Whether you’re a Gen X, Y, Z or baby boomer, chances are you’ve chuckled over an internet meme while scrolling through your social media feed. Memes are vital when discussing online culture, with the power to transform people and trends into viral sensations. Formerly created by anonymous users that shared their memes amongst themselves in online communities, today there is a new type of meme artist – the meme curator. We speak to Kidney (@kidneyspears444, @kidneyplus) about their process of sifting through memes, and how they ended up curating memes for a living in Berlin.
The Beyond Club Culture photography series is an ongoing project by sustainable fashion brand, The Black Market. By exploring the diverse plethora of talent that lurks extrinsic to Berlin’s infamous club presence, we meet Berliners in daytime mode and chat about how they’ve honed in on their art form and the role Berlin has played during their metamorphosis.
Hi Kidney, could you please tell us about what you do? Hi! my name is Dom but a lot of people call me Kidney now. I run and curate multiple instagram meme pages, along with a page of my personal content which shows my daily life of living in berlin!
Your Instagram handles are clearly a reference to pop sensation, Britney Spears. Can you tell us about how you decided on @kidneyspears444 and @kidneyplus? There’s actually a very funny and strange story to how the name came about. It was actually coined by my good friend Oriol. The two of us and our other friend Steph had a crazy weekend a couple of years back, where a lot of weird things happened but i’m going to keep that between the three of us for now.
Can you tell us how you got into meme curation and the lightbulb moment when you realised, “I can actually get paid for this?” I have always been a big fan of memes and funny videos and actually spent most of my teenage years online. I was really badly bullied as a child and the internet has always been a form of escapism for me, as well as a safe space. I spent a large portion of my days looking at funny content that made sense to me to start posting my findings along with some original content to my Instagram. When the pandemic hit, I had so much more free time, which also meant more time to over-think. It gave me something to intensely focus on.
It wasn’t as much of a lightbulb moment but more of a “shit, I have to figure out how i’m going to pay rent and buy food” moment to be honest! I became unemployed last year after the summer and I waited almost 5 months for my unemployment. I was running out of my savings pretty fast and was getting really worried. My pages were growing pretty quickly and I had amassed a pretty solid audience. I really don’t make that much money from it, but what money I do make comes from working with brands, doing paid promotional story posts and honestly most of the money i make comes from tips and donations people send me.
People needed a distraction last year (much like I did). It’s so touching to receive messages and donations from people who have been really appreciative of my work. I don’t know what I would have done if it weren’t for my loyal followers and I’m endlessly grateful.
One of your first meme curation accounts @kidneyspears was deleted at 80k followers. What was that experience like for you? Well it sucked! But it was expected. I was waiting for it to happen for months as I kept receiving deletion warnings. Instagram is constantly updating their rules and terms of services so when you pair that with internet trolls, then it’s bound to happen! I got over it pretty fast as I had been simultaneously building my backup account. So now my main account is @kidneyspears444 which is at 50k (will probably be deleted by the time this article comes out lol) and my current backup is @kidneyplus which is at 22k. I have a core following now which will follow me as I continue this cycle of having accounts deleted and moving on to the next one, so i’m not worried. It just means I’m doing something right. They say “haters make me famous!”
When you search the hashtag #memes, there are 191 million search results on Instagram alone. What is your process of finding, selecting, and curating memes for your accounts? I find memes and videos from everywhere! I find a large amount of my videos from TikTok and memes from Reddit, other meme pages I follow and ones that people send me. I also make them!
Has living in Berlin influenced the types of memes you curate? I’m not sure if living in Berlin has influenced the memes I post but it definitely has influenced my personal content. In my stories and on my personal account, I post a lot of my daily life in Berlin. I tend to show a lot of the city as well as things I do here mixed with techno and other music I listen to. I even make a monthly playlist, which people seem to also love.
Which of your posts has received the most engagement and do you have a theory as to why? My TikTok-dumps for sure! A lot of people don’t want to download Tik Tok so I bridge that gap by posting my best findings so others don’t have to.
Do you have an agenda when it comes to your meme curation? And what do you hope your followers will take from your accounts? I think the only agenda that I have is to make people laugh and forget about how messed up the world is; even if it’s just for a brief moment. I also want to use my platform to shed light on injustices and try to give a bigger voice to people who aren’t always heard. I am a queer male and while the content I post is for everyone, it is for my queer community first and foremost. Everyone else is a guest. I do not tolerate any form of small mindedness or bigotry and I block so many assholes everyday. I guess my agenda is to create a safe space for people who need to escape for a little while.
When I visualise a day in the (ideal) life of a meme curator, I visualise them laying in bed and scrolling through memes until 3am. Can you describe what a typical day looks like for you? That pretty much sums up my day! At the moment I’m trying to better organise my days as finding good content does take a huge amount of time. I won’t even tell you what my screen time is at. I’m currently focusing more on my personal content. So a typical day for me looks like this: I try to get up early and start the day by completing my chores and posting my brunch. I’m generally on my phone A LOT but i’m trying to change that as social media can be super toxic and consuming. Just remember everything online is fake! That is why I place more emphasis on internet humour. But as someone who suffers a lot with depression, anxiety and body dysmorphia, It’s really unhealthy for me to always be online.
I’m slowly building a healthier pattern of social media usage. It’s a journey but I can honestly say that if I hadn’t grown these accounts then I would have deleted my social media accounts during the pandemic. Even though I’m happy I pushed through. I love the connections I’ve been able to make and how I can make someone feel happy, is priceless! (even if it’s just for a couple of seconds).