can be counted on for near daily updates which range from standard selfies to formal fitness/modeling photo shoots. None of which are to be missed.
Katherine Webb, the girlfriend of Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, skyrocketed to fame during the BCS Championship last January after Brent Musburger spent a substantial portion of the game shamelessly ogling her. Can't really blame him, considering how tragically useless Notre Dame was.
Since then Webb got a high profile gig reporting from the Super Bowl for Inside Edition, landed a high profile spread in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and a high profile appearance on the ABC reality train wreck Splash. Given that…high profile…many of us have had it up to our eyeballs with this broad.
Yet for some reason, I never get tired of looking at that freaking face.
Kirsten and her identical twin sister Kristen cheered for the Atlanta Hawks for a few seasons before taking their sister act north to Charlotte. This season they're both cheering for the Bobcats and I don't think it's any coincidence they're close to clawing their way into second place in their division.
Follow Miss Kirsten on Instagram to keep abreast of the twins dancing, festive holiday attire, romantic goings-on, shopping trips, community service and, last but not least, their professional and social engagements with equally gorgeous and talented female dancers. What's not to love?
Following rising supermodel Hilary Rhoda on Instagram is truly a double edged sword. On one hand, she's one of the most gorgeous women on Earth and always doing pretty interesting things.
On the other hand, she's engaged to retired NHL agitator Sean Avery, who is one of the most loathsome characters in sports history. Following her is a constant reminder that she is, in fact, really going out with him.
When it comes to picking the winner of a fight between rivals Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey, I'm decidedly #TeamRousey. But when it comes to who I prefer following on Instagram, it's #TeamTate no contest.
Tate posts regularly and mixes it up. Some days you're gonna get sexy selfies, other times you'll get gruesome injuries and in between are a lot of workout and modeling photos. All in all, pretty solid stuff.
Russian beauty Anna Semenovich had a brief an unremarkable career as a competitive ice dancer in the late '90s/early 2000s. She retired in 2001 and went on to pursue a career as a sometimes singer, sometimes actress and sometimes model.
Semenovich does seem to have some modicum of success in all three pursuits in her native Russia, but her Instagram photos—much like those "Only in Russia" videos—raise far more questions about her career(s) than they answer.
Which is exactly why you should be following her.
Me: Adriana Lima, Victoria's sexiest angel, is married to Serbian basketball player Marko Jarić.
You: You had me at Adriana Lima!
Me: I figured as much.
Angela Rypien was bound and determined to follow in the footsteps of her father Mark Rypien, former Super Bowl-winning quarterback of the Redskins. She too plays quarterback, the difference being that she does so in lingerie.
Angela first played for the Seattle Mist in the Lingerie/Legends Football League, before heading back east to play for the Baltimore Charm in 2012. The LFL was forced to cancel last season, giving her a lot more time to focus on social media.
And aside from overdoing it a bit with PDA boyfriend photos, Angela's Instagram account has a QB rating on par with a regular-season Peyton Manning performance.
It's hard enough to get people enthused about golf, let alone ladies' golf. But if the world of women's golf has anything to offer, Meghan Hardin is definitely the best of it.
A former contestant on The Big Break, Hardin's ample assets aren't all she has to offer. Judging from her Instagram feed, she's as goofy as she is sexy—if not even more.
I mean…what's goofier than an armed pink rabbit?
Canadian cutie Kaylyn Kyle is one of the best reasons to care more about soccer I've heard to date. She combines the statuesque good looks of a fashion model with the physical ability of a professional athlete. Talk about a winning combination.
Off the pitch, Kyle seems to spend a fairly substantial amount of her time in or around various bodies of water, while showing her body off in a bikini. She also travels extensively, enjoys cocktails with her girlfriends and likes kicking it next to a campfire.
All of which is meticulously documented on Instagram for your viewing pleasure.
What Kaylyn Kyle does for women's soccer, Paula Creamer does for ladies golf. She's beautiful, she's blonde, and she's one of the most memorable faces in her respective sport.
Oh..and she's American and not Canadian. Bonus! (Just kidding, Canada. You all are lovely)
Supermodel Gisele Bundchen is, as you probably know, the inexplicably stunning wife of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. She's known for being outgoing, outspoken, driven and extremely comfortable in her own skin—who can blame her?
Brady may have no social media presence to speak of, but Mrs. Brady does enough posting on Instagram for both of them. Most are pretty innocuous, but Bundchen has created a minor stir in the past; first on Halloween and later with a photo of her breastfeeding.
I wouldn't categorize her as a "loose cannon," but she's as close to one as you're ever going to get with an athlete that controls his image as much as Brady.
American women's soccer star Alex Morgan is an absolute treasure—nearly 350,000 Instagram followers can't be wrong! Pretty much everyone on Earth loves this woman and if you love her, you should be following her.
Morgan posts frequently, and most of her photos are worth a look. Whether traveling the world, hanging with teammate and BFF Sydney Leroux or just sitting around having a cocktail, Morgan always looks delighted.
Since making the move from ESPN to Fox last year, it doesn't seem that golden-haired sports goddess Erin Andrews is as big of a deal as she once was. That being said, she's still kind of a big deal.
