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October 18 2021 5:33 PM ˚

Text memes are taking over Instagram

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(Photo: Pixabay)
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LOS ANGELES  — Last month, singer Courtney Love, who is a keen observer of social media trends, posted a cryptic message on Instagram.

“Lots of people don’t understand Gen-Z,” she wrote. اضافة اعلان

“I think they’re funnier than any other generation I’ve ever known.”

Accompanying Love’s Instagram post was a blurry photo of herself and a gallery of unrelated and messy screen-shotted memes filled with nonsensical text overlaid on random photos.

Love gave a shout-out to several accounts that had posted this type of content and highlighted even more of them on Wednesday, saying they had “made her think in memes.”

Love was mimicking and complimenting a kind of social media post that is now sweeping through Instagram.

This style of posting involves people — usually young people — publishing low-quality images, videos, or comments online. On Instagram, this means barraging people’s feeds with seemingly indiscriminate content, often accompanied by humorous or confessional commentary.

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.

“You just post your thoughts,” said Mia Morongell, 20, a creator of the @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’re airing personal thoughts and feelings.”
For years, Twitter served this very purpose, with the most engaging tweets repackaged and reposted by meme accounts and influencers on Instagram.

Twitter, recognizing this shift, started its own Instagram account in 2017 and has made it easier for users to easily share tweets as Instagram Stories.

But Twitter posts have a 280-character limit. And for Gen Z users, the combination of text, tools like the Whisper app and Instagram Create mode have mixed together into a viral alchemy that resonates with their age group.

“If you see someone following a meme page where they typically post tweets, they have a different sense of humor to what Gen Z would consider to be cool,” said Faris Ibrahim, 18, who posts in this style on his Instagram page @puddle_boot.

In one recent post, Tanisha Chetty, 15, who runs the Instagram page @life.is.not.a.soup, posted an image of a mattress in a graffiti-covered room. Overlaid on it was a message, in chunky black-and-white text, which read: “We should care less about mental help. Girl, go insane! You are valid.

” While the page only has 5,644 followers, the post racked up nearly 30,000 likes and thousands of comments.

These pages have surged during the pandemic as young people have turned to Instagram to externalize and seek connection, said Amanda Brennan, senior director of trends and the meme librarian at XX Artists, a social media agency.

“They’re very representative of teenagers having to spend the last year solely communicating through the internet,” she said.

Creators who have adopted this posting style have had follower counts soar.

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 last two months to over 14,100 followers, according to Instagram data.

Installations of Whisper, the app that emerged about five years ago as a way for people to anonymously share secrets, have also jumped, according to the analytics firm SensorTower.

For Instagram, the shift has been a boon as it duels with TikTok, the short-form video app, for young users.

While TikTok has seeded many memes into popular culture, more recent memes — such as “gaslight, gatekeep, girlboss,” a phrase meant to poke fun at millennial culture — gained popularity early among text-heavy Instagram pages before going mainstream on TikTok.

“Instagram Create mode posts are definitely what’s in right now for people around the ages of 18 to 23,” said Shaden Ahadi, 21, who co-runs the Instagram account @mybloodyvirginia with several friends.

“People who were regular TikTok users are using Instagram more.”
The shift to text-heavy memes on Instagram began about a year ago, users said.

In the early throes of the pandemic last summer, screenshots of people’s overly earnest Facebook status updates became popular on meme accounts, which poked fun at them.
But many young users said they didn’t like having to log into Facebook to create or find the status updates.
Instead, some of them turned to the Whisper app, which lets anyone quickly post text over an image that can be automatically generated or uploaded from your phone.

Others used Instagram’s Create mode tools, which also make it easy to make a text post in a few clicks. Confessional, overly personal messages paired with seemingly unrelated images allowed for an extra layer of humor and irony.

Brennan, the meme librarian, said the rise of Instagram’s text-heavy meme pages was reminiscent of the early years of Tumblr, the blogging platform that was popular in the late 2000s and early 2010s.

“Gen Z is rediscovering the old internet and updating it,” she said.

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