What inspires tormented souls to pen verses for Instagram? In her article, “The Life of an Instagram Poet,” Sheila Marikar introduces New Yorker readers to one such bard. Reuben Holmes, who goes by r.H. Sin on Instagram, made his living writing social media content during the Internet boom, but Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” inspired his passion to write poetry. Marikar explains: “He spent nights in bed with a composition book, copying Poe’s work so that he could reference the poems after the books were due back to the library. He began to keep a journal and wrote essays and narrative stories through high school, but when it came time to go to college, he balked.” More:
“I hated watching my friends go to school, pay for school, acquire debt, then get a job that would never help them pay off that debt,” he wrote.
It was 2006, and Holmes had been tinkering with a new social network, Twitter. He got a job at Target to support himself while trying to grow the followings of various Twitter accounts that he had started, including @itweetfacts, where he would post what he called “interesting and sometimes useless info.” Frustrated by competing accounts stealing his content, Holmes began to make up facts and post them with the qualifier “Psychology says.” For example, “Psychology says, you’re not afraid to love, you’re afraid of not being loved.”
He experimented on the Internet in other ways as well. He quit his Target job, and in 2010 became an independent contractor for ChaCha, the human-guided online search engine. (“I was surprised that people didn’t just Google the things they wanted to know,” Holmes said.) That led to a job at twtMob, now known as Speakr, a marketing company that connects people with large social-media followings to brands that have products to promote. Between 2012 and 2014, Holmes tweeted about MTV shows, Lionsgate movies, “even Samsung phones.” “Back then,” he wrote, “it was the next big thing. I was able to understand the consumer and how much work it took to get their attention.”
Not being tethered to an office gave Holmes room to write, and in 2014 he started composing epigrams and short, satirical poems tailor-made for social media.