Frogs are in an internet golden age — how the animals once grouped with an online 'hate symbol' turned wholesome
- Frog content has been gaining popularity online recently, with platforms like Tumblr and Reddit reporting increases in frog-related searches and traffic on the platform.
- Frogs have a long history online, and famous frogs like Pepe, Kermit, or "dat boi" have gone through relentless meme cycles.
- Now, however, frog content is generally wholesome and in many cases, has queer undercurrents.
- People like frogs and engage with frog content for a variety of reasons, but ultimately the infatuation doesn't have to be deep.
I became hooked on frogs when a particular frog video landed on my Twitter feed sometime last fall. Wholesome, filled with warm light, and set to the "Great Fairy Fountain" track from the "Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time" soundtrack, it's main draw was footage of two different frogs just chilling, sitting like humans on benches. At one point, someone shook the frog's hand.
I couldn't look away.
—Danjo Kazooie (@SexySoySauce) June 2, 2019
Little did I know at the time, this frog video was only the beginning of what would become a surplus of frog content on all of my social media feeds, from Twitter to Tumblr to Instagram to TikTok. Suddenly, it felt like frogs were everywhere — wearing cute cowboy hats, printed onto pastel hoodies, and softly attempting to eat human thumbs. Viral frog videos and ambitious baking challenges like frog bread were suddenly dominating my feed.
My own media diet was starting to skew amphibian, but I'm not the only one.
In the world of TikTok's FYP algorithm, which serves you distinctly similar content with alarming frequency as you like and follow, falling into a personal frog filter bubble wouldn't be much of a surprise. But multiple platforms confirmed to Insider that frogs, indeed, are seeing a sort of resurgence.
Tumblr data, provided to Insider, shows an increase in interest in frog content across the platform over the past several months. As of late May, The #Frogcore tag had seen a 220% increase over a period of three months (compared to the preceding three) and the #Froggie tag saw a 567% increase in original posts in the same time frame. Other tags like #Frogblr saw similar jumps.
The phenomenon isn't just limited to Tumblr. In Reddit's r/frogs community, posts from March 1 to May 1 more than doubled compared to that same time period in 2019. Google search data shows spikes in frog content related to specific memes, with searches for things like "baby yoda eating frog gif" and "froggy chair," a legendary piece of "Animal Crossing" furniture, spiking 200% and 4,300% in 2020, respectively, in the United States. On Facebook, groups like "Frogspotting" have thousands of members. On Twitter, frog photos can rack up hundreds of thousands of likes.
—sofía (@SAINTLIAR) June 18, 2020
Frog content has become a relatively prolific subgenre online, even aside from legendary frog memes and characters like Pepe the Frog or Kermit. Today, "Frog Content" tends to feature real frogs, cute illustrations, queer-positive content, and plenty of funny sh-tposts. As The New York Times' Taylor Lorenz pointed out, they're also a facet of content on "elite TikTok."
The fairly recent uptick in frog obsession means that frogs' role in meme culture has shifted from one-off character-based memes to an overwhelming wave of frog ephemera collected in Tumblr tags, Instagram meme pages, and the TikTok For You Pages of frog lovers. And just like the memes that preceded the explosion of frog content online, the answer to why people love it seems to be simple: frogs are just vibing.
Frogs have a storied meme history.
This, of course, isn't the first time that frogs have been in the limelight. In fact, they have a rather extensive history, appearing in some of the century's most prevalent, contentious, and pure memes.https://j4xxx.tumblr.com/post/150357654639/then-i-saw-three-impure-spirits-that-looked-like
Pepe is one of the first memes that I (an old zoomer) remember seeing and actually recognizing as a meme. Originally from cartoonist Matt Furie's "Boy's Club," the frog was one of the OG memes of the online age, proliferating across 4chan and in turn, the internet, beginning in 2008. As the frog became more popular in the early 2010s, early adopters peeved about the meme's proliferation in normie spaces and began to collect "rare Pepes," trading them like clandestine art. That was, of course, before Pepe was adopted as an alt-right and deemed a hate symbol by the ADL, killed by his creator, and eventually repurposed by Hong Kong protesters as a symbol of hope.
Pepe is far from the only famous frog online, though — Kermit memes are just as ubiquitous, from the judgmental "Kermit sipping tea" meme to the "dark Kermit" meme that was inescapable in 2016. Beloved by the masses, Kermit memes are a universal language to the fact that they feature a beloved mascot.
"Dat boi," the unicycling frog, feels more like the frog content that's become popular in recent months. "Here come dat boi" — and the customary greeting, "o sh-t waddup!" — is pure wholesome sh-tposting (posting memes in an ironic way or to troll). While the meme originated from Animation Factory, a site full of wacky animated GIFs, it spread in a way that gave little nod to its roots at first. "Dat boi" seemingly arrived on his unicycle out of thin air as perhaps the most surreal frog meme yet, spurring a variety of parodies and spoofs like the short song below.
Amanda Brennan, Tumblr's Head of Content Insights and Social, told Insider that she thinks frogs keep showing up in meme culture because they're "weird in a cute way," but also because they give the impression of existing on their own terms and aren't typically thought of as either predator or prey. That makes them prime meme subjects.
Most frog content nowadays is pretty wholesome.
These days, though, most frog content skews wholesome, even when it's veers into sh-tpost territory.
