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What do those Instagram name matching memes say about what humanity needs right now?

IMAGE VIA WHAT.HARRY.STYLES.ARE.YOU/INSTAGRAM
WORDS BY JASMINE WALLIS

The latest social media trend is making me feel existential.

An interesting trend popped up on Instagram over the weekend. It wasn’t a new TikTok dance or the latest push-up challenge, instead, it was an Instagram account called @whatdogareyou

The essence of the account is posting people’s names in a gaudy, coloured font, and matching them to a picture of a dog from the internet. The result? A kitschy meme tailored just for you. The account’s first post was only four days ago and since then it’s racked up 116, 000 followers and counting. 

Since the dog account took the internet by storm, various other iterations have popped up. I’ve been sent accounts with my name in front of a panda, a frog, a cow, a raccoon, and even some sort of cursed pie-looking image.

I thought at first it was just an Australian trend, but after speaking to some friends in the UK and the US, it seems that this trend is going viral. Maybe you can put it down to my current lack of full-time employment, but seeing droves of my friends posting their personalised animal to their Instagram stories got me thinking. 

Why has this gained so much attention so quickly? Why are we obsessed with finding our names on things? Are personalised name memes the new star signs? How far will this meme’s life span go? Here are my theories.

 

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Jasmine 💕

A post shared by You are a Frog (@what_frog_you_are) on

Nostalgia

Who could forget going on holiday and sprinting to the keyring stand at the hotel gift shop, squabbling with your sibling to see who could find their name first? (For our family it was always me, because my sister’s name is India). This feels kind of the same. 

As soon as a new account is discovered I find myself scrolling to see what my image will look like or if it’s there at all. My friend Paris is also getting flashbacks to the name on the keyring memory, telling me that “This is the 2020 version of not finding your name on a keychain and I hate it.” Paris said she’s found her sister’s name in front of a cow but is still yet to find her own and can feel the sibling rivalry and jealousy of ghosts’ of holidays past making a comeback. 

Many of the animals are, admittedly, quite cute, and some of them even have human qualities as they’re dressed up in hats and clothes. It reminds me of farm animals we might see in nursery rhymes or cartoons. So why are grown adults sharing them around like notes in a school classroom? 

The combination of the brightly coloured font — which looks like it could have been created on Microsoft Powerpoint circa 2004 — the rush of finding your own name, and the reward of looking at a cute, cuddly animal makes me think that as a collective, we’re finding comfort in appreciating childish things again. 

Maybe during these heavy times where nothing makes sense and the world is in turmoil, there’s a simple comfort to be found in rushing to an Instagram page and scrolling until you find your name. While we all should definitely be paying attention to what’s going on in the world and reading the news, maybe these memes are providing us with a small reprieve from the horrors of 2020.

Like a modern form of meditation, these accounts are a space where you can mind-numbingly scroll until you find your animal. It’s entertaining and childish and silly, but it takes us away from our responsibilities for a couple of minutes.

We are living through peak meme culture

We’re living through a global pandemic, a civil rights movement and a climate crisis. Who cares what you had for breakfast or what matching sweatsuit you’re wearing to stay in your house today? I straight up just want to know what type of frog matches your name. 

Suggestions that the age of the influencer is coming to and end began pre-COVID but the pandemic has sped things up even further. Maybe we’re all becoming disillusioned with the polished world that (some) influencers create, and instead of buying into the aesthetics or trying to emulate them we’ve collectively decided that we just want to start shit-posting for the rest of 2020. 

We’re all stressed, we’re all uncertain of the future, the simulation we’re living in is glitching further with every diabolical headline that pops up on our tiny hand computers. Maybe instead of trying to project our best, shiny selves online we can all resign ourselves to the fact that at the end of the day this is just an app, and if your name in front of a farm animal gives you the serotonin you need to get through the day then hey, why not?

 

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A post shared by what dog you are (@whatdogyouare) on


We feel seen and it creates a sense of community 

When asking friends why they like the memes, their resounding response was that they felt seenIn a world where everyone’s competing to be heard (especially online), it makes sense that seeing your own name, a part of your identity right there on the screen can give you a sense of validation. 

Similar to the way we categorise ourselves into star signs, Myers-Briggs types and Buzzfeed quizzes, us humans like putting things in neat little boxes to help us understand ourselves. 

While the world we know is crumbling before our eyes, it makes sense that finding our names in front of weird images would become an internet trend. We all yearn for external validation and this is another way to remind ourselves that we are living, breathing people with names and identities. 

Also, for the places that are still under a strict lockdown like Melbourne, finding your friend’s names and DMing them can give you a sense of community and connection during a very isolating time. 

 

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A post shared by who r u (@what_image_are_you) on

Name matching memes are the 2020 version of a love note. They say, “Hey, I hope you’re okay, I’m thinking of you so here’s your name in comic sans in front of a fluffy cow.” I’ve personally sent a couple to friends who I haven’t had a proper conversation with in months and we both know that that’s enough right now – a captionless image of a cute animal with the same name.

You can already tell this meme is coming to the end of its life span because the accounts are getting more and more absurd. Just this morning I saw what meal are you, (with an image of spaghetti in a beer jug), and which Guy Fieri are you. There’s even a what Harry Styles are you account, which, according it its bio, is “currently slammed with requests” for personalised name photos.

This trend’s life span could be skewed due to lockdown, as a lot of our regular markers of time have gone out the window (can you believe the whipped coffee trend was FOUR months ago?). But whether this lasts for the rest of the week or continues on for the rest of the year, I think we can take comfort in the fact that all everyone wants right now is their stupid name in front of a stupid image on the hellscape that is a social media app. Happy meme sharing, everyone. 

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