Gen Z Is Revitalizing Instagram With “What __ R U” Name Posts

Photographed by Tayler Smith.
This story was originally published on July 14, 2020.
It’s been a while since an Instagram trend really took off. But recently, a series of posts following a minimal format has grown into a phenomenon. The premise is simple: Each post features a name and an image — equal parts meme and souvenir shop name keychain, only you get to tag yourself and all your friends.
Accounts like @what_frog_you_are, @whatdogyouare, and @what_image_are_you are appearing in DMs and Stories alike, especially over the last five days. About a dozen new accounts also popped up over the weekend, matching names to pictures of everything from TikToks to clocks to cows, mailboxes, deer, and cats.
“Everyone deserves a frog,” creator Joie wrote in a caption celebrating You Are A Frog booming into a huge community, reaching 100,000 followers in just four days. “Our frog community right here is the best community on the internet,” Joie wrote in the same post, emphasizing in an earlier Story that everyone who’s had trouble finding their name on a keychain — especially those with non-English and indigenous names — deserves a frog.
A similar batch of memes emerged in late June and swirled around Latinx and Spanish Instagram. Spanish-language accounts like @vaquitascontunombre and @eres.un.sticker match names to images of cows and Whatsapp stickers, respectively, and pre-date the more popular English-language ones, perhaps signaling a trend that transcends languages.
Over the past few months, Instagram has taken on a new role in our lives. It’s where many go to keep up with the best ways to get involved in racial justice protests and other initiatives, but the urgency of more than half a million coronavirus deaths and the ongoing fight against police brutality have made posting about enviable outings and aspirational lifestyles into an act of poor taste. These naming accounts, while fun, have also found a way to remind people that the work is not yet done. For example, @what_image_are_you, which matches names with “cursed images,” has been collecting donations in exchange for posts and has so far donated hundreds of dollars to organizations like For The Gworls, The Okra Project, G.L.I.T.S, and Children of the Night. Creator Nell, 22, tells Refinery29 that the donation part was a happy accident: "On the first or second day someone offered to send money in exchange for two name requests so I figured I would put my Venmo up and donate whatever small donations we received to organizations we were familiar with and cared about."
But these accounts are also part of a larger cohort that shares each other’s content, which includes @what_cow_you_are, @what_rat_are_you, @what_horse_r_u, and similar accounts for turtles, ferrets, bunny, gorillas, ducks. Some accept donations for the creators, some don’t take any kind of donations, and others are collecting money to donate to a cause. Nell notes, "There is a group DM with all of the “what are you” accounts, we talk about followers, donations etc. Many of us have given each other shout outs, as we all have different amounts of followers. A common thread within the group chat is that we are all in a little over our heads, though in the best possible!"
Part of the appeal may be that all of these pages post new content on a request basis. Users request their names (or a friend’s name) to be turned into a post, and the creators get through as many requests as possible. You Are A Frog’s creator is in college and accepts donations for her work, but donations are not required. What Dog You Are was created less than a week ago, has about 120,000 followers, and encourages (but also does not require) followers to donate to the Royal Animal Refuge in exchange for posts.
Jordan is a 20-year-old college student currently based out of Los Angeles, and the creator of What Harry Styles Are You?. She started the account on Saturday and already has almost 9,000 followers. She told Refinery29 over email, “I started it just for fun for other Harry fans and over two days it grew extremely fast, due to the volume of requests I had to bring my friend Lauren into the account because I could not create new posts fast enough.” She estimates that she has over 500 outstanding requests in the DMs, mainly from Harry Styles fans ages 15 to 24. Lauren adds that, “it’s really awesome to see that Harry can bring everyone together no matter where they are in the world.” 
Jordan says she doesn’t have specific goals or ambitions for What Harry Styles Are You?, and only plans to do it for as long as it’s fun: “I will pursue it for as long as people enjoy the account. I know with these kinds of trends they usually fade out pretty quickly.”

More from Tech

R29 Original Series