Fried images. Terrible fonts. Oversaturated colors.
It only takes the person behind the Madison Affirmations account, whom I will call MA for short, a few minutes to make and post each meme to her Instagram account.
As we sat across from each other in the crowded Michelangelo's Coffee House, MA detailed the account’s early days. The idea for a Madison-themed “affirmations” meme account came to her five short days before she launched Affirmations of Madison on July 22. MA had been following other affirmations accounts and thought that the city would be the perfect subject for her own spin-off of the format — something fun that she could post for her friends to see.
What she didn’t know was how well her foreboding images and vaguely threatening messages would resonate with Madison’s downtown residents.
“I literally thought I would be posting for my 20 friends. Like, I thought it would reach 100 followers at most,” she said. “I went out that night, and I had people coming up to me about it. I heard people I didn't know talking about Madison Affirmations in front of me.”
When I first reached out to MA, she had just acquired 800 Instagram followers in a little over a day. At the time I began writing this story, the Madison Affirmations account had hit 4,000. The gain was huge, and MA knew it.
“That’s more than my main,” she noted.
Her posts were quickly shared and re-posted to other social media platforms. The account’s most-liked post garnered 1,317 likes. MA’s meme about local band Disq, which reads, “I will see Disq play live again,” was even shared by the Sylvee.
Spoiler alert: Disq did cancel their show at the Sylvee.
MA left clues to her identity on the account’s story, outing herself as a bisexual woman. This, she believes, may have narrowed it down to “a fourth of Madison’s population.” With only her friends and a few acquaintances being in on her secret, MA estimated that 30 people actually know that she is the one behind the account.
She isn’t quite ready to reveal herself to the world, but MA was willing to divulge some small details. Her go-to bars are Genna’s Lounge and Plaza, and she is on Twitter. MA is also a double Virgo, Taurus moon with seven earth signs in her chart.
“I’m naturally a cynical person, but I've just been cynical in private up until now,” she explained.
Many people, including me, assumed that she must be a University of Wisconsin-Madison student or a recent alum. However, MA revealed that she’s never attended the university. MA originally grew up in a suburb of Madison and started hanging out around the city when she was a senior in high school. The meme titled “Dropping out of MATC was a good idea,” was about her own experiences.
The account’s UW-themed memes, on the other hand, are often inspired by MA’s friends.
“I didn't go to school, so I have a lot of time to people watch. I feel like that's where this account is coming from,” she said. “People have very shared experiences in Madison, and it's a very unique city. So I’m just shitposting what I've been seeing for the past five years.”
MA didn’t pick up the art of meme-making overnight; she’s made memes with generic image-editing apps on her phone for her friends for years. I asked for a sample of her early work, to which she showed me an oversaturated image of voting machines that said, “Fine call the voting machines. I’ll have sex with them.”
Looking to the future, MA hopes to launch more merchandise for the account. She may even reveal her identity.
“I have plans to reveal myself at some point, but not for a couple more weeks,” MA promised. “I’ve got to keep the Twitter drama going, at least for now.”