Meme accounts, with their blurry videos, screenshots, tweets, and TikTok clips, pioneered the Internet Ugly aesthetic. But now young teenagers and tweens have developed a new, more aesthetically pleasing format: the meme-and-theme account.
At first glance, a meme-and-theme page looks a lot like a general aesthetics account, a type of page dedicated to posting on a single color scheme or theme, like a digital mood board. Themes rotate frequently, but can be something as simple as all color-washed photos, celestial pictures, or any set of images that are visually similar. Administrators find the pictures on the image-sharing service We Heart It or through Google image searches. Many teens follow a set of aesthetics accounts that post photos related to their interest or the season: fall themes to get excited for Halloween, or Christmas themes for the holiday season.
But teenagers also love memes, and meme-and-theme pages merge these two genres into one. While a meme-and-theme page looks like an aesthetics account, below the surface it’s teeming with memes. Like thread accounts, meme-and-theme pages take advantage of Instagram’s photo-carousel feature: Administrators keep their grids looking pretty by uploading on-theme photos as the first post in each carousel. But when a user swipes left, a series of memes is revealed.
Some teenagers prefer these types of accounts to traditional meme pages because they keep feeds looking clean and innocent to prying eyes. If you’re scrolling in public or a parent peers over your shoulder, you can move through posts without swiping over to reveal potentially dicey content. “When you scroll through Insta with friends, you might not want all the memes to pop up. They’re quite random and can be weird,” said Esther, a 16-year-old who runs a meme-and-theme account and, like all the others under 18 in this story, is referred to by her first name only.