Misery Loves Company: F*** My Life

F*** My Life
FML
TAKE THE SOCIAL-NETWORKING power of Facebook. Sprinkle in the immediacy of Twitter. Mix in a dash of PostSecret style oversharing. Then simmer.

What’s the dish?

Confessions like these:

“Today, I was standing on a crowded bus going home after school. A wriggling 5-year-old boy and his mum left the seat to get off the bus. Since no one looked keen to sit on the seat, I did, only to find out that it was covered in pee. FML

“Today, I was studying for a final when I noticed all I had was a blue highlighter. I decided to drive to the store to get a yellow one, and on the way I got $200 worth of traffic tickets for not stopping at a stop sign. So, I basically spent $200 because I prefer yellow highlighters over blue. FML

Welcome to F*** My Life.

Now in its third month of existence, the minimalist Web site — reminiscent of Craigslist — has struck a nerve with the Web’s woe-is-me set. It already boasts 