Bad movies flop, bad parties are flops, and much anticipated events which never happen (looking at you Y2K), are flops. So if you were told about a flop Instagram account, we wouldn’t blame you for thinking it would be an account which is bad.
However, then we’d then have to tell you you’re wrong – because flop accounts are not flopping whatsoever, they are taking off. In fact, The Atlantic says flop accounts are becoming a main source of news for teens who want to dissect the big issues shaping the world. But what the hell are they, exactly?
According to The Atlantic, flop accounts are usually private Instagram accounts run by a group of admins, which feature news-related fails (or, “flops”). By news-related fails, we don’t mean a reporter having a live broadcast interrupted, we mean posts of, “photos, videos, and screenshots of articles, memes, things, and people considered a ‘flop,’ or, essentially, a fail.”
“A flop could be a famous YouTuber saying something racist, someone being rude or awful in person, a homophobic comment, or anything that the teen who posted it deems wrong or unacceptable. Some of the teens who run a given account know one another in real life; more likely, they met online.”
Photo / The Atlantic
Many accounts feature discussions of topics like racism, gun control, abortion, immigration, President Donald Trump, LGBTQ issues, YouTubers, breaking news, and viral memes. According to the Daily Mail, scrolling through the #flops tag on Instagram brings up over 95,000 posts, many of them belonging to flop accounts.
The Atlantic article explained, “According to teens, flop accounts began as a way to make fun of celebrities and popular YouTubers, but sometime over the past year they’ve morphed into something more substantive: a crucial way to share and discuss opinions online.”
A 15-year-old flop account admin told the magazine, “Content [on flop accounts] is centralized around things that we think are factually or morally wrong, and it’s how we critique them. Today, for instance, I posted a flop that was this lady making fun of someone for being homeless. That’s a horrible thing to do.”
Flop accounts are distinguishable by some common characteristics such as, the word “flop” in their name; a list of admins, each with an emoji signature; sometimes their ages, and sometimes their gender pronouns. The Atlantic speaks with flop account admins and says the accounts have emerged from a dissatisfaction with mainstream news sources. Admins and those engaging want to see and hear the opinions of many, or as they put it, “crowdsource fact checking”.
However, the accounts also breed a lot of issues common for online forums – such as abuse, misinformation, and polarisation. These issues bring with them the problem of moderation, balance and accountability – of which traditional news media are tightly governed by.
To us, flop accounts seem to be another extension of the “wokeness” of millennials and the even savvier Gen Zs. These generations of digital natives are more politically and socially conscious, and sharing their views online is just part of everyday life. They are raising the bar higher for businesses and brands operating on the platform, because to these savvy consumer (and future consumers): All content is up for debate and fact-checking.
They demand transparency and accountability from those they give their business and attention, and that’s a good thing. Honest, authentic and original content has always been best, but now – nothing less will be tolerated. And those who try to pull one over their audiences, may just find themselves featured as a flop.