WASHINGTON — Age is just a number, the saying goes, but the world is full of clear examples when that’s not the case. Registering to vote. Buying alcohol. Renting a car. Retiring. Or building a social media brand based on being 24 years old.
“What does it mean just to be 24 years old?” asks Anthony Polcari, sitting in his downtown D.C. apartment. “What are some things we should be doing and what can we do as opposed to, oh, 'what's expected of us'?”
These are the questions he says he aims to answer in the videos on his Instagram page, where he’s known as Tony P in DC. But don’t expect to find philosophical musings on societal norms or hot takes on the political climate. Instead, @_tonypindc shares snippets of Polcari's everyday as “a 24-year-old consultant” living in the nation’s capital: choosing business-professional outfits for work (#fashionblogger), preparing a salmon meal at home (#foodie), spending a Saturday with friends (#bachelor). He offers style tips and restaurant recommendations. He tags businesses and clothing designers.
It sounds like standard influencer content, and in many ways, that’s exactly what it is. But in an online environment that feeds on content creators pushing the limits of what’s possible — dancing on the edge of a mountaintop or spending hours curating every inch of their home — Tony P is different for just how relatable he is. He’s a single 20-something consultant in a town full of single 20-something consultants. He takes few fashion risks when choosing his ties and work slacks. He pairs his Wegman’s salmon with Gatorade. He shops at discount furniture stores.
He’s racked up more than 50,000 followers.
“The biggest thing to know is this is a shock to me,” he said. “I did not think it would ever blow up.”
Though he’s earned a dedicated fan account—a page called “The P-Hive” (@the_PHive) that’s picked up more than 3,000 followers in the last three weeks — and whose creator Polcari says is a mystery to him — new initiates to Tony P content are often skeptical.
Is this guy serious? More than one commenter has asked if he’s doing a bit. He vacuums regularly, uses coasters, wears khakis to work from home, strums the air-guitar unapologetically. A standout commenter shares that he’s unsure if he wants to punch Tony P, or introduce him to his sister. Some explain it as satire, as a carefully crafted critique of modern influencer culture.
But Tony P insists it’s not that complicated.
“What you see here is what you get.”
That vulnerability, he says, is the whole point. He captions video introductions as what he does/wears/cooks/etc. “as a 24-year-old consultant in DC,” and his Instagram bio shares another descriptor for his content: “positive masculinity.”
“If you look at it like positive, negative, it can be kind of judging,” said Polcari, who says he actually prefers the term “vibrant masculinity.”
“You get to show creativity, emotional intelligence, compassion. Those are vibrant traits.”
To Polcari, that means listening to rock music and cheering at a sports game, but also enjoying a romantic ballad and crying at a Nancy Meyers movie (“Father of the Bride” is his favorite). It means working out and enjoying a night on the town, while also learning to cook and basic housekeeping skills. It means being a nice guy.
“There's a big synergy. You live a full life. That's what I like to say. So if you can find that balance, you’re living a fantastic life,” he said.” “I mean, I haven't gotten there yet. I'm working on it.”
And the more you scroll through his posts, the harder it is to argue with his premise. After a long day in a judgmental world, it can be uplifting to watch someone feel good about themselves in an unremarkable outfit, be proud of a simple home-cooked meal, and enjoy a stay at a non-aesthetic chain hotel. Polcari doesn’t see himself as the authority on anything, but his followers love seeing Tony P figure it out.
“I like to post from the perspective of someone who is unfinished. I haven't reached any mountain top,” he said. “This masculinity journey, my professional journey is an incredible work in progress.”
Polcari says he hasn’t always been the smiling guy selfie-ing his way across the District. He dealt with a difficult bout of depression in his teenage years, and he worries about the rates of mental health issues and suicide in young men in particular.
“There aren’t a lot of people out there, at least at our age, that are talking about this,” he said.
It’s what inspired him to start sharing a less curated perspective of what it means to live your best life, especially in your 20s.
“It's a great time in our life, but at the same time, there's a lot thrown at us. And I think that sometimes social media makes us feel like so many people have it all put together and figured out when we really don't.”
He doesn’t mind that not everyone gets it. Polcari knows his perspective isn’t for everyone—he’s not against macho or hypermasculine content either, he says–and he even welcomes feedback on the tips he shares.
“My page is meant to be a collaborative space. I love getting advice from people that follow me or even people that don't like my content. You give me constructive feedback, I love that,” he said. “I’m not someone up on a perch, I’m just a guy.”
Despite Gen Z stereotypes, Polcari never expected to be social media famous. The native Bostonian says he’s always loved sharing his life experiences with his family and role models, who’ve been the biggest influences in his life.
“I would say the old-soul nature of my content, some of the wholesomeness that you may see, comes from the fact that I was raised predominantly around adult circles,” he said. “People that really are just, I think, some of the most wholesome people I know. It kind of reflects not only in my family upbringing, but it also reflects upon the people that I grew up with, the friends that I hung around with. They truly reflected those values that I saw in the adults in my life.”
A recurring theme in the comments of his videos is that Polcari’s content is so charming, his online persona is so likable, that men are worried their girlfriends (or mothers) will leave them for Tony P. Polcari laughs at the jokes, but admits his heart is open. So are his DMs.
“I'm going to be honest, I'd like to meet someone,” he said. “That may happen in D.C. If it happens somewhere else, fine. But I'm also working, as my priest always tells me, working on not looking for the right person, [but] becoming the right man. So that's what I'm working on, just trying to be on that journey and try to prove myself every day. And, you know, hopefully that person's out there. I really hope so.”
Though his followers have grown to love his signature arm-cross power poses and aviator sunglasses, the P-Hive will have to embrace one major change to the Tony P brand: we sat down to talk the day before Polcari’s 25th birthday.
“I’ve heard it’s the quarter life crisis, which I don’t believe,” he said. “I just think for me, I'm going to reflect a lot on this birthday about the things that have happened in the past for me, and then also look at the things I want to tackle.”
He says he expects to post more content that explicitly dives into his concept of vibrant masculinity, and how he got into his field as a consultant. But he says his biggest goals will be staying humble, and staying true to his fans. After all, in some ways, they’re growing up together.
“People's time is very valuable. That they put time towards my content, it means the world to me,” he said. “I just want them to know that I want to keep trying to earn their trust in this.”