When Ashley, a 16-year-old who asked to be referred to by a pseudonym, scrolls through Instagram, her eyes barely skim the photos and videos that take up the majority of space in her feed. She double-taps anything she sees from her close friends, but the main thing she cares about is the comments below each pic. “Comments are the easiest to communicate. It’s just the easiest way to find people with similar interests,” Ashley said. In fact, she met her best friend in the comment section of an Instagram niche-meme account last year. After noticing some particularly witty comments, she clicked on the girl’s profile, followed her, and began starting conversations in the comment section of her Instagram photos. The two hit it off, and they’ve been tight ever since.
For years, comments on Instagram were secondary to the photo and video posts that make up the app’s main feed. But recently, Instagram comment sections have begun to eclipse the photos they sit below.
Over the past year and a half, the Instagram account @commentsbycelebs has ballooned to nearly 1 million followers by documenting celebrities’ most notable Instagram comments. It has spawned a network of copycat comment accounts, many of which have thousands of followers. Part of the rise in comment culture on Instagram is due to product changes made by the platform. In August 2017, Instagram added threaded comments, making it easier for people to have coherent conversations. And in the spring of 2018, the company instituted an algorithm that surfaced noteworthy comments from celebrities, athletes, influencers, and verified accounts.