Social media parody accounts are nothing new to millennials.
The rise of Twitter in the late 2000s helped introduce the world to these producers of satirical social media content. Condescending Wonka, Lord Voldemort, Bored Elon Musk and Boney Fuller are just a few of the hundreds springing up each year.
With over 33,000 millennials strolling around BYU campus, it’s no surprise BYU is home to its own community of parody accounts.
Originally created in 2011, BYU Memes has amassed over 44,600 likes on Facebook. Jeffrey Meadows and Dan Hainsworth, two of the seven page admins, believe LDS culture contributes to the page’s lasting success.
“Just the other day there were posts about elder versus sister missionary apartments and a post about marshmallow jello salad,” Hainsworth said. “We just perpetuate jokes that have already been around in our culture. We’re a peculiar people, so it’s always nice to poke fun at the peculiarity.”
Most recently, Normon Memes stole the parody game spotlight by adding an Instagram account and taking thousands of followers along in its satirical trail.
Normon Memes started in October of 2015 when two BYU alums created memes and started sharing.
“We knew early on that it would get pretty popular,” one Normon Memes admin said. “Right from the beginning, our videos were getting a ton of comments and they were all people tagging their friends. It took six months to get the first 10,000 followers, then one month after that to get to 20,000.”
Normon Memes currently leads a pack of more than 51,300 followers on Instagram, its main social media platform.
“If you look through the comments, each video gets about 10 comments saying, ‘This account is gold,’ or something like that,” the admin said.
But why the anonymity? Out of the 10 accounts interviewed, only BYU Memes admins would allow their names to be revealed.
“It’s not so much a secret as I think it would hurt the brand to have a face behind it,” the BYUprobs admin said. “The brand is something people can easily understand and get behind, so I prefer to keep it that way.”
“To keep it anonymous is to give everyone the feeling like they relate, instead of trying to get followers for (myself) and becoming popular. It’s more fun that way,” the Provo_Allstar admin said. “I’ve also turned down all advertising requests. People hate ads. The minute I start reposting ads, I will lose followers. Not that it matters, but I want to entertain.”
With only about a dozen friends knowing his true identity, Provo_Allstar has kept his 9,077 Instagram and 2,250 Twitter followers in the dark.
Although the accounts were started three years ago, the summer-salesman, VASA-member, King-Henry-resident stereotype has been around for years.
“The stereotype itself is all natural, like my biceps,” Provo_Allstar said.
Provo_Allstar said the feedback he has received from the account has been all positive with “the dudes” loving being featured and “chicks” loving it because it’s “like a swolemate catalogue.”
Many of these accounts run purely off student and Provo resident submissions. Instagram account BYUpda, an account dedicated to posting pictures of PDA-guilty BYU students, gets all of its content from student submissions. Created in 2012, the account has collected more than 14,400 followers.
“I think that it’s an exaggerated representation of what we see all over campus,” a BYUpda admin said. “But there’s definitely a weird amount of PDA on campus, so it kind of represents the culture. BYUpda just brings it to light in funny ways.”
For BYUsleeps, an account featuring sleeping students on campus, the beauty of the account comes from remaining anonymous.
“Online anonymity is like a beautiful, well-groomed mullet,” a BYUsleeps admin said. “It allows pithy, witty and at times uncomfortable truths to be expressed without the fear of repercussions in professional or social situations. Party online and business off.”
BYUsleeps was started back in 2012 by three friends in an accounting class as a place to post pictures of their friends caught sleeping in class. The account now has more than 15,300 followers and hundreds of posts. The most popular post is the picture of Cecil Samuelson sleeping on a plane; the admin convinced a football player to send it in.
Provogirlsamiright began when four friends had a group date planned for a weekend in September 2015. Throughout the week, all of the dates bailed, but the men found the variety of excuses hilarious. Fed up and knowing other guys could relate, the friends made the Instagram account and posted the texts anonymously. The account now boasts over 28,900 followers.
“We made the account because girls literally bail on us all of the time and give random excuses,” the Provogirls admin said. “We like finding texts that are relatable to others; that’s why so many people follow it. Every boy has received a text like this, and every girl has sent one, so both genders can equally relate.”
The Provogirls admin said the following has been much larger than expected and are glad others are having fun with it.
Provoguysamiright was created as a direct response to the Provogirlsamiright account. The account now has more than 23,000 followers after its February 2016 creation.
Both accounts highlight the “dating culture” of Provo, portraying the antics of women slipping out of date commitments and men showing less-than-chivalrous attempts to get to know women.
For Provoguys, however, the account admin said she has a different approach to her page.
“I want to draw attention to the way that guys are treating girls unfairly, or using manipulative tactics in their dating, but without making enemies of the guys,” Provoguys admin said.
For byuAP, an account relying on original content, the challenge of running an account with more than 3,500 followers is different.
“The hardest thing about running a BYU or Mormon parody account is walking the line between satire and irreverence,” the byuAP admin said. “It’s my hope that I’ve never come across as sacrilegious … and in spite of the musings of some, I am very active in the church.”
Started in March 2015, byuAP began as a joke between friends about subtle ways men bring up mission leadership to impress women.
“We also share a common interest in humiliating our closest friends, so we picked Brandon Beck because we know it would bother him the most,” the byuAP admin said.
Featuring former BYUSA president and close friend Brandon Beck as its cover image, the account took off, lasting much longer than initially planned.
“No amount of favorites or retweets compares to the joy of a well-executed practical joke,” the admin said.
For Beck, his initial worries of having his face associated with an anonymous account were put to rest once he found out his friend was running it.
“I’ve also had a few weird moments where humans I’ve never even met see me in public and call me out for being byuAP,” Beck said, citing the example of a group of Utah fans at the Las Vegas bowl asking to take pictures with him.
Although the admin said he loves BYU, he is not afraid to poke fun at the peculiarity of Provoans.
“My favorite comment from a few weeks ago was, ‘I love you, but I want to punch you in the face,'” the byuAP admin said. “Exactly what I was going for.”
With every great era, there comes an end, and for byuAP it was graduation. But after a surge of requests to keep the account alive, he has stayed active on the account.
“Now I just post sporadically whenever I think of something,” the admin said. “I would love to pass it off to whoever created Normon Memes, but what AP likes handing over the keys to someone else?”
The same problem faces all parody accounts: when does it stop?
Popular Twitter account YABOYBRIGHAM started in 2013 and rapidly gained followers until its posts suddenly died down, causing many to assume the admin had graduated.
Many admins plan on passing down the passwords to a younger student who catches the vision and the voice of the account. Other admins let the account “retire” with them after graduation, a memento of their time at BYU.
Whether the accounts continue on or not, the next generation of students will likely create the next wave of BYU culture accounts.
After all, we are a peculiar people.