Frogs have been a keystone of meme culture since day one. Frogs have brought the internet everything from the moral dilemmas posed by Evil Kermit to the comforting aura of serenity radiating from unicycling hero Dat Boi (and lest we forget before Pepe got co-opted as a white supremacist symbol he was an essential part of online language). Nowhere is this fact more apparent than on Instagram, a platform where a growing number of frog aficionados are finding a community in each other, together with some surprisingly large followings.
“I don't even know how it blew up to be honest, we haven't self-promoted once,” says Lulu, the 16-year-old co-owner of @dailyphrogs. At the time of writing, the account boasts over 100k followers. “We have the biggest frog account on Instagram, and I find that baffling because I have no clue how it happened.” Unlike many of the other users behind the frog accounts on the platform, Lulu and her co-admin Sarah do not own frogs. “But we do own a lot of frog plushies. Sarah owns the most,” says Lulu. “If I had to guess, there's about 15 to 20 of them," Sarah adds.
Some of the frog content is self-generated, while other bits are crowd-sourced. "I think it's funnier when you know the person making them," Sarah says. "Because then you just think, ‘that's so something that they would do’. The little connections you make are what’s really great.” 15-year-old Sarah Maycock describes her own account (@froggo.s, 42k followers) similarly, referring to it as a “positivity page”. “I had seen other meme accounts about cats, and stuff like that,” she explains, “I'm like, ‘what if I did one of those... but my favourite animal?’ So, I did.”
For many internet users, memes have evolved into a welcome distraction from the world at large. The runaway popularity of frog posting on the platform is almost certainly linked to the rise of cottagecore and other nature-based aesthetics, movements that represent a romanticisation of a healthy environmental ecology that is looking increasingly unattainable. Yes, the planet is dying and we’re on the verge of battling a pandemic, but look at all these blissed-out amphibians! "They just sit there and look like they have no thoughts in their head," says Sarah M. “They're very meme-able animals.”
“I think they're just goofy,” says Megan Fry, owner of @dumpythicc, an account dedicated to her five pet Australian green tree frogs (also known as “dumpy tree frogs”) that has over 28k followers. In Megan’s view, frogs often act as a kind of blank canvas onto which a variety of emotions can be projected: “They don't really have facial expressions,” she explains, “So whatever situation you put them in... it kind of emanates whatever feeling you want the picture to express.”
But acknowledging this malleability is not to suggest that frogs are emotionless. “They can also be very dramatic,” says Lulu of @dailyphrogs, “like the screaming ones that bonk into things, those are funny.” It seems that, despite their historic association with ugliness, people simply find frogs quite pleasing to look at. “They're small and round and colourful! And people are just like, ‘Hey, I love that.’ It's nice.”
Most recently, the internet has coalesced around one frog-themed item in particular: Animal Crossing’s froggy chair. “It’s been a month and it’s still my favourite meme,” admits Lulu. She’s certainly not the only one. “People love froggy chair,” Sarah adds.
Unfortunately, the warp-speed of virality has attracted some less-than-desirable characters to the scene. “A lot of accounts DM us asking about self-promotion, or offer to buy our account,” Sarah explains. “Usually when we say no most people are okay with it, but some people get kind of rude or threatening.” One user in particular, Lulu says, wouldn't take no for an answer. “He got very pissed off, and made his own frog account in spite, stealing the content that we had posted. So we informed all our friends who post these kinds of pictures that they needed to block him immediately. I didn't even ask how much he was offering. This account means a lot to me, I've met a lot of good friends on here.”
It’s clear that these accounts are purely the tip of the slimy, green iceberg: the friendships behind the frogs run deep, and the joy they bring to the platform is abundantly evident in the follower counts. Really, there’s something incalculable about the value of a good frog meme. Perhaps the right one could even begin to repair our divided and decaying world. If there’s anything that can save us, it’s froggy chair... probably.
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.