Tuesday, 25 July 2017

S**tposting: Facebook's anarchic meme playgrounds

The internet is, essentially, a horrible place. The last great frontier of humanity - the deeps of the ocean, of space, of other worlds and dimensions can all be traversed - and probably will - by highly trained professionals.Conversely, the internet can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection and requires no training at all. It's all but ungovernable, with only the strangest of government legislation, like the Investigatory Powers bill, that will permit the Security Service to flick though your sexts in the name of protecting freedom. It's a churning well of bizarre cultural mashups, beyond-the-curve trends, sexual disinformation, unfiltered violence and microtransaction mobile games.

The bizarre meme-size mashups of the Left.
And of course, the memes. The often surreal graphical snapshots that convey an often extreme concept in a crudely enhanced manner. They were suddenly potent weapons deployed in the high level political skirmishes of 16-17, a conduit from the crazed fringes of the internet right to the heart of mainstream culture. We're suddenly up to our shoulders in incomprehensible mutated comedy, a world where the Right Honorable Jacob William Rees-Mogg, the stereotypical Home Counties Tory's stereotypical Home Counties Tory, has his own #Moggmentum, a meme-producing teen online machine.

It is Facebook, ironically enough, that is the great incubator for this insanity. Zuckerberg's advertising hothouse, where your parents learn about emojis and share incoherent hatred from MailOnline and the Daily Express, doesn't immediately strike you as the oven for half-baked political ideology masquerading as a poorly-drawn smirking frog. But it's that huge audience set up with sharing tools that enables chain-reaction content to launch itself halfway around the world, whilst 4chan squats solitary at the bottom of the barrel and Reddit is left eating its own tail. Even Twitter, at times feeling like a tap on an ocean of ill-informed and badly-spelled hatred, still has some internal braking system, its very architecture allowing forces to marshal rapidly and as a group boost a signal or beat down a message.

Not so with Facebook, the central nervous system of the 'normies', the vast crowd of humanity for whom life isn't actually a quest for OC and screaming at strangers in another country at four in the morning. Yet it is so very easy to fall into that world, and nowhere are the barriers between one reality and the next thinner than in Shitposting groups.

There's one for every conceivable entertainment project, from Star Wars Sithposting to The Office (US) to America's first family, The Simpsons. To step into one is to enter a crass and crude hall of mirrors, with every reflection an incomprehensible distortion of some vaguely familiar joke. Memes whirl, collide, mutate and recycle in a never-ending merry-go-round with updates several times an hour, constantly as members from around the world log on to post updates, bicker, insult, fight, block and post memes at each other. Rock Bottom is another Simpsons group and they have a contentious relationship with their bigger brother - users are accused of 'spies', battle lines are drawn, and the ban hammer often descends from the heavens.

This refers to admins in Rock Bottom.
Who indeed would play ringmaster in one of these insane circuses of awkward adolescent amusement? The Admins in shitposting fall into one of two groups I feel, silent masterminds who either police their fiefdoms with draconian severity... or public spectacles who become one with the meme machine, the strangest of all mutations in a world where comedy is measured by the obscurity and subsequent random alterations a joke, character, scene or phrase can go through.

They no longer make the memes, they are the memes. With hundreds of thousands of fans packing out each and every community this weird wave continues to rise and may never crest, for as long as Facebook - with its own inability to   police itself properly - allows them their voice, they will continue to shrill at the top of their surreal voices. This is the generation that has suddenly turned out in droves for the latest general election, this is the generation that will start setting the political agenda, and this is the generation that communicates every concept through a filter - an instagram filter - of chaotic comedy.