The 'What Animal You Are' Instagram accounts are the last fun thing on the internet
Walk into any beach town gift shop, and you’re very likely to find some sort of personalized license plate magnet, keychain, or bracelet with, let’s conservatively say the 150 most common names in America. These gaudy souvenirs are eternal, and alongside a pair of sunglasses I bought from a beach gift shop featuring the faces of George H.W. Bush, Barack Obama, Gandhi, and Bob Dylan, extremely hard to resist when judgment is hazy. It’s always a letdown when they don’t have your name on the shelf or botch its spelling, but the internet allows for a limitless spate of possibilities — and some input in the selections.
Now, in a summer with slightly less beach traffic, the trend has migrated to Instagram, where it can stretch beyond wholesome family vacation content. A quick glance at the app, and you’ll find “what _____ you are” accounts for just about anything. Frogs, dogs, hedgehogs, dildos, hot dogs, cursed images, Harry Styles pictures...the imagination runs a bit wild. While the more family friendly (read: animal) accounts are the most popular, any sentient object or creature can be a vessel for your personality.
The meme format lends itself to endlessly scrolling through these pages, in hopes of finding yourself, your friends, or archnemeses as a cow. It’s a bit more egalitarian than the gift shop variety — and a break from the viral filter quizzes from earlier this year — in many cases crowdsourcing name suggestions over DM or in the comments. The account “You are a Frog” has a Google spreadsheet where you can track exactly which names have already posted with a quick Ctrl-F, and a coming soon tab for who’s on the way to frog glory. Saves the time of an endless scroll, and gives you a say in getting a Shrek or Napoleon frog on the books.
It’s also led to a pure communal space for the account operators, who raise money for a number of charitable causes including The Okra Project, G.L.I.T.S., For the Gworls, and more. In an interview with Refinery29, a 22-year-old named Nell who runs the @what_image_are_you account, revealed that they’re in a group message chain with several other what ____ are you accounts to plan donations and build community. “There is a group DM with all of the “what are you” accounts, we talk about followers, donations etc,” Nell told Refinery29. “A common thread within the group chat is that we are all in a little over our heads, though in the best [way] possible!”
There comes a point where you can’t overthink this stuff. Twenty and thirty-something media professionals love to ascribe meaning onto inane cultural trends — which, forgive me if I’m about to do this — but sometimes you just need to see if your name and personality type correspond to the frog a random Instagram user has selected. That’s it. Much like with the Everything Is Cake meme that’s further eroded national trust, the simplest of pleasures win out in the end, and if it provides some small respite and builds community for the people operating the accounts, then it’s all worth it.