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Instant hit on Instagram surprises 'waverider' Liam

Teen's comic photos gain web following

DANIELLE STREET
Last updated 05:00 22/05/2013
Instagram Hit

WAVERIDER: Liam Martin is riding a wave of popularity with his Instagram account that has more than 116,000 followers.

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In little more than a year Liam Martin has gone from a regular high school student to a social media phenomenon.

The 16-year-old has gathered an astounding 116,000 followers from around the globe since opening an account under the name ‘@waverider-' on photo-sharing site Instagram.

"It just amazes me every day how I got to 110,000. I never thought I'd get that many," he says.

"I feel quite cool, I feel like Hannah Montana."

The Blockhouse Bay resident has gathered followers as far afield as the United States for his comical images that play off popular memes.

Memes are pieces of internet content that spread virally.

His photos are taken on a camera and cleverly edited in Photoshop before being loaded to his Instagram account. He even gets his mum Karen in on the act - she takes many of the photos. She says she is often taken aback by her son's "crazy" ideas.

"But then he does it and I see some of the end results and I'm like: ‘Oh my goodness I'd never of thought of something like that'."

Each post averages around 12,000 "likes" from other users and his bedroom wall is covered in fan-mail.

"I'm very weird and open. I think that's why I get so many followers, because I'm myself," Liam says.

But with great popularity comes great responsibility. Liam says he feels obligated to post an image at least once a day.

"It's a thing: I have to get home, I have to post a photo. Even if I'm out, I have to go home and post a photo. That's how much I put my time into it," he says.

His goal is to reach a quarter of a million followers.

Instagram is becoming evermore popular among teenagers, University of Auckland senior lecturer in marketing Catherine Frethey-Bentham says.

She has conducted much of her academic research on social media and says the network's growing popularity among teens is its lack of appeal for older generations.

"Parents, grandparents, teachers and priests are probably on Facebook but they are not active on Instagram so [youths] can get away with a bit more than where their family members are watching."

But Dr Frethey-Bentham warns that like any social media Instagram is open to misuse. "The single most important thing to realise is that, by default, anyone can view the photos that you upload to Instagram. If you only want your followers to see your photos, then you need to set your profile to private."

Check out some of Liam's photos here.

WHAT IT MEANS

Instagram: An online photosharing and social networking service that has more than 100 million active users worldwide.

Meme: A concept that spreads from person to person via the internet – commonly involves pictures of cats.

Handle: A name you choose to represent yourself online like @itsbeyonce or @snoopdogg.

Follower: Someone who "follows" your account so items you share come up on their newsfeed.

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Hannah Montana: A Disney character who is a regular student by day and a famous pop singer by night.

- Central Leader

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