October 2023

Is Reed Harrington On Instagram Going To Thailand?

How Instagram’s @reed_harrington23 Went From ‘Lil N’ To Potential UFC Protégé

Screenshot of Reed Harrington on Instagram (@reed_harrington23) in his Thailand trip video.
Reed Harrington on Instagram from his Thailand video.
(Source: Instagram / @reed_harrington23)

Who Is Reed Harrington On Instagram?

There’s a lesson to be learned when it comes to 13-year-old Reed Harrington’s rise to Instagram eminence. Through wholesome “day in the life” videos, the middle schooler portrays himself as a motivated and self-sufficient little football player. He’s the kind of kid who wakes up at 4 a.m. to “hit the gym” and then ends the day washing the dishes before his dad comes home. There are not many like him.

Given what he shows, there’s nothing to dislike about Reed. In fact, most of the adults in his comment sections believe that he’s better than them, as in, he seems beyond his years, completing tasks that are part of a daily routine that most non-minors on Instagram can’t compete with.

To make matters more inspirational, he films everything himself and then edits it all later, turning it into one, concise Instagram Reel. His profile would make most “hustle culture” admins proud that their mind games are resonating with some of the youth.

What were you doing when you were 13?” his page asks its older viewers. “Probably not going viral and building a following of over 200,000 in four, short months,” it says.

All of Reed’s achievements and aforementioned characteristics definitely deserve an “attaboy” from the masses. That approval, however, has instead come in the form of the phrase “Good job lil’ n——,” which at one point, was the most commented affirmation in his replies.

An example of a "Lil Nigga" comment on Instagram Reels.
“Lil’ n-word” Instagram comment meme example.
(Source: Instagram / @bugdiepie)

What Are “Lil N-Word” Comments On Instagram?

For the sake of this piece, I definitely don’t want to use the n-word but it’s important to understand — for anyone who hasn’t been on Instagram lately — that comment sections on the app have been flooded with the nickname (let’s just say) “lil’ bro.”

The comments, for the most part, are unique to comment sections of underage, Instagram Reels posters, who, immediately upon occurring in someone’s Explore feed, look too young to be on the app. In turn, commenters will write, “Get a job lil’ bro” or “Get your money up lil’ bro” as a way to cyberbully the kid off the internet.

Speaking freely, I personally do not think that children should be on social media. I’m definitely in line with the Wait Until 8th philosophy (which means to wait before 8th grade to give a smartphone to a child). In the modern age of “vertical scroll” video content, consuming media has become increasingly brainless and mushy, which is dangerously non-confrontational to the mushy brains of children that need to be shaped properly by real-world factors.

So, the funny thing about the “lil’ bro” comments is that they seemingly act as a form of vigilante parenting in which strangers isolate and humiliate children when their guardians aren’t guarding them, as in, on the “wild, wild West” of Instagram.

In this amorphous space of adult-on-child justice (or torture), the running through lines of the so-called “lil bro” meme are a social-media-fluent child, an undeserved algorithm boost, and the n-word. With these, a widespread trend has fully manifested in the undercurrent of Instagram: comment sections. Therefore, the exact origin of the first comment is hard to locate.

Regardless, in my research for Know Your Meme on the trend, I think I found the original Reel that started it all. It was posted by a football coach in July, showing one of his players with text reading, “This kid is only 14 👀👀 look at how he moves.” Let’s just say that nobody was impressed by the kid running drills, telling him to “Hang up the cleats lil’ bro,” among other snipes at his life and self-worth.

A few weeks later, the trend climaxed when a kid named @roddygracie05 posted a weird (but sad) video of him crying with text reading, “My gege passed away it’s hard.” The boy, hilariously, became a victim of the growing troll campaign, evident in the comments left on his little, coping mechanism that all ended with the adorned nickname “lil’ bro.”

“My gege passed away it’s hard” video from “lil’ n-word” Instagram comment trend.
(Source: Instagram / @roddygracie05)

Let’s just say that @roddygracie05 hasn’t posted much since his Grandma left him. On his six, non-viral posts uploaded since his infamous one, banger comments like, “Hey grand baby it's me gege,” are visible. The kid didn’t necessarily beat the trolls but he opted out of the collective yet creative cyberbullying campaign by stopping his social media shortly afterwards.

With all aspects considered, though, @roddygracie05 didn’t have a broad forefront of content before his virality. He had 22 posts on his profile, all of which were posted in the span of one month. Plus, none of his content seemingly took premeditated effort, dedication, and a frontal lobe. Instead, @roddygracie05 was just a kid, which is fine. It’s perfectly fine. But that conclusion only justifies the slew of “lil’ bro” comments that acted as a way to deter him from posting any more videos.

