Q&A with NYU Affirmations, ‘a meme account for haters’
A conversation with the anonymous co-owners of @nyuaffirmations Instagram page.
Feb 3, 2022
If you’ve been on Instagram in the past eight months, you’re probably familiar with NYU Affirmations. After making its debut on the roster of NYU meme pages in April 2021, the account has established itself as a niche but integral part of the NYU experience.
With a tried-and-true aesthetic of hyper-saturated, slightly warped stock images and sharp, sarcastic captions ranging from broadly relatable (“I Am SATISFIED With My Academic Performance This Semester”) to the NYU-specific (“TANDON Is NOT A Study Abroad Site”) to highly personal (“Blowing Off Studying To Go To SantaCon Has Excellent Impact On My GPA”), Affirmations effectively distinguished itself in a sea of stale daily screener memes and anti-Stern propaganda with its unique format and sense of humor. In December, it was ranked the best NYU meme page by WSN editors Joey Hung and Sabrina Choudhary, who praised its consistency and originality.
In December, the day after finals, I got the chance to speak with the team behind the account — a tight-knit trio of former roommates. Here’s what I learned.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
WSN: What made you decide to start this account?
Admin 1: There’s this general @afffirmations account that we were just obsessed with. I’m sure you’ve heard of it — it’s the one that started it all. We were all just laughing about it one day and we had been complaining about the general lack of good NYU memes. So one of us was just like, let’s make an NYU Affirmations! That would be funny. NYU students are the ideal demographic for affirmations. I can’t tell you why — they just are.
Admin 2: I’m pretty sure we intended it just for our friends. It wasn’t supposed to be for the general public, but then I reshared one of the posts and people who weren’t our friends just started following it. So that’s when the account started picking up and gaining traction.
Admin 3: I think @nyuchicks was the first big account that shared one of our posts. I remember sitting in our apartment, and all of a sudden all three of our phones were absolutely blowing up. We were like, “What is going on?” And we see @nyuchicks was like, “This is the funniest account ever,” and we were like, “Oh my god, this is great!” And after that we just started growing really quickly.
WSN: Why do you think the account became as popular as it is today?
A3: Admin 1 and I are marketing majors, and this is something that — it sounds psychotic, but we were like, “These are the best times to post according to what our followers would enjoy,” and we also were like, “We need to give them a lot of content.” We would post three times a day and consistently do it, I think, six days a week. I don’t know how we didn’t run out of ideas, but we didn’t take submissions until we hit 2000 followers. We would post really consistently and try to appeal to all of the random things that were going on at NYU specifically.
A2: We were taking this so seriously. This was like a part-time job. We had a spreadsheet full of ideas, and when we finally started taking submissions, we had a page for all the submissions. Everything was color-coded: what can’t we do, what should we do, have we done this already… There was no way we were gonna let this fail, because at some point, you gain enough followers where it’s embarrassing if you don’t gain more. If you just flatline, then people will be like, “OK, they could have been good, but they weren’t.” So we needed to get good enough. It was like a source of validation even though no one knew it was us.
A1: Looking back at the posts, it picked up a lot in the summer — maybe because people were craving NYU content. It’s also when we started doing more than just affirmations. We started a Facebook meme series that we occasionally do, we did starter packs and “if __ characters went to NYU” — we had a Harry Potter one, a Kardashian one — those gained a lot of traction. But in the summer, we would gain a hundred followers whenever we posted, I think also because incoming freshmen were starting to follow us too. We also started scaling back how many times we posted a day because — this sounds super cocky — but we didn’t have to try that hard to gain followers anymore.
A3: We also decided to create more “quality” posts. Something we still struggle with now is staying consistent throughout the school year, because obviously we have school, and school matters more to us than our silly little meme page. But in the summer, I used to work a 9-to-5 internship, so I’d be at my desk and I’d create the most random string of memes, send it in our group chat, and be like, “What does everyone think?” and they’ll be like, “Oh, looks great, let’s post it!” So there was just a lot more free time than I had during the school year.
Kids love to hate NYU, but we hate it in a special, unique way, and I think that’s what NYU Affirmations gives them.”
— Admin 2, @nyuaffirmations
WSN: What role do you think or hope @nyuaffirmations fulfills in the NYU community?
A2: NYU kids love to hate NYU more than anyone else even though we’re paying so much to go here! So I think that there’s something funny about not liking NYU, but people want to be a little snide about it, instead of just outright saying, “Oh, Andy Hamilton doesn’t care about us.” Like, if you say, “NYU cares about me and is supportive during times of financial crisis,” or “NYU is worth 80k a year”, I think there’s something we can all laugh about. Kids love to hate NYU, but we hate it in a special, unique way, and I think that’s what NYU Affirmations gives them. There’s so much to complain about, and I like to think that between the three of us, we can hit every one of those niches.
