Pithy Posts

Known for their stark black-and-white appearance and understated italicized captions, New Yorker cartoons don’t seem to belong in the saturated world of Instagram. But as the 1.8 million followers of @newyorkercartoons prove, they still have an audience. I also noticed that some cartoons seemed to gain much more traction (measured in likes and comments) than others did. I analyzed cartoons posted on the account for the past two months to see how that might be the case. I hypothesized that people would be more “relatable” than animals, and would gain the most traction. As we see in the first graph, I was wrong: animals seem to garner the most engagement — even more than their human counterparts. Perhaps there’s something about revealing the “secret lives of animals” that reinforces the New Yorker’s dry wit. In addition, as we see in the second graph, while the type of relationship depicted (significant others, platonic relationships, and others) don’t seem to correlate strongly with likes, significant others garner significantly more comments. Perhaps there’s something especially salient about interactions within couples. I also looked at the number of words in each caption, thinking that perhaps shorter, pithier captions would lead to more engagement. Unfortunately, my sample size wasn’t large enough to find significant data on shorter captions. I love analyzing humor because it’s so difficult to identify what makes us laugh. By looking at cartoons, we can start to delve into what makes the magic happen.

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