In contrast, Reed Harrington’s content reads like an adult’s, however, he’s also obviously not an adult. He’s a kid but he portrays an adult “grindset.” This weird middle ground that Reed occupies has lent him an audience that’s highly voyeuristic. They want to see him win but they also want to cringe, all deeply aware of the inside joke that he’s not "one of us,” as in, a fully-developed human who understands what embarrassment looks and feels like.

This is evident in Reed’s first-ever video, which showed him doing “Day 1” of the “Push-up Challenge.” Essentially, he announced that he was doing push-ups every day for 100 days, adding one push-up for every day of the challenge. So, on day one, he did one push-up. In the roughly seven-second-long video, the unintentional yet perfect comedic timing of his intro and single, weak push-up was too perfect not to gain numbers, quickly becoming a viral hit among irony-pilled doomscrollers who were now eagerly awaiting “Day 2” of his challenge.

Reed Harrington’s “Day 1” of push-up challenge Instagram video.
(Source: Instagram / @reed_harrington23)

Seemingly, Reed had no care in the world (or at least he never expressed it) about who was now watching his videos and following him. Numbers are numbers, and I think anyone who grew up with the internet knows that. “There’s no such thing as bad publicity,” is the saying.

Day by day, Reed churned out a hundred videos in which he followed through with the challenge. It’s important to note, for the sake of this piece, that all 100 “push-up challenge videos” were posted prior to the creation of the “lil’ bro” comment trend. Inevitably, by being a kid on Instagram Reels, Reed later crossed paths with the trend towards the end of the summer, fully manifesting in a video titled, “Day in a life of a 13 year old first day of school edition.”

All of the comments are deleted now, but in the first few days of its August upload, top comment after top comment recited some variation of “lil’ bro.” Reed must have gone back and deleted them all at some point; sometime after I watched it for the first time and saw them all.

When trying to find the comments for this piece, I felt like I was going crazy, remembering internet comments that never existed like a Zoomer with Alzheimer’s. I had to do some sleuthing on TikTok to find a screen-recording of them, which I did find, posted two days after Reed’s initial upload that (lucky for me) documented all of the unsavory comments, each with thousands of likes each, all deleted now by either Reed or his parent. Of course, though, like many TikTok videos these days, the screen-recording’s paired with the seemingly necessary Don Pollo sound, forever linking my piece of lost media with a “goofy ahh” sound.

“Lil’ n-word” comments on Reed Harrington’s Instagram video.
(Source: TikTok / @1017dev)

Although Reed (or someone on his 20-person writing staff) deleted the redacted comments, compared to “lil’ bro” comments left on other videos, the ones left on Reed’s video were all positive. Users were saying, “Good job lil bro” or “Keep it up lil bro” instead of saying, “Die lil’ bro” or “Get your money up lil’ bro.”

In turn, Reed’s video was evidence of an evolution in the objectively mean trend. It was as if the “vigilante Instagram parents” were bending the rules for Reed, using his “mature” content as an excuse to subvert the expectation of the trend because he both usurped them (through the impressiveness of his routine) and was below them (as in, not on the inside of the “inside joke” among the adults on Instagram). Reed was basically still sitting at the kid’s table but he was also impressing the older brothers from across the room.

The comments continued into this month, however, as stated, it appears that Reed has blocked the “lil’ n-word” phrase in his keyword filter. He must have thought that would stop it. Even though the comments seemed positive (and he probably took them that way, as compliments) they were no doubt annoying and using a word that he likely didn’t condone or wanted to be called.

Maybe, if you asked one of those commenters (one of those deleted top commenters on his “day in the life” video) they’d say that they meant it as a compliment, not specifically the use of the n-word but the filler intro (like “good job”) that embodied the comment’s overall message. Of course, I haven’t reached out to any of those commenters. I’m just assuming here but I think it’s a fair assumption. The antithesis of this is assuming that they’d admit “It’s harassment but it’s funny” which is also a right answer. The concept of funny, light-hearted harassment appears to be the underlying motive behind Reed’s following.

Despite this, there are still many wholesome, long-winded, and seemingly earnest comments posted by adults underneath Reed’s videos that say “Reed you’re motivating me…” or “Reed you’re doing amazing things and you’re awesome…” However, these comments don’t amass nearly as many likes as the since-deleted “lil’ bro” ones. Those trolls, who were silenced, were then quietly seeking a new way to come for Reed’s crown.

Positive Instagram comments left on a Reed Harrington Instagram Reel.
Postive comments on a Reed Harrington Instagram video.
(Source: Instagram / @reed_harrington23)

Why Do People Want Reed Harrington To Go To Thailand?

