LOS ANGELES – Last month, singer Courtney Love, who is a keen observer of social media trends, posted a cryptic message on Instagram.
“A lot of people don’t understand Gen-Z,” he said. wrote. “I think they are more fun than any other generation I have ever met.”
Accompanying Ms. Love’s Instagram post was a blurry photo of herself and a gallery of messy, unrelated screencapped memes filled with nonsensical text overlaid on random photos. Ms. Love acknowledged several accounts that had posted this type of content and further highlighted them on Wednesday, saying they had “made her think of memes. “
Ms Love was mimicking and congratulating a kind of social media post that is now taking Instagram by storm. This style of posting, known in internet jargon as shitposting, involves people, usually young people, posting low-quality images, videos, or comments on social media. On Instagram, this means bomb people’s feeds with apparently indiscriminate content, often accompanied by humorous or confessional comments.
A growing ecosystem of Instagram accounts has embraced this. publishing style with lots of text, which has skyrocketed in popularity among Generation Z users during the pandemic. The trend has transformed Instagram, the photo- and video-based app owned by Facebook, into a microblogging network and a destination for written expression.
Many of these Instagram accounts, with absurd names like @ripclairo, @ botoxqueen. 1968 other @carti_xcx, it may seem fortuitous to the casual observer. However, there are similarities between the accounts. Most of them include screenshots of text on top of photos, taken with the anonymous confession app Whisper, or Instagram “Create” mode, which allows people to design text posts on gradient backgrounds. The posts are also interspersed with unaccredited images, viral videos, and humorous content.
“Just post your thoughts,” said Mia Morongell, 20, creator of @ lifes.a.bender Instagram account, which has amassed more than 134,000 followers. “It’s like Twitter, but for Instagram. It’s like a blog where you are transmitting personal thoughts and feelings. “
For years, Twitter served this very purpose, with the most attractive tweets repackaged and forwarded by meme accounts and influencers on Instagram. Twitter, recognizing this change, started your own Instagram account in 2017 and has facilitated users to easily share tweets like Instagram Stories.
But Twitter posts are limited to 280 characters. And for Gen Z users, the combination of text, tools like the Whisper app, and Instagram’s Create mode have blended into a viral alchemy that resonates with their age group.
“If you see someone following a meme page where they normally tweet, they have a different sense of humor than Gen Z would consider cool,” said Faris Ibrahim, 18, who posts in this style on his Instagram page. @puddle_boot.
In a recent post, 15-year-old Tanisha Chetty, who runs the Instagram page @ vida.no.una.sopa, posted on the picture of a mattress in a room covered in graffiti. Above him was a message, in thick black and white text, which read: “We shouldn’t care less about mental help. Girl, go crazy! You are valid. ”Although the page only has 5,644 followers, the post accumulated almost 30,000 likes and thousands of comments.
These pages spiked during the pandemic when young people turned to Instagram to reveal their most intimate identification and seek a connection, said Amanda Brennan, senior director of trends and meme librarian at XX Artists, a social media agency. “They are very representative of the adolescents who had to spend the last year communicating solely through the Internet,” he said.
Creators who have adopted this style of publication have skyrocketed the number of followers. The page @on_a_downward_spiral doubled to nearly half a million followers in the past six months, while the account @ joan.of.arca grew 250 percent in the past two months to more than 14,100 followers, according to Instagram data.
Whisper Installations, the application that arose on Five years ago As a way for people to share secrets anonymously, they have also jumped, according to analytics firm SensorTower.
For Instagram, the change has been a blessing, as it dueled with TikTok, the short-form video app, for young users. While TikTok has seeded many memes in popular culture, the most recent memes such as “gaslight, janitor, girlboss, ”A catchphrase meant to poke fun at millennial culture, it gained popularity early among text-heavy Instagram pages before going mainstream on TikTok.
“Instagram Create Mode posts are definitely hot right now for 18-23 year olds,” said Shaden Ahadi, 21, co-director of the Instagram account. @bloodvirginia with several friends. “People who were regular TikTok users use Instagram more.”
The shift to text-heavy memes on Instagram started about a year ago, users said.
In the early moments of the pandemic last summer, screenshots of people’s overly serious Facebook status updates became popular on meme accounts, making fun of them. But many young users said they didn’t like having to log into Facebook to create or find status updates.
Instead, some of them turned to the Whisper app, which allows anyone to quickly post text over an image that can be automatically generated or uploaded from their phone. Others used Instagram’s Create mode tools, which also make it easy to create a text post with just a few clicks. Confessional and overly personal messages combined with seemingly unrelated images allowed for an additional layer of humor and irony.
“The dissonance between the photo and the text in Whisper is what draws people in,” said Anna Mariani, 19, a creator who co-runs the Instagram page. @ this.and.a.blaernt.
Whisper did not respond to requests for comment.
Ricky Sans, Instagram Strategic Partner Manager for Memes, said the Create mode tools weren’t made for the purpose of creating text-heavy memes, but “we love seeing the creativity to reinterpret a tool that helps expression and expression. communication”.
However, some meme creators said that as their pages have become more popular, Instagram has been absent. Jackie Kendall, 20, said the app banned her two meme accounts (they didn’t tell her why) and is appealing a third ban.
“I couldn’t tell if Instagram was cracking down or if people were pointing to my posts and reporting them,” he said. “I think Instagram needs to do a better job of understanding and communicating with meme pages.”
The relationship between meme creators and Instagram has long been strained. In 2019, Instagram meme creators tried unionize to force the company to better address your support requests and issues such as prohibitions. (Mr. Sans was hired later that year).
In April, Instagram held a “meme summit”, where Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, answered questions from the creators. However, few popular text-heavy meme pages said they had heard from the company since then, despite efforts to get in touch with the platform.
In a statement, Instagram said: “We listen and sympathize with your concerns and our goal is to partner with as many meme creators as possible to ensure they receive quality support.”
Many text-heavy meme creators said they had come together to support each other.
“We have families of memes,” said Misha Takeo, 16, who runs the @kawaiicuteidols account. Established creators, known as “nepotism fathers,” form networks where they advise, republish, and tag smaller creators known as “nepotism babies.”
Some users have also built their own audiences from cleverly written comments below posts on meme pages. Known as mega commenters, they have added to the virality of the meme pages on the Instagram feed algorithm.
Nate robbinA 20-year-old college junior in Florida, he said he has been commenting on memes with lots of texts on Instagram for eight months and always gets the best comments on posts from “the top actors in every community.” He called himself “the internet micro-celebrity of the tongue-in-cheek publishing community.”
Robbin was the first to comment on Ms. Love’s most recent Instagram post that refers to that community. “I said, ‘Nurse, you’re doing that again,'” he said. “Not only can a good comment increase engagement with a post, it can contribute to the joke itself and make the post more fun as a whole.”
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Ms Brennan, the meme librarian, said the rise of text-heavy meme pages on Instagram is reminiscent of the early years of Tumblr, the blogging platform that was popular in the late 2000s and early 2000s. 2010.
“Gen Z is rediscovering the old Internet and updating it,” he said.