When you give something to the masses, you can’t expect it to remain as it originally was. We are strange beings, and technology is not immune to our strangeness. On the surface, things might be functioning as per usual, but underneath, there’s a vibrant current, changing and evolving this thing, taking it from what it was into an entirely new, inexplicable place.
Trying to dive into this swiftly moving sect is difficult – but revealing. And confusing. This is all to say that it’s time to talk about Weird Instagram.
Some background on what the “Weird” qualifier means: More or less, “Weird” in this sense means a niche community operating within Instagram populated by its most loyal users many of whom are teens and young adults. This subset has developed its own slang, memes, and hacked-together features. If an outsider like you or I were to wander into a Weird Instagram enclave, we wouldn’t know what was happening.
weird facebook/weird twitter/weird instagram
— STEVE HOLT! (@mariaugh) July 8, 2013
Weird Instagram hasn’t hit full tilt the way Weird Twitter has. Within the handful of years, Weird Twitter has risen from obscurity to being something that most Internet users are relatively aware of. If you’ve managed to avoid the many explainers of Weird Twitter populating the blogosphere, it is a very simple sect of Twitter that speak in an experimental sort of Internet slang. Some of Weird Twitter’s most beloved users are spambots, @Horse_ebooks, revered for their nonsensical tweets. It’s a little dark, a lot funny, heavy on value statements, and all tied together by the loosest of tangents.
While Weird Twitter still enjoys its position flying below many Twitter users’ radar, it’s been plenty explored. But Weird Instagram is new territory; I’m not even sure if those creating it are purposefully setting out to do it, or it’s simply an organic effect. Whatever the cause, it’s happening and it’s here – and this is the evidence.
Text and messages
You and I both know that Instagram doesn’t have a private messaging feature. You can tag people in photos and comments, but you can’t send anyone a chat. Except if you’re in Weird Instagram. Part of “weird” anything is to use a platform not as it was intended to be used, and Instagram was certainly never meant for screenshots of personal messages to be broadcast to your followers.
It’s ugly, it’s disruptive, it’s spammy. It’s perfect for Weird Instagram.
Users call out their social media enemies (a sort of Instagram version of subtweeting), humblebrag, use it as a blogging platform of sorts or a call to action, or even for good old fashioned self promotion.
This trend is at odds with Instagram’s innate purpose. There are a handful of apps that let you send messages to Instagram users, but who needs official systems like this when you can take the road less traveled, write up on your iPhone’s notepad, screenshot it, and upload it with the Valencia filter?
@Textinstagram is a great commentary on all this.
Nonsense accounts and memes
Like every good “Weird” community, there are celebrities. The previously mentioned @Horse_ebooks rules Weird Twitter, as do a handful of others (@rare_basement, @DadBoner, and @dril). Thus, Weird Instagram clearly needs its own elite. And exist they do; two perfect examples:
@shavaunna – A feed devoted to the severed head of a Barbie Doll.
@davidbowieladyhog – Pictures of David Bowie … with a hedgehog.
While the entire text trend can be used to effectively “subgram” (what I’m calling the Instagram version of subtweeting), that isn’t the only method of calling out an Instagram nemesis. A quick reminder of what exactly subtweeting is: It’s where you call someone out for something – anything – on Twitter in a behind-the-back fashion; generally without mentioning them by name or including the @ symbol to pull their handle in. Subgramming works the same way, as witnessed via the hashtags #subgram, #subgramming, #subinstagram, and #subinstagramming (there are, of course, many variations of these hashtags).
Here’s a really meta example as well:
Video and the Vine effect
Instagram only just added video to its platform, but the effects have come fast. Yes, there are plenty of videos of our morning commutes and kids and dogs being respectively adorable, and everything else we knew was coming. But there are also videos like this and this and this.
Look familiar? That’s because they have that Vine-like thing going on. That weird, inexplicable type of funny that’s mostly hilarious because you don’t know what’s so funny about it. Watching these videos sort of feels like being ushered into an inside joke that you’re not quite sure you understand. Vine was a product of Twitter and widely adopted by the Twitter community first – meaning Weird Twitter got its hands all over it as well. So the secondary addition of Instagram video has probably been effected by what some of these users were turning to Vine for, so perhaps some of Weird Twitter is bleeding into Instagram thanks in large part to Vine.
It’s hard to exactly defines Weird Instagram – which is sort of the point: This strange, strange place defies understanding. It’s remarkable that users have managed to so fully infiltrate a social platform with inherently more “rules” built into it (Twitter, in comparison, has a much freer flow to it when it comes to user communication). But the tide can’t be stopped: Things are only bound to get weirder.