And Grace, a 15-year-old who regularly engages with self-help threads, says they “offer reassurance and help because they gather all of the information under one heading.”
The thread accounts themselves are most often run by older teens or college-age “adults.” Kimberly Webb, a 19-year-old in Texas, estimates that she’s created hundreds of threads, which she has posted to several accounts. Her most popular account grew to more than 30,000 followers in just a matter of months. (She has a Twitter account, but self-help and advice threads don’t really go viral on Twitter, she says—she only has one follower there.)
Webb says that making the threads is easy. She gets topic inspiration from her community, or things she’s struggled with in the past. “I’ve had people DM me, ‘How do I make friends? How do I have my first kiss?’” she says. She and other thread-account admins say that they’re often the first person their young followers will come to for advice, and that they can spend hours a day fielding messages from teens requesting threaded solutions to their problems.
Webb researches solutions by watching YouTube videos, then condenses that knowledge down into short chunks of information that she bullets into threads. She says that there’s a lot of misinformation on Google and she has found that trusted makeup and fitness YouTubers provide better tips.
Webb estimates that it takes her around 30 minutes to create a thread—more for ones that require extra research or watching longer videos. She creates the majority of them while she’s bored at home or killing time, like when she’s on the StairMaster. And for now, at least, she’s not monetizing her hobby: Webb says she simply likes the feeling she gets when her threads perform well, and she’s developed a community across her accounts that has led to several close friendships.
Henrietta Dwumfour, a 20-year-old in Georgia, began posting threads last year to her main account, @cleopatrathefoxx, initially because she noticed them becoming popular. “They work really well with the algo to get more followers,” she says. “The most popular one I made was how to fix your baby hairs on your face. I’m African American, so we have a coarse hair type. It’s hard to lay your hair the best way ... It really blew up and spread really wide.”
Thread makers suspect that the format performs so well for a few reasons. Kids respond with feedback or tag friends in posts they think they’ll like, so comment sections on most threads are very active. And most followers also swipe through each gallery to the very end, something that may be favorable to the Instagram algorithm.
Dwumfour says that threads with the simplest advice perform best: What seems like common sense to an adult or college student might be novel to your average 12-year-old. “They’re young,” Dwumfour says of typical thread followers, “so they think putting a piece of paper under your eyelashes so the mascara doesn’t get on you is the most innovative thing ever.”