Brennan told Insider that some of the most prominent types of Frog content that Tumblr staff have observed are images of real frogs like photographs or drawings as well as cute art. Recently, "Animal Crossing" fandom has played a part in frog content on the platform, whether it's through infatuation with frog villagers or the seemingly ubiquitous "froggy chair."
Brennan said that she sees "frogcore" — a term referring to a frog-focused aesthetic — as lying at the intersection of the utopic cottagecore aesthetic and the down-and-dirty goblincore. Posts like the "gotta blast" frog (below) encapsulate both the cute and the sh-tpost-y. Per Tumblr data, that post, in particular, caused a spike in frog interest on the platform on May 23 after it went viral.https://fliesandlilypads.tumblr.com/post/613413547270078464/gotta-blast
20-year-old Maya Strick, who runs the frog-focused Instagram account @froggiefaerie, told Insider that her love for frogs comes out of a childhood spent growing up in the Ozarks, a drive to appreciate the small things in life, and her own environmentalist beliefs. "I believe that every little creature deserves a chance at life, and that life is beautiful," she said. "With my therapist, we've talked about appreciating the little things because you don't get big joy very often… I guess frogs were a way to do that."
Strick said that one of the things she loves about running @froggiefaerie is the ability to help bring positivity to other people as well as boost artists and content creators. "People have messaged me, especially through this whole quarantine stuff, about how they've been having a really hard time with their mental health and that it just brings them joy and something to look forward to," she said. "If I can help somebody, it really makes my day."
Long-standing frog blogs have been a central hub for those who love frog content.
Both Brennan and Strick pointed to long-standing frog blogs as a source of inspiration that provided a deep well of frog content online. Both brought up one specific blog, Stickyfrogs, which provides regular updates on a Melbourne, Australia-based family of frogs. Trish, who runs the blog and asked not to use her last name, told Insider that she decided to start the Stickyfrogs Tumblr blog when she got the frogs — who have names like Voigt, Gumby, Tiny, and Jens — as juveniles so that she could document their growth.
In the seven-plus years since the earliest public posts on the Stickyfrogs blog in September 2012, the Stickyfrogs have gained a sizeable cross-platform following, with over 14,000 followers on Twitter, over 40,000 on Instagram, and over 5,600 subscribers on YouTube. Trish said that since the blog began, she and the Stickyfrogs have been able to meet frog enthusiasts from around the world and participate in conservancy and research efforts, using the platform to highlight projects like FrogID, an Australian national frog count.
What's unique about the Stickyfrogs blog, however, is its distinct voice and fans' attachment to the frogs themselves. Posts showcase a rotating cast of frogs going about their daily lives, as documented by Trish, with certain nouns and actions capitalized. "I think I just noticed over time that they have certain behaviors that they often do (Tall, Manners etc)," she told Insider. "So I decided to make them official!"https://stickyfrogs.tumblr.com/post/621377558034989056/always-bite-in-the-general-direction-of-your
"I think that there's been kind of an interest in seeing how people live their lives," Brennan said of the frog blogging community. "They're stuck at home and there are so many frog bloggers… people are able to dive into learning what other people's lives are like and what it's like to own a frog."
Frog content also significantly intersects with LGBTQ spaces online.
One of the most prominent undercurrents connecting frog content together is the fact that it seems to resonate with queer people.https://teathattast.tumblr.com/post/190277296295/love-wins
It's difficult to pin down exactly why, but the idea of gay frogs isn't new. In 2017, noted conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, famous for the false claim that the Sandy Hook shooting was a false flag operation, went viral after claiming that the government was putting chemicals in the water that would "turn the friggin' frogs gay." His idea was certainly based in homophobia, but for many, gay frogs sounded like a great idea, and the phrase has continued to show up in post captions or even cute merch.
When I asked Maya about why she thinks queer people are into frogs, she brought up the heternormative conceptualization of the American family: a mom, dad, a couple of kids, and a golden retriever. Frogs lay outside of that framework as a kind of alternate companion, allowing for self-expression.
pt. 2 camping lesbians // also, things we experienced floating on the crick • drunkards jumping off cliffs • turds floating downstream • nazis @itsnicoleurban #frog #frogs #froggy #froggo #frogsofinstagram #frogfriday #frogmemes #frogaccount #frogcore #amphibian #amphibians #amphibiansofinstagram #goblin #goblins #goblincore
"It definitely feels like there's safety in the frog," Brennan said, telling Insider that she's noticed a queer undercurrent in frog content on Tumblr. "Frog does its thing, and frog's being left alone, and it's a thing people wish they could have as well."
Now, frogs have been incorporated into a queer online subculture that thrives on social media in places like "Alt TikTok" and Tumblr. As a meme, the idea that frogs and queerness are intertwined seems to have taken root.
—⭐ venus ⭐ (@_senpika_) June 20, 2020
Ultimately, many people like frogs for simple reasons.
Like the pure simplicity of "dat boi," frog content doesn't necessarily have to have a deeper meaning. Frogs are just cool. They're cute in a kind of funky way, and provide an alternative to "doggo"-focused pet content online. Drawing them is fun. Perhaps most importantly, frogs don't have to be doing anything for people to love and meme them.
—oatmeal influencer (@acechhh) June 17, 2020
"Frogs are just vibing, and people just want to vibe right now," Brennan said.
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