When it started, Jojo PDX, a blue fried chicken cart in Southeast Portland, had an Instagram that looked like everyone else’s. It talked about specials, mentioned when the cart had sold out, talked through specific menu items. But over the course of 2019, Jojo’s Instagram became the one to follow — not for its photos, but for its captions.
Things started to get interesting on February 17, when the Jojo account posted a photo of its fried chicken sandwich with the caption “please help, my son. he is a sandwich” (sic). Something about the lack of capitalization, the borderline random punctuation, and faux panic started to draw people in. Over the next few weeks, owner Justin Hintze started to go all-in on left-field captions. “The trail blazers are going to win the 2019 nba championship,” one caption reads in March. “When she cute, thicc, and was the first female vice presidential candidate (she’s Geraldine Ferraro),” another reads. Hintze seems to be earnestly entertaining himself, developing a full persona as a recently divorced father with sandwich children, or of a technology-impaired boomer.
Slowly, Jojo’s Instagram has transformed into a satire of branded social media. Unlike the thirsty stunts of brand accounts and hyper-sincere captions of influencers, Jojo looks inward, mocking the entire enterprise of self-promotion. “Which is ur favorite photo. don’t vote in the comments just whisper it quietly to ur self!” reads the caption on a July photo. “Can u guess what’s on this (secret) menu item...first correct guess is allowed back to jojo the rest of u are banned,” reads another. Hintze trudges through the boring necessities of a social media account while also challenging the idea of their necessity — the forced questions, the pleas for interaction, remain meaningless, a false desperation built out of late-stage capitalism in an exceedingly difficult restaurant market.
But Hintze’s best material is born out of an over-exposure to false — or at least forced — emotionality on social media, the bearing of deeply personal material to build an audience. “tag ur most mediocre friend in the comments and tell them the myriad ways they’ve let u down recently,” he writes. “most depressing comment gets free cheese and a gift card to big lots.” He complains about his fake divorce, using his “my sandwiches are my children” schtick to set up the deeply horrific punchline of that thought experiment — “please. my family. they have been sold out.” When the captions aren’t direct satirization, they stand in juxtaposition of the rest of Instagram, completely nonsensical: “Where are. my Pants have you. seen, my Pants. I intend to, . go to Jojos four a ch eeseBurger., Can t do that with out My. Pants.”
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haters will say it’s photoshopped others will appreciate the subtle art of photoshopping; the uncanny aesthetic of the digital hand. what is “real” these days anyway, rather than our desire to be unbound by the shackles of modernity? have we been sold a bill of goods re: “progress” and “connection,” which are leaving our brains and communities more fractured than ever before? like and share!
There is nothing truly authentic about any social media account. While some might say human existence is, in essence, performative, it’s not particularly out-there to say all social media representation is performative — people curate versions of themselves to present to the world, selling a particular narrative or form of self-expression.
That being said, Instagram now runs the world: Audiences are more discerning than they’ve ever been when it comes to ad content, so if it doesn’t come across as honest and personal, it’s completely written off. But publicists and marketing experts know this, too, so as opposed to selling something within the confines of media easily discernible as advertising, there becomes a race to simultaneously blend in with the real people and stand out as something different. Creative ad budgets shrink in favor of sponsored post deals, hiring Instagram influencers to talk up products on their personal channels. Brand accounts go all-in on wild stunts, like peeing in a water bottle to get a modicum amount of internet attention. And for social media managers anywhere, there is a pressure to build audiences, to catch eyes, to somehow make a restaurant special or a limited-edition dish or a menu item seem interesting enough to hover over, before flipping down to the next image.
Like several contemporary brand Instagram accounts, it tells a story of depression, but not as a disguise to relate to an increasingly depressed public; rather, it finds humor in the numbing artificiality of the social media game. Hintze’s posts acknowledge the absurdity of the very practice, screaming into a void of billions hoping someone notices yet another fried chicken sandwich. Lucky for him, it worked.
• Jojo Food Truck [Official]
• Jojo [Instagram]
• How Food Brands Sold You Depression in 2018 [Eater]
• Food Brands Went Totally Off the Rails in 2019 — And Profited From It [E]
• Jojo’s Bizarre Ad Ventures on Instagram [EPDX]
• Previous Jojo coverage [EPDX]