A1: We’re a meme account for haters — that’s how I’d describe it. There’s a quality of snarkiness, and I feel like this is also reflective of our personalities. We live a hater lifestyle — but it’s a meme page for the hater. The goal is to laugh, but it’s also to express your frustrations, and I feel like there are a lot of meme pages — and this is not a bad thing at all — but they’re not as snarky or hard-hitting as we are.
A3: I think that a lot of genuine feelings that actually come across in our stupid affirmations and memes would make complete sense if people find out it’s us. One of our friends in our friend group got their fake ID taken this weekend, and now here’s a meme about getting your ID taken. Oh, you blacked out and couldn’t get let into the bar? Suddenly there’s an affirmation about it. It’s very synonymous with our personal life, which is why a lot of people understand it. Like, “This is funny because it happens to me, too.”
WSN: How has the account changed since you started?
A1: We originally planned to just post affirmations, and obviously we don’t just post affirmations anymore, so that’s one thing that’s changed. I also feel like our presence on our Instagram story is different. Before, we didn’t post stories, we’d only reshare our recent posts, but now… Like, a few days ago, I was super unhinged studying for one of my finals, and I was like, “I’m just gonna make memes out of this, hopefully someone enjoys this.” So, whenever we feel like we want to be funny or we want to do something on our story without consulting the rest of the co-owners, or when we don’t want to put the full effort into a post, we just use the story to do that.
A2: I think what people love so much about seeing the stories is that it’s really easy for people to swipe up on them. People love interacting with us for some reason, and they love when we do a Q&A type of thing and let them submit their answers. We used to be really afraid that no one would swipe up or give answers to stuff like that, but now we’ll just do whatever we want. People love talking about themselves — we asked for people’s top three on Spotify, their number-one playlist, stuff like that — and people love the interaction. We used to just drop the affirmations and go about our day, but now people have a chance to get a little more involved once in a while, and that’s what they really enjoy.
I just don’t think there’s anyone as funny as us.”
— Admin 3, @nyuaffirmations
A3: We try to be very good at responding to our DMs. When we first started the account, we would quite literally respond to everything, which I think is different from a lot of the other meme pages. Someone would be like “This page makes me so happy” and we’d be like, “Thank you, you make me happy.” It’s also weird because I know these people — either they’re in a random class with me or I’ve seen them at a party, but I have to pretend like I don’t and be like, “Oh my god, thanks bestie!” But in regard to the stories, I think people related to Admin 1’s unhinged story posts because they’re like, “Oh, this is someone who’s also procrastinating studying for their finals.” Or it’s 3 a.m. and I’m making a bunch of shitposts, and they’re like, “Oh, she can’t sleep either!” Admin 2 will defend Ed Sheeran to the death on our stories, publicly… We each have a niche, and that makes us a little bit more approachable. People think it’s funny because it’s very real.
A2: Our followers know that we’re Swifties, one of us is an Ed Sheeran stan — we give out little pieces of information, and people hang onto that, and want our opinions on the things that we know. They’ll be like, “Do you think ‘1989 (Taylor’s Version)’ is coming soon?” or “Have you heard the 10-minute ‘All Too Well’?” when we post about Taylor Swift stuff, or they’ll be like, “I can’t believe you listen to this stuff.” Or when we post opinion polls, we’re like, “Argue with us in the chat!” over things like oatmeal raisin cookies vs. chocolate chip. They’ll argue with us, and they’ll come back and they’re like, “Is this the admin that likes oatmeal raisin cookies?” It’s a sort of rapport where the anonymity that we have allows them to say whatever they want.
WSN: Where do you see the account going in the future?
A2: I have no idea what we’re gonna do with this damn account. It feels kind of wrong to give it away.
A3: I agree, I just don’t think there’s anyone as funny as us.
A3: Or they could be funny enough, but they don’t have the skills to actually make the memes. So I don’t know what to do. We haven’t actually talked about it in detail yet. The account is like our little baby. We don’t want to give it away to somebody random and have it go downhill.
A2: We see that with other NYU meme pages. Back when we were freshmen, there was this meme account that was the biggest thing in the world. Then there was one bad meme, and it went right downhill. Even now, they post very inconsistently, and there’s not much to it anymore like there used to be back in its heyday. We don’t want a graveyard of meme pages and have us be one of them.
WSN: Is there anything else you want me to know?
A2: I guess the crux of it is, we just really love this account. We actually do. We hate it sometimes because it feels like so much responsibility — even though it’s not — but we really do love this account. This is our hobby. We don’t have hobbies — this is our only hobby. We got really lucky, I think, managing to find three girls that have the same not-funny-yet-funny sense of humor, and it somehow works. Couldn’t tell you how, couldn’t tell you why, but it works. All we do is love talking, and we love talking about anything in the world. Especially how much NYU sucks. But we love it. I guess.
Contact Joyce Li at [email protected]