The “lil’ n-word” commenters found their opportunity when Reed posted a video at the end of September, announcing that when he hit 200,000 followers (which he was close to achieving), he’d do whatever the top comment told him to do. Out of all of the comments I’ve seen on Instagram in my life, the top comment on that video became the most-liked comment I have ever seen. I’ve also never seen a comment that had more likes than the actual video. Instead of telling him to “say the n-word” (which is what happened the last time when he posted his “50,000 followers” video), the comment was much more elaborate. I think it’s worth just writing out here:

Fly to small town in thailand, get accepted by their people, learn the language, train in muy thai for a year and half, fight in a tournament, win the tournament, return to the USA and join the UFC, stay in shape and go undefeated in your weight class, retire and do an interview saying this comment was the reason you fought so hard….

The now notorious “Thailand” comment has since spawned a new running gag in Reed’s comment sections, now filled with “When’s Thailand?” or “Book that trip to Thailand yet?” questions and comments.

Unlike the “lil’ bro” comments, Reed had to officially address the Thailand ones, stating in a follow-up video that it was “very unrealistic” and that he was instead going to “run a mile every day” as the second-most-liked comment suggested.

Thailand comments posted on a Reed Harrington Instagram video.
(Source: Instagram / @reed_harrington23)

Of course, the silent majority of “lil’ bro” trolls in his fanbase sunk their teeth into the Thailand schtick, not letting go for the life of them and inventing new and elaborate ways to keep the joke fresh. Even ESPN reposted Reed’s Thailand video on its account, revealing itself (or at least their social media guy) as a covert Reed enjoyer and, in turn, a voyeur to the “cringe campaign” that’s been warred against him.

What I’m trying to say is that even at its most wholesome and supportive, “mature” children with followings on social media almost always accumulate fanbases that purport mostly ironic adoration which is low stakes for them but ultimately gaslights the child to the point of mainstream celebrity.

In a way, there’s a lot of nuance when deciding whether or not niche, internet fame is positive or negative for a middle-school-aged minor. In this consideration, my mind immediately goes to Baby Gronk whose father (the person behind his social media campaign) has said in interviews that if his son doesn’t continue a social media or sports career as an adult, at least he’s built a foundation of “$500,000 or a $1 million to start [his] life out.”

People promoting Reed’s fame are likely thinking a similar, vague philosophy, that what they’re doing, the fame that they’re pumping into this kid, will not hurt him in the long run and only has the opportunity to “set him up” later in life.

Honestly, though, only time will tell if that will be the case. Who knows where Reed will be in 10 years when he’s looking back at this viral moment in his life? Maybe his life will still be viral, or, maybe he’ll be looking back on it like a failed child actor does at their career.

In popular culture, we talk a lot about failed child actors. They’re always in the media every time that they mess up. They get tossed into the tabloid news cycle anytime their mugshot gets taken. As for right now, there aren’t any (at least off the top of my head) failed child influencers because, well, they’re all still children. Lil Tay is the only example right now and it’s speculated that she faked her own death just to become relevant again (and I don’t even think it worked).

For right now, Reed is just a kid, and, kids will be kids. And, adults will be adults. Adults with a lack of impulse control will obviously bite at the hilariously elaborate “Thailand” bit and who’s to blame them? Who's to blame kids or adults?

Thailand comments left on a Reed Harrington (@reed_harrington23) Instagram video.
Thailand comments posted on a Reed Harrington Instagram video.
(Source: Instagram / @reed_harrington23)

Again, only time will tell what will come of Reed’s 2023 rise on Reels. I don’t believe that his saga will ever become newsworthy, like, the New York Post will never cover his downfall when he’s 21 and doing drugs. His story is not big enough yet. It’s just another strange, internet phenomenon in a list of many.

But the place that he held in the trajectory and subversion of the “lil’ bro” comment trend will likely be remembered forever. He’s already made an impact on how children post videos on Instagram Reels. I have no proof of this but I’m sure some Reed Harrington copycats will arise soon enough. As for right now, Reed is one more ESPN repost away from meeting an NFL player or something. Maybe, with the right agent, he can appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live who might sponsor his trip to Thailand.

Regardless, he’ll probably never say the n-word. He’ll never bring up the “lil’ bro” trend, probably not until college when he’s with some new friends in a dorm room. There, he can relay what it was like to be on the other side of something that was bigger than him; something that was far out of his control.

I’ll be reaching out to Reed Harrington for comment [Updated: 10/15/23].
For now, you can follow Reed Harrington on Instagram here.