Shit You Should Care About: The Kiwi trio behind the news Instagram with 2.5 million followers

Lucy, Ruby and Liv - you may not know their names as a collective, but you may be familiar with their punchy, honest and direct news Instagram, Shit You Should Care About (SYSCA). 

The self-described "bunch of Kiwis" seemingly have no idea - or are extremely humble about - the power of their 2.5 million follower social media platform. They are shocked to discover they have more followers than the New Zealand Prime Minister, or even Kiwi Oscar-winning director, Taika Waititi.

Newshub sat down with 23-year-old Lucy Blakiston and Olivia Mercer, two out of the three founders. The trio produce content for social media users who want to know more about the world around them, but may not have the knowledge or means to do so. 

"You shouldn't have to be rich to understand the world around you, and you shouldn't have to know all this jargon to understand the world around you," Blakiston, who in addition to running a hugely successful Instagram, has also been nominated for The University of Canterbury Young New Zealander of the Year.

SYSCA was born in a lecture theatre, at Victoria University of Wellington where the girls were all studying Bachelor of Arts. Between them they majored in international relations, media studies and psychology. They were genuinely interested in the world they were growing up in but found it hard to access resources that allowed them to learn in a clear and concise way, without paying an arm and a leg. 

Blakiston can recall sending a text to Mercer in 2018, outlining her idea for an Instagram called something along the lines of Stuff You Should Know About. It was then she realised the power of the swear word. 

"I love words. I love words and I love puns," Blakiston says. 

"I think it's really impactful putting a swear word in your name. Because then people know we aren't too high-brow, we will talk about literally anything." 

A screenshot of Shit You Should Care About, which has over 2.5 million followers.
A screenshot of Shit You Should Care About, which has over 2.5 million followers. Photo credit: Shit You Should Care About / Instagram

The girls started out by posting things they personally cared about, both on Instagram and a linked website. 

"We really thought that people were going to care about our opinions on things, and our take on the world. We quite quickly realised that it wasn't about us whatsoever," Blakiston says. 

"We are anonymous to the platform, which is awesome, because it's not about us." 

The account  began to change "organically" from opinions on Lucy, Liv and Ruby's world, to a whole range of perspectives. 

"There wasn't a point where we decided - OK, we are going to stop being so personal and share other people's point of view," Mercer says. 

The girls started to see a change in their follower count when Blakiston and Mercer both went overseas, Blakiston to Columbia and Mercer to the United States. Posting on American time zones about US politics - in particular, former US President Donald Trump - did amazing things for their growth. 

Blakiston explains the account doesn't aim to target certain groups, and the girls tend to trust their gut when it comes to content. 

"Of course the American election mattered to people outside of America, because they are 'the leaders of the free world'. We never aimed to post so much about America, it just sort of happened," Blakiston says. 

However, with Instagram fame, comes Instagram trolls - and the trio have experienced their fair share of them. There was one instance where the girls, who are huge Harry Styles fans, posted a picture of the hearthrob for his birthday. They were inundated with hateful comments. 

"When the US election rolled around and we started covering that, I think people thought we were more of a hard news platform. When we would post about pop culture or a Harry Styles picture - people would get angry," Mercer says. 

"We never promised to be hard news, we are a mixture of everything. What you should give a shit about is very subjective."

Mercer and Blakiston admit that at first, the "nasty feedback" did get to them.

"At first the nasty feedback did hit a little harder. But now we know that if we do post something a bit lighter, we are going to get people saying this kind of stuff. Now it rolls off a little bit more," Mercer says. 

Blakiston maintains the girls will always be "best friends first". 

"We have always been very candid about our mental health, and we have a huge part of our website that is dedicated to telling people's stories. We just have to practice what we preach," she says. 

This means logging off for a bit, ignoring the "nasty feedback" and ringing each other.  

The account has also amassed some celebrity followers, with the likes of Chrissy Teigen, Ariana Grande and Bella Hadid guilty of scrolling through their content. 

Blakiston explains a real pinch-me moment the girls had, when they covered Teigen's miscarriage. They wrote a piece about the bravery and strength Teigen had shown by sharing photos moments after her and her husband, singer John Legend, lost their baby son. 

"We just thought it was so fantastic, because we are so for breaking stigma and taboo, and talking about whatever you want to talk about," Blakiston says. 

"She messaged us about the article, and she said 'this means a lot coming from you guys'. And we were like, what do you mean coming from us? We are just a bunch of Kiwis!"

For both Mercer and Blakiston, the time they have spent running Shit You Should Care About has not only opened their eyes to the world around them, but to the state of the media as well. 

"There is room for hard news, humour and pop culture to all exist. People are turning to Instagram and social media for their news and for their content," says Blakiston. 

Mercer says they are working in an "exciting space". 

"We need to bridge the gap between social media and traditional media platforms. I do think the media is now beginning to understand the power of youth when it comes to news, content and engagement," she says. 

An example of Shit You Should Care About's incredible growth, which jumped by over 800,000 in just one month.
An example of Shit You Should Care About's incredible growth, which jumped by over 800,000 in just one month. Photo credit: Social Blade

Instagram is not just a social media platform, but a business model. The trio's next goal is to find a model that is "mutually beneficial" for both themselves and their community - and also pleases their parents. 

"Our parents and the older generation were definitely confused when it started growing and when we started to see how we could make a business out of it. Our parents sometimes still have no idea how this could one day be our full time jobs," Blakiston laughs. 

"It's a strange combination, because we are on Instagram, so that sort of works with the "influencer" model but we don't associate ourselves with that model and don't think it works for us," Mercer says. 

 "One of our core beliefs is that we want to make things accessible, so we would never charge people for content," Blakiston adds. 

"We are trying to find this really fair and mutually beneficial model that might not even exist but we're going to get there." 

As Blakiston says - watch this space. 

Watch the video above.