From astrology pages to civilian starter packs, no one is safe when it comes to this social media trend.
By Marissa Lee.
Nowadays, anywhere you can click, scroll, like, or comment, it seems that every person is on a mission to assert their star quality. One of the main reasons we engage in social media is to share content that revolves around us—pictures, memories, words, thoughts, all of which highlight who we are. Users are all constantly engaged in an exercise in vanity we’ve come to know and love as “our social media presence.”
Why is it then, that we love to be roasted for the very personas we make a point of broadcasting to the world? Beyond just our internet identities, we seem to love to be mocked for just about anything—our music taste, our zodiac sign, how we dress and how we live—a phenomenon that may well be rooted in our individualism-driven “main character” syndrome.
There are entire social media accounts dedicated to pointing out just how flawed we are, with some of the most popular being the astrology pages to which Instagram users flock in the hundreds of thousands. These pages offer meme-ified caricatures of which traits are supposedly specific to their zodiac sign and thus to them, earning a special little shoutout even for their undesired qualities. Whether or not one subscribes to astrology, it’s hard to deny feeling seen and appreciated when receiving a specially tailored post. (As a Libra, this writer doesn’t mind being told she’s helplessly indecisive, as long as it comes in the form of a quippy Instagram post.)
Further into the realm of the social media roast is the “starter pack” meme format, which emerged on Instagram in around 2015. What started with innocent posts about having a particular interest or being from a certain state has turned into hyper-specific posts about individual archetypes and personalities. A typical starter pack meme format will now include all the stereotype-perpetuating aspects of a certain type of person—what they would wear, a mock text message you might receive from them, what book they would read or what restaurant they frequent—anything that represents the archetype. The posts proceed to, whether in the caption or in the image itself, lovingly mock this type of person who is, more often than not, someone we’ve all met or come into contact with before.
One of the most prolific starter pack pages is @starterpacksofnyc, whose posts pack all the humor and bluntness of New Yorker while simultaneously poking fun at the city’s various types of residents.
“I think the appeal of my page is that the posts feel like inside jokes that [my followers] all get to be in on,” explains Sasha, the mind behind Starter Packs of NYC. “They pick up on the references and recognize the types of people I’m calling out and they go, ‘Oh, that’s me,’ or ‘I definitely know that girl.’ It’s a fun, unifying kind of niche comedy.”
It must be mentioned that these starter packs are not necessarily meant to be insulting or embarrassing. They often feature a number of images that represent the person themselves—what they would wear, a mock text message you might receive from them, what book they would read or what restaurant they frequent—anything that represents the archetype. “I’ll be walking by some cringey, very sceney SoHo restaurant, or some skater bar in the LES, and I notice what people are wearing, how they’re acting, what vibes they give off,” she explains. While there is a slightly mocking effect to it all, it’s mostly always taken in good humor, with little pushback from followers.
The rare criticism that does come Sasha’s way often surrounds the posts’ portrayal of New York itself. “The account is meant to skewer the most ridiculous and ridicule-able members of the city. I think comments that my posts don’t accurately represent New York are kind of in bad faith,” she says. “You wouldn’t get mad at Portlandia for not accurately depicting all the less-insane aspects of Portland, right? It’s supposed to be extreme and silly and niche. All I ask is that no one takes any of it too seriously.”
Sasha’s purview of this internet-roast phenomenon offers an explanation of why we don’t mind being singled out; these types of posts, whether they be zodiac, music taste, or personality-centered, make users feel seen and appreciated. They are involved in an inside joke, and, if they are lucky, may even get to be the subject of it. Even if delivered in a slightly mocking or sarcastic way, these posts, in all their individualistic glory, allow users a fleeting glimpse of what it’s like to be the main character.