Andrews has a very cool job that keeps her constantly on the go, and she isn't shy about sharing every second of her relatively interesting life on Instagram. Rarely a day goes by without her popping up in my feed.
I'm not gonna lie—Samantha Busch, much like her NASCAR husband Kyle, is kind of annoying on Instagram. And probably in real life, too.
Most of her photos and videos are her with her dogs, her with her husband, her with her dogs and husband, and her modeling dresses and/or shoes.
That being said, I find her surprisingly entertaining and I think you will, too.
If you've ever dreamed of dying and going to bikini heaven, then you probably want to start following Alana Blanchard on Instagram like…yesterday. This girl has got everything—the total package.
She's absolutely gorgeous, resides in picturesque Hawaii with her adorable little dogs, more or less lives in a bikini and she's a damn good surfer to boot. If you're not already sold, there's something wrong with you.
Paulina Gretzky, the daughter of Wayne "The Great One" Gretzky and fiance of PGA pro Dustin Johnson, doesn't seem to have a job or any discernible real-world skills, which allows her an awful lot of time to tend to her Instagram account.
Gretzky posts regularly, and her photos generally fall into one of five categories: 1. Bikini selfies, 2. Hanging out with friends in a bikini, 3. Holding exotic animals in a bikini, 4. Physically attached to Dustin Johnson, 5. Ostentatious displays of wealth.
Gabrielle Lexa is a veteran dancer for the Hawks—more or less the only thing basketball fans (or fans of any sport, really) in Atlanta have to cheer about these days.
Miss Gabbi also sings, models and even does some impressions on Vine. You'll have to find her to see which ones though!
Paraguayan model/Olympic javelin thrower Leryn Franco knows what the people want and gives it to them in very high doses on Instagram. About 95 percent of her photos/videos are of her modeling or working out in the bare minimum of clothing.
Franco rarely strays from that winning formula because she obviously knows you don't mess with perfection. This woman works hard to keep that inexplicably fine figure of hers and is gracious enough to document every second of it just for you.
Former Notre Dame basketball standout star Skylar Diggins was drafted No. 3 overall by the Tulsa Shock in the 2013 WNBA draft. Since then she signed with Jay Z's Roc Nation sports agency and has become one of the biggest names in the league.
You can pretty much follow this budding star's every move on Instagram. Diggins posts photos and videos daily—sometimes as often as 10 times a day—and most are worth at least a quick look. Although, with this kind of volume, they're not all going to be winners.
American Olympic alpine skier Lindsey Vonn is one of the best Instagram follows out there. She's just got a lot of stuff going on in her life, most of which is pretty interesting.
Vonn is a world-class athlete who has spent the last year trying to rehab a brutal knee injury, which may prevent her from competing at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi; she's documented it every step of the way.
Plus…she's beautiful…she's dating a celebrity (Tiger Woods)…she has a lot of celebrity friends…and she seems to spend as much time on the beach in a bikini than she does on skis in the snow.
Here's the thing. If you like soccer star/American treasure Alex Morgan, you'll love her equally rambunctious, yet infinitely sexier teammate, Sydney Leroux. If Morgan is the wholesome girl next door, then Leroux is her (slightly) bad influence best friend trying to get her to sneak out on a Friday night.
Which actually makes a whole lot of sense, considering her name sounds like the headlining act at a burlesque show. But don't get the wrong idea about Miss Leroux—she's undeniably sexy, but the occasional semi-scandalous bikini is as graphic as it gets. Definitely PG-13 sex appeal.
In addition to being almost uncomfortably good looking, veteran Dallas Cowboys cheerleader Brittney Schram is also one of the loveliest people you could ever hope to meet…but probably won't. She's both hilarious and sweet as a cupcake, which is even better because you know she doesn't have to be a decent person looking like that.
So what are you gonna get if you follow Miss Britt on Instagram? How about a healthy dose of her equally stunning cheerleader friends, exotic locales, bikinis, snacks, fashionable eyewear, celebrity sightings, guns and ATVs, dance auditions, football, animals, motorcycles, scuba diving, laughing, kiss blowing, eating, and…more bikinis.
In July 2012, Australian hurdler Michelle Jenneke became a worldwide sensation when a photo of her "pre-race warm-up," which consists mostly of shaking and bouncing, went viral. To date, the video has over 25 million views on YouTube.
Jenneke has parlayed her fame into a burgeoning second career as a model and seems to be very at home in the spotlight. Last November, she posted this photo of her studying poolside; it was picked up by a number of sites and temporarily broke the Internet.
Imagine that. It's not nearly as scandalous as some of her other photos!
Anastasia Ashley may not be in the same league as Alana Blanchard when it comes to actual surfing skills, but the girl more than makes up for it with a steady stream of jaw-droppingly sexy photos and videos she posts daily on Instagram.
Her twerking puts Miley Cyrus to shame. Her Kim Kardashian puts Kim Kardashian to shame (see original photo). And pretty much everything else Ashley does puts the rest of humanity to shame—yet I just can't bring myself to look away.
Not even for a second.