Shitposting and Identity

What is “shitposting?” Know Your Meme, a compendium of online memes, defines shitposting as thus.

“Shitposting” is an Internet slang term describing a range of user misbehaviors and rhetoric on forums and message boards that are intended to derail a conversation off-topic, including thread jacking, circlejerking and non-commercial spamming.

– “Know Your Meme”

I would like to posit that shitposting is a little bit more of a broad term. Shitposting as a whole tends to be off-the-cuff, nihilistic (and borderline defeatist) borrowing themes from everything up to and including postmodern literature. It often comments on universal themes, including relationships, politics, and economics, but does so in a blissfully unaware fashion.

Know Your Meme puts the birth of shitposting as early 2007, but it’s very difficult to define when exactly shitposting became a major mode of communication. I’m more familiar with Tumblr and Twitter versions of shitposting, in which some people (including myself) will dedicate entire channels to shitposting. It’s fun, it’s inane, and I believe it actually facilitates communication among diverse groups of individuals by reducing complex topics down into an easily-digestable, humorous quips.

Shitposting varies depending on the social media you’re examining, but I’m most familiar with Tumblr and Twitter, with my main focus here being on Twitter.

Tumblr and Twitter both offer citation, but Twitter is a form of social media that fosters celebrity branding – including those of politicians. Tumblr itself is more grass-roots, but Twitter almost plays upon itself, acknowledging the inherent branding and playing off of the branding interplay, with individual civilian users and their Twitter accounts interacting with the marketing and branding teams of celebrities. How is branding of an individual civilian identity any different from that of any other celebrity? What constitutes identity? Do celebrities have the same sort of identity as civilians?

I feel as if shitposting is important because it examines this relationship and allows for civilians to examine officially drafted content as something that isn’t exclusive to celebrity, but something that is crafted and therefore an art. Each shitpost interacts with greater philosophical themes, if only briefly. It does so in the same way that we do in conversation, for the most part.

Take for example Kanye West. Joshua Stoughton said that he “lets his inner Id run free on Twitter,” and that’s not untrue in the slightest. There is nothing about Kanye West that doesn’t suggest that his content is any different from some of the Twitter shitposting greats. In fact, @dril, a satirical account made to be purposefully obscure, can occasionally show more clarity than Kanye.

Both shitposting and celebrity branding are an art, and have the same goal of capturing public attention. Satire serves to mock the established social norms, and shitposting does that, in a way.


2 thoughts on “Shitposting and Identity

  1. Ack… I need more here!

    I get shitposting as derailing… but I’m not sure I’m properly wrapping my brain around your proposed expansion. I think I need a soundbite-sized definition?

    I suspect it involves some level of insincerity (satire? sarcasm? snark) intended to make a point… but then I’m not sure of the connection to branding.

    I’ll think more on it, but I wouldn’t dissuade you from saying more… 🙂


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