Flop accounts: Instagrams latest haven for online bullying

“They kept coming up on my Instagram Explore page,” Elena, a 17-year-old high school student from Ohio, tells me. “I used to see them all the time.”

“Its such a saturated genre of account,” Alex, an 18-year-old student from Maryland says. “I find at least three different ones Ive never seen before every single day.”

“Love yourselves,” 26-year-old artist, Fi, urged her Twitter followers, “dont follow [them].”

“God, I hate them,” wrote 20-year-old Teddii. “They're so nasty… They're the biggest waste of space."

Elena, Alex, Fi, and Teddii are all talking about flop accounts: an increasingly ubiquitous form of Instagram account thats popular among teens. Under the guise of being “just for laughs”, these pages dedicate themselves to ridiculing particular groups of people, often those who are marginalised, by sharing and mocking pictures and videos taken from their Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr and TikTok accounts.

Its unclear exactly how flop accounts got their name. Some hypothesise that they were originally created to highlight instances where other people had “flopped” – ie when a content posted online was met with a poor reception, or featured something worthy of mocking. Most flop account names are styled on a single format – “[X].flops” – where X is replaced with whatever group they set out to mock. Typical channels include “@gender.flops”, “@feminist.flops” or “@trans.flops”.

Taylor Lorenz wrote about the rise of flop accounts for the Atlantic in July 2018. She reported that, despite having origins in bullying, flop accounts had morphed into “forums to debate the big issues”, styled like news outlets, where groups of teens would gather to post on topics like LGBT+ issues, feminism, gun ownership and race.

Much of this remains true: these accounts are typically run by groups of teens, they inspire debate, and they tend to focus on one particular issue. But over the last year, flop accounts have returned to their roots, transitioning away from a reliable news source for teens and instead becoming platforms for teen bullying.

“I have never seen a flop news account,” Charlie, a 16-year-old high school student from Virginia tells me. “I've only ever seen them bully people.”

Flop accounts are known for their targeted harassment. Their pages are frequently dedicated to making fun of a specific person, or particular groups of marginalised people, including those with mental illnesses, transgender people, and people who simply arent straight.

“The accounts I've seen mostly focus on making fun of non-dysphoric trans people and queer people that are different,” Charlie tells me. “They generally make fun of people in the public eye, but often use those people to indirectly make fun of people they know.”

“I see a lot of anti-asexual [acephobic] accounts,” Alex says, “And lot of hate is also directed at, albeit not intentionally, autistic folks, as people may mock their behaviour because they do not understand their actions.”

“Children or younger people are the ones who get the brunt of this,” he says.

Nearly all the young people I spoke with described flop accounts as a symptom of a wider online “cringe culture” – where adolescents and teens are afraid of doing anything sincere online out of fear that they may be mocked and labelled “cringey” for their interests.

“People are afraid to actually express themselves and how they truly feel because theyre afraid to get posted on a flop account and get bullied,” Alex argues. “Ive seen people make fun of children for their appearance, for liking anime, for drawing art they think is bad, etc.”

“To take something like an art piece or a fun TikTok video that a young person spent time on and enjoyed and then post it with the intent of your followers roasting it or just generally making fun of it… Its incredibly rude and frankly against Instagrams bullying guidelines,” he adds.

Teddii tells me shes also seen posts that mock kids for showing their creative side, on flop accounts with tens of thousands of followers. “It's one thing to just not like art,” she says, “but I find it really, really wrong that people think its okay to repost art and bully the artist just because the art might not look nice, be a bit too NSFW [not safe for work], or be of a relationship they dont like.” Teddii tells me that some of the people shes seen targeted are as young as 12 years old.

This kind of content is entirely common on flop accounts – in fact, many make their name by making fun of young YouTubers, TikTokers, and Instagrammers for simply being themselves. “They take videos of people having fun on TikTok and make fun of them”, Elena tells me. “The majority of comments can be rude, too, and are mocking the persons appearance.”

“Flop accounts post videos and pictures of “cringey” people that are usually doing nothing inherently wrong”, Charlie tells me. “They use those easy to make fun of people as a generalisation for whatever group theyre singling out.”

Flop Accounts are just straight assholes yamean from r/traaaaaaannnnnnnnnns

Despite their negative connotations, though, some flops can be used for good. “There are some accounts that are dedicated to posting bigots and MAPs [minor-attracted people, ie paedophiles],” Alex tells me. “They use their flop to call them out.”

This subgenre of flop is an increasingly popular form of vigilantism, where flop accounts will request that teens send in the inappropriate messages they receive from adults and share the messages and profiles to help warn others about online predators.

“If most flop accounts were used like this,” Alex says, “I wouldnt dislike them.”

Part of the problem with flop accounts is that many of the people running them dont realise the negative impact the pages have. The astonishingly young ages of these account owners means that many dont have the emotional maturity – or awareness – to realise that mocking peopleRead More – Source


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