A growing ecosystem of Instagram accounts has embraced this text-heavy posting style, which has exploded in popularity among Gen Z users during the pandemic. The trend has transformed Instagram, the photo- and video-based app owned by Facebook, into a network of microblogs and a destination for written expression.
Many of these Instagram accounts, with absurdist names like @ripclairo, @botoxqueen.1968 and @carti_xcx, may look haphazard to the casual observer. Yet there are similarities across accounts. Nearly all feature screenshots of text on top of photos, made using the anonymous confessions app Whisper, or Instagram’s “Create” mode, which lets people design text posts on top of gradient backgrounds. The posts are also interspersed with uncredited images, viral videos and humorous content.
Taylor Lorenz with the NYT identifies a trend sweeping Instagram: text memes. I love keeping track of random trends like this that generate content in contrast to the general understanding of what makes “good” content on a given platform. It’s like absurdist art or something. Anyway, as usual the youths are the ones driving this trend, and it’s interesting to study.
HITTING THE LINKS
Fascinating trend on Twitter.
Over the past year, a noticeable portion of MAGA world has been removed from mainstream social-media platforms or inspired to decamp to newer, more permissive sites such as Parler, Gab, MeWe, and Rumble. These alternative platforms are not known for their tough content moderation or for providing a great user experience; however, they are not exactly the dark web, either. You or I can easily look at them anytime we like.
But what if we don’t like? What if we don’t have the time or motivation to scroll through spam links and bad memes and the confusing shorthand of the more extreme factions of the Trumpist right? In theory, this is where PatriotTakes, an anonymously run Twitter account with more than 400,000 followers, comes in.
This is a similar piece to Lorenz’s that I cite at the top of the email. But a bit of a different angle, focusing on why informality (or outright chaos) is in style.
Perhaps it’s a pushback against the tyranny of Instagram perfection; perhaps it’s simply the logical endpoint of mass availability of video editing software. Perhaps it’s because chaos alone can encapsulate what a chronically online brain looks and feels like. Or perhaps it’s because everyone is reading Patricia Lockwood and listening to too much hyperpop. In 2017 then-Washington Post columnist Elizabeth Bruenig (another internet agenda-setter, in a different way), posited that “millennial humor” (Winnie the Pooh as a 9/11 truther, the entire saga of Harambe) was so weird because on the whole, our lives were starting to look pretty bleak, and nothing made sense.
Instagram is leaning much more heavily into video, no doubt to compete with TikTok, and people who make a living on the platform are mad about it. (This is why it’s never smart to rely on a social media platform’s fickle fancies to make your living.)
Click on Instagram today and you will still see plenty of photos, but you’ll also be confronted with a carousel of short, vertical videos (known as “Reels”) as well as the more-than-occasional ad. In his video, Mosseri explained that “the number one reason people say that they use Instagram in research is to be entertained” and the app was going to “lean into that trend” by experimenting with video. Citing TikTok and YouTube as competition, Mosseri said Instagram would “embrace video” and users could expect a number of changes in the coming months.
THE FUNNY PART
If you like this, you should subscribe to my free newsletter of funny content I find online. It’s called The Funnies. It delivers on Saturday mornings.
You can subscribe to The Funnies here. (It is and will always be free.)