Most of us get at least a small percentage of our daily news from Instagram. But there's one account that manages to cut through the noise and deliver a dose of daily news and pop culture moments: Sh*t You Should Care About (SYSCA). An account run by three women in their early 20s - Lucy, Ruby, and Liv - SYSCA manages to strike a balance between covering hard-hitting world news, pop culture, and a plethora of hilarious memes. In short, their Instagram account is perfect for anyone who likes their serious news served with a side of laughter.
For the first year that I followed SYSCA, I couldn't pinpoint where in the world they were based - which I actually liked. I had a feeling they were from either Australia or New Zealand, because they covered news from this region well before Jacinda Ardern became the global icon she is now. It turns out, they are from New Zealand. In fact, Lucy, Ruby, and Liv are from Blenheim, which is a small town at the northern tip of the country's South Island.
When I sat down with Lucy and Ruby (two-thirds of the SYSCA team), I noticed they often finish one another's sentences and hype each other up constantly. They appear to be the epitome of supportive female friendship, and it's clear this is one of the reasons they work so well together. They explain that they each have their own niche. Lucy is the head honcho and Instagram master, while Liv is the graphic design and science nut, and Ruby has their website covered.
I asked them whether they always wanted SYSCA to be an anonymous platform, and they admitted it was never the plan. That's why they launched a podcast in April, to really let their personalities fly. The weekly podcast (aptly named "The Sh*t Show"), covers the world's top news stories from the week, plus a deep dive into a topic they're passionate about.
When Lucy, Liv, and Ruby created SYSCA in 2018, they had one goal: to help people - especially young people - understand the news in bite-size pieces that won't cause overwhelm or news fatigue. They wanted to make stories from around the world accessible and, above all else, to continue building a platform that had no parameters, which they've certainly done. Keep on reading to find out more about the three women from New Zealand who are here to help you give a sh*t.
POPSUGAR: Can you tell me a little bit about yourselves and why you started SYSCA?
Lucy: In 2018, I was about to finish my undergraduate degree, and I was writing for a publication at the time that was putting parameters on the things that I could write. The story I was working on at the time was pretty important to me, so I said they could publish it however they wanted. But then, I was sitting in the lecture and thought, "I want to start something that has no rules." I texted Liv, who's an artist, Ruby, who's just like across all of the same things I am, and asked them, "Do you want to start something called Sh*t You Should Care About?" They both agreed, so then we just started helping people give a sh*t.
Ruby: Liv, Luce, and I met in high school - I feel like for years now, I've kind of always been Luce's right-hand woman in a way. She's always had the CEO vibe, and I've just always been the hype woman. I work more with the brand and admin side of SYSCA.
Lucy: Then Liv is a design queen, so she comes up with all of the colours for our Instagram and the website. Ruby and I love the news and pop culture, and Liv loves all the parts of culture, so she fills all of our gaps really well.
PS: Can you explain what you wanted to achieve when you created SYSCA (the Instagram account and website) and whether you feel like you've done that?
Lucy: The tagline for SYSCA is "Helping you give a sh*t." So that runs through everything we do. Our intention has always been to help people care about things that are happening in the world but, like everything, it's so subjective. Whatever you personally care about is sh*t you should care about. We just want to help people along the way, by sharing our thoughts. It's become more of a transaction though, with people coming to us with stories they've written or news stories they think are important - and we'll share it on their behalf. We didn't see it as a community in the beginning - we thought it was just going to be us putting our own ideas out there - but it's become so much more than that. It's our audience's voice being told through our platform.
Ruby: And we've always wanted it to be an unorthodox and transparent platform where there's no parameters. Because we're 22-years-old, and we don't know what the hell we're doing half the time. I feel like the more open we are about that, the more our followers feel like they can be vulnerable with us and with the pieces that they submit to us. It's created this really awesome community. I love the way that it's evolved into that rather than just us kind of blasting out sh*t to everyone - which we still do a lot, too - but it's more transactional now.
PS: How do you choose what topics to post about on SYSCA?
Lucy: Honestly, I just post whatever speaks to me. I spend a lot of time on Twitter and have a really curated feed on Instagram, and I read the news basically 24/7, so however I'm feeling that day, I post. I just have a strong sense of what I think people will like - and most of the time it's right, so I just have to trust my gut. Some days, I'll post 10 things, and other days, I'll post one, and it's because nothing is really speaking to me or I don't thing anything is going to be beneficial to other people. Also, if I'm just feeling sh*t one day, I often won't post very much. I just have a very "no pressure" approach for the Instagram account.
Ruby: And you're very shameless and just go with it. You don't doubt yourself, and you don't second-guess yourself, which I think is really important - it's just more organic that way.
PS: You have a website, too - in addition to your very popular Instagram account - that is more of an editorial platform, sharing long-form articles. Which platform came first, and what is the difference between the two?
Lucy: We started them at the same time. We definitely thought that the website was going to be the big thing, but when instant activism started happening on Instagram - and people wanted to show they cared about important things - our Instagram page really started taking off. There are definitely some obvious differences between the two platforms. Instagram is never scheduled - I just find content, and if it speaks to me, it's going straight on the 'gram. That said, we do also research the sh*t out of anything we post because we have to be really careful, especially since we talk about almost everything - controversial or not - and need to be able to clap back at criticism.
With the website, we're really proud of what it's become. It's a place for people to share their own voices. We mainly share guest pieces now, and they're often really personal and vulnerable stories, probably because we also allow people to post anonymously. They can be controversial but not offensive. As long as they're educated and have a purpose - or are beneficial for either the writer to get something off their chest or for someone to read it and feel better (or feel anything) because of it - then we'll post it. People always ask if there are any word limits, or specific angles we want to cover, and we always say, "No, just write whatever you feel like you need to say." Ruby controls a lot of the guest pieces and the website side of things.
Ruby: We went into it thinking the website would be the main part of SYSCA, but Lucy just knows how to work Instagram, and that's how we were able to take off. From there, we've been able to pull people back to the website, especially with more guest pieces coming in recently, we've just run with it. But it's definitely a work in progress - we're still kind of figuring out where we want to take it.
PS: While a lot of the things you post about pertain to serious things that are happening in the world, you also share funny memes and glorious photos of Harry Styles (which I personally care deeply about). How do you respond to people that question whether the more lighthearted topics belong on SYSCA and argue that it's not something we should care about when "more important" things are happening in the world?
Lucy: The most common comment we get is, "Why should I give a sh*t about this?" and sometimes I have to include a disclaimer as soon as I post something. But, at this point, if someone's going to comment asking why they should give a sh*t about this, move along because we've heard it all before.
PS: I guess, if someone doesn't understand why Harry Styles is important, that's not your problem.
Ruby: Yeah, they can move along. And I love that you've put up so much of this stuff, Luce, because we're not here to only post about the news, and I think sometimes people follow us because we do post a lot of that, and of course, people can follow us for just the more serious topics, but we don't personally don't want SYSCA to just be about news. It's so subjective: "Sh*t You Should Care About" can be anything you want.
Lucy: 'Cause we're human, we like lots of different things.
PS: At the moment, the global media conversation is so centred around the US or western countries and how they're coping with being locked down during the COVID-19 pandemic, for example. Do you feel pressure to extend the topics you cover to other countries as well, and other issues?
Ruby: I think we've kind of tried to cover other places with the guest pieces we're sent. We do get a lot of people writing to tell us we need to cover a specific story, and sometimes we are already across it or think, "yes, we totally want to look into this," but sometimes it's just too much for the three of us to do. That's when we usually tell them that because we're not experts in this particular field, we're not able to cover it. The person who messages us is probably quite passionate about the story if they're wanting us to cover it and share it with our followers, so we kind of turn it back to them and say we would love for them to write the story for us to share with our audience.
Lucy: Big media companies often focus on Western news, and we really don't want to be like them. I'll often go on Radio New Zealand Pacific to see what's happening in the little Pacific Islands because I know they don't get coverage. One of the first pieces I wrote that made me kind of realise I wanted to start something myself was about the Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar, who are in a genocide right now, and no one's covering it.
There's so much going on in the Western world, right? And there's so much going on outside of it that's also really hard to research because not many people are posting about it. I try to get one piece of news from Al Jazeera most days, from the Middle East, or somewhere that isn't just "Donald Trump this" or "the UK that". One of our values is to try and cover everything, and not just the mainstream news, but that is hard to do.
PS: New Zealand is obviously gaining a lot of popularity in the world at the moment, especially the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, who's basically reached hero status in the past year. What are your thoughts on her rising popularity?
Lucy: I just feel like we've been blessed with Jacinda, who's such an eloquent and graceful leader.
Ruby: She's a queen.
Lucy: She's also an everyday woman though.
Ruby: Let's just look at the facts. Since becoming Prime Minister, she's had a child and it was just such a nonevent. She's had to deal with earthquakes, an attack on a Mosque in Christchurch, a volcano eruption, the murder of British backpacker Grace Millane, and now a global pandemic. The fact that we still love her after all of that . . . she's just handled it with such grace. We love her, and we post about her a lot.
Lucy: Yeah, I just I can't think of any other leader that we've had - or any other world leader I know of at the moment - that I would put so much trust into. And the fact that she's a woman and she's just dominating, is really cool. It makes me very proud to be a New Zealander.
Ruby: When people say, "Can we steal her?", it makes me very proud. I feel like young girls growing up with people like Jacinda Ardern being the Prime Minister being the norm is just amazing.
PS: How do you deal with criticism, like when people come at you for covering lighthearted topics, or do you usually cop more criticism for the more serious topics?
Lucy: We often cop it for the nonserious topics, purely because they're not serious. Because we mostly post about serious things, if someone DMs to tell us when we've gotten something wrong and are respectful when they ask us to change the wording in our caption, we're so apologetic and transparent about that.
Ruby: We never try to act like we're the experts. When we get it wrong, we're happy for people to tell us in a respectful way.
PS: What are your hopes for the future of SYSCA? You said you want it to become a huge media entity and hope to take over the media world, so I'm curious what your plans are.
Lucy: We just want to keep helping people give a sh*t and, to a greater extent, we want to be on the playing field of some of the other big media corporations and be another place that people love to tune in to for reliable news, for mental health information, and for topics that are scary to talk about.
Ruby: There are a lot of avenues that we want to go down that maybe don't fit into news specifically, like mental health and bad sex, which is something we've recently spoken about. We just want to open up discussions that welcome everyone and make it very accessible and welcoming to everyone.