It’s harder and harder to have an honest debate on the internet. Social-media platforms like Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook Groups are rife with trolls; forums are plagued by archaic layouts and spambots. Teenagers who are looking to talk about big issues face additional frustrations, like the fact that most adults on these platforms don’t take them seriously.
Naturally, they’ve turned to Instagram. Specifically, they’ve turned to “flop” accounts—pages that are collectively managed by several teens, many of them devoted to discussions of hot-button topics: gun control, abortion, immigration, President Donald Trump, LGBTQ issues, YouTubers, breaking news, viral memes.
But as flop accounts grow by the thousands as teens seek refuge from the wider web, many of the internet’s worst dynamics have begun to duplicate themselves on Instagram. Some flop accounts are rife with polarization, drama, and misinformation. All the while, an increasing number of teens are turning to these types of accounts for news, seeing them as more reliable and trustworthy than traditional media.
The accounts post photos, videos, and screenshots of articles, memes, things, and people considered a “flop,” or, essentially, a fail. A flop could be a famous YouTuber saying something racist, someone being rude or awful in person, a homophobic comment, or anything that the teen who posted it deems wrong or unacceptable. Some of the teens who run a given account know one another in real life; more likely, they met online.
“Flop accounts bring attention to bad things or bad people that people should be aware of. We also post cringeworthy content for entertainment purposes,” said Alma, a 13-year-old admin on the flop account @nonstopflops.