Entertainment

Enjoy Those 'What ____ Are You' Instagrams While You Still Can

We've got about two days until everyone on the internet hates these things with a fiery passion.
Drew Schwartz
Brooklyn, US
July 17, 2020, 3:36pm
What Dog Are You Instagram
Illustration by Dessie Jackson

About two weeks ago, someone started an Instagram account called "What Dog You Are," which pairs images of—oh, who the hell am I kidding? You probably know all about "What Dog You Are," and have already gotten a dozen DMs of a photo of some goofy-looking Schnauzer with your name blasted across it in neon lettering. Or maybe you haven't; maybe you've seen what's basically the exact same account, only instead of dogs, it's for cats.

"What _____ Are You?" pages have exploded over the past two weeks. There are accounts for animals (dogs, frogs, hedgehogs, cows, rats, fish, goats, bears, horses, sea slugs, ferrets, and birds); celebrities (Dolly Parton, Timothée Chalamet, Guy Fieri, Lady Gaga, and Danny DeVito); random shit (dolls, sandwiches, piles of garbage, toilets, memes, cursed images, literal random shit)—the list goes on. The joke is pretty self-explanatory: Random names are slapped onto photos that supposedly capture the personality of people with that name. A new "What ___ Are You?" account seems to pop up every five minutes, and within a few days, it's somehow gained tens of thousands of followers.

The press has, predictably, eaten these meme pages up. Insider called them "rewarding" and "fun"; Mashable lauded them as "hilarious"; Esquire declared that they were "impossible to hate." I, however, would like to posit a different take on the phenomenon: We've got about two days until everyone on the internet hates these things with a fiery passion.

You may have laughed the first time you saw a deranged-looking Chihuahua with your name plastered over it; perhaps you even chuckled at the gerbil that followed, and the dumpster that came after that. But now your DMs are swamped with these goddamn things, and you're beginning to get sick of them. Why? Because once you've seen about three of them, you've seen them all.

As my colleague Ashwin Rodrigues pointed out, this is just the latest instance of "the internet confusing specificity with humor." We don't like these images because they're funny; we like them because we feel seen. But the specificity effect lessens each time a new meme with your name on it comes your way, and it depreciates further with each new name that gets the "What ____ Are You?" treatment. Once we realize these memes aren't actually tailored to us in a meaningful way, they feel cheap, empty, and unfunny.

That's not the only reason these accounts are destined for a downfall. If you look at the names that tend to appear on these pages, you'll find plenty of Todds, Amys, Chucks, Elizabeths, Erics, and Emilys. What's lacking, however, are names that don't reek of caucasity. These pages face the same problem that their spiritual predecessor, the nameplate necklace, did: "Mainstream" names are usually just white names, and if you don't have one, you're probably shit out of luck. (An alternate version of this blog, proposed by my colleague Bettina Makalintal: "I Am Too Ethnic For the Memes.")

Some "What ____ Are You?" pages have avoided this problem by having folks submit their names via DM, and hand-selecting images that "fit" them. Herein lies yet another minefield: To guarantee a spot at the top of their to-do list, many accounts encourage you to pay them through an app like Venmo. If you want to give someone money to Google a photo of a squirrel, photoshop your name onto it, and post it on the internet, by all means, go ahead. But a handful of accounts claim they're giving the proceeds from these donations to charity, which begs the question: What the fuck is going on with THAT?

The 16-year-old who runs "What Dog You Are," whose name I will withhold, wrote on their website that "a CashApp donation puts your name at the top of the list." The only details available on what a "donation" actually means are as follows: "We donate CashApp profits to an amazing rescue shelter. Please check them out!" Let's unpack that. What constitutes "profits"? Where does this teen draw the line between expenses, which they ostensibly keep, and excess cash, which they allegedly donate? To the teen's credit, they posted a receipt for a $1,000 donation to the Royal Animal Refuge, and that's great. But how much money are these account holders actually earning through "donations"? And how do their followers know whether the money they spend is going towards caring for vulnerable animals or paying for someone's Silly Bandz?

I'm not here to launch an investigation into a 16-year-old with a meme account, or to get specific "What ____ Are You?" pages canceled over a lack of inclusivity (though really, please do better), or even to spoil the fun for anyone who enjoys them. Like the identically themed BuzzFeed quizzes and Instagram filters that came before them, I don't really give a shit about these things. All I'm saying is that by next week, we're all going to be yelling about how one of these Instagram pages is run by a white supremacist, another one basically embezzled money from a charity, and six others are secretly controlled by the Kremlin.

Maybe you love DMing your friends goofy photos with their names on them, and that's totally fine. Just know that the end is coming soon—and unless you mute "what dog are you" on Twitter right now, this trend is going to waste so, so, so much more of your time than it already has. Consider yourself warned!

Follow Drew Schwartz on Twitter.