Internet trends, unlike other aspects of life such as weather, the stock market, etc., are nearly impossible to predict. How else could we explain the sudden, overwhelming popularity of Instagram accounts that match people’s names to images of memes, celebrities, or animals?
In this day and age, with all the technology we now possess, Snapchat and TikTok filters can now assign us a character from The Office, Friends, or any number of Disney animated films in real-time. Conversely, you can take an online quiz to determine what character you are from your favorite pop culture franchises or anything else—from the BuzzFeed style to more scientifically accurate varieties.
So why are people suddenly obsessed with scrolling endlessly through a sea of "What X Are You" Instagram accounts in hopes of spotting their name overlaid on a random photo of a person, animal, or thing?
Perhaps therein lies the answer: the mindlessness, simplicity, and randomness of it all—combined with, I guess you could say, the thrill of the hunt?
The What Dog You Are account is largely credited with starting this phenomenon. The account first posted on July 6 with a photo of a dog bequeathed the name "Swetha" that had evidently destroyed a remote control. In just a couple of short weeks, the account has already accumulated over 120,000 followers and has inspired countless imitators.
As other accounts began popping up, some followed the "What animal are you?" formula, including What Cow Are You and What Rat Are You, which didn't take long to amass considerable followings of their own.
Some popular accounts took on celebrities, such as What Britney Are You and Which Guy (Fieri) Are You, for quite obvious reasons—as there is no shortage of fun or embarrassing photos of either the popstar or Food Network host.
In many cases, though these accounts start off picking random names—the more popular accounts, in particular, solicit user submissions.
The original What Dog You Are account is even trying to do some good with it, by offering to bump user submissions up in the queue, so to speak, in exchange for a Cash App donation that goes to an animal rescue shelter. (Alternately, participants can donate to the shelter directly and provide a receipt, according to the What Dog You Are website.)
Mallory, who runs the What Dog You Are Instagram account, told the Daily Dot in an email that contrary to popular belief, the trend was started by a since-deleted What Cat Are You page. She says that she never expected the account to become the juggernaut that it has, but that it's been an "amazing and unique experience, to say the least."
When asked why she thinks these accounts have resonated with people the way they have, Mallory tells us that she thinks that people were looking for something simple to smile at.
"I think it’s the feeling of 'being seen' that people have loved," Mallory said. "Everyone reposts it on their stories and tags their friends. It’s a way to say 'Hey look, it’s me!' and a nice way for friends to remind each other they care."
When asked what her favorite "copycat" account is, Mallory says she loves What Image Are You—but makes sure to add that all the account owners are very funny and have all been supportive of one another.
In these fraught, divided times we're living in, maybe we could all stand to learn something from the microcosm of these Instagram accounts. At the very least, they give us all something amusing to distract ourselves with, even if for only a few minutes of the day.