When Texas-based poet Thom Young joined Instagram around 2009, he noticed a number of poets were already using the platform to share their work. At first, he found this encouraging and began sharing his work there as well, amassing several thousand followers. But as he continued to look around, he also noticed something strange: While most serious, award-winning poets — those who did thoughtful work — got hardly any attention, people who wrote short, trite poetry got tons of likes and followers. Some of these “pop poets,” as he calls them, had become social media celebrities overnight.

And so Young, a Pushcart Prize-nominated poet, decided to do an experiment. He thought he’d try writing the most vapid, simplistic poetry he could and post it to Instagram to see what happened.

“I decided that a parody or satire was needed to demonstrate how easy it was to get popular on social media, particularly on Instagram, writing this short, trite poetry,” he said. “And right away I started getting followers and likes like crazy” — going from 9,000 to 46,000 followers on Instagram in less than a year, he said.


To those who might say the experiment is condescending, Young says that’s not his goal. He does not want to criticize those who write or like pop poetry, he said, but instead hopes it leads younger people to think more about what they read (in addition to being a poet, Young is also a high school English teacher).