Written by Nandini Sethi
If you’re not social media savvy, this term probably sounds like just another thing the Gen Z is up to, but if you’re familiar with the world of Instagram and are confused by the sudden onslaught of irrelevant posts by accounts you follow, we’re here to tell you that’s exactly what shitposting is.
To give a more straightforward definition, in Internet culture, shitposting is basically posting mindless, supposed-to-be amusing, and ironical content online- typically to generate a reaction and lure people into engaging more with their account.
While this sounds harmless and even like something that could be fun, sure there are pages that do it purely with this intent, especially since the pandemic hit. In fact, this is quite the intelligent strategy some businesses have employed since COVID struck and completely disheveled our sense of routine and discipline. In the late hours of the night, post-midnight but pre-dawn, while the world is asleep, a good chunk of the youth is up, absent-mindedly scrolling through their feeds- trying to find things to relate to and express frustration with the world in their own way.
However, as is the nature of social media, we tend to look at things only till the surface level. Yes, businesses do employ this method to gain followers and traction online, but sometimes there is more than what meets the eye. This trend of shitposting has shown tremendous evolution in a short period of time- and recent events have shown that it has grown past memes and random blurbs to something more treacherous, much deeper than we realize. Taking the Christchurch shooting of New Zealand as an example, the man who allegedly shot 49 people had posted his 74-page manifesto on social media before the attack. The posts rallied against a particular community of people but was still considered to be ‘light-hearted’ as there were several references to video games and memes. The shooter then explained his true intentions in the posts- “time to stop shit-posting and time to make a real-life effort”, is what he had said.
Just before the attack he put out a link to the livestream that went viral, and thus began the massacre that we all witnessed through, ironically enough, social media. In the video too, we can see that the gun being used was littered with memes and references known to those who are familiar with the Internet culture. How could anyone have ever predicted something so trifle to become one of the deadliest acts the country had seen?
The impact shitposting has, on my opinion, is not talked about enough. Do you remember the whole controversy around Area 51? Let me refresh your memory: In 2019, a 21-year-old college kid named Matty Roberts started a Facebook page, “Shitposting cause I’m in shambles”, and in September of that year he created an online event “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All Of Us”. He proposed a gathering at this land which was believed to be an alien testing ground where unexplained aerial occurrences were being inspected by the government.
In less than a week nearly 1 million people had signed on, and the whole joke around Area 51 very soon became very real. The U.S Air Force got involved and warned everyone against reaching the base’s borders. What started off as a bit of playing around (i.e shitposting) evoked an unexpected reaction from the Air Force, and that triggered more questions and an aura of mystery around the whole subject.
So, yeah, shitposting is real and it’s out there. It’s easy to brush things off and not read too much into the subject, especially since there’s already so much information online- but this internet slang can no longer be afforded to stay vague and opaque, no matter what generation we belong to. If we turn a blind eye to all these storms brewing on the internet, we’re only inviting more trouble for ourselves. It’s time we became more vigilant.
If there’s one thing these events, and probably a hundred more like these that have gone unreported have taught us is- ignorance can’t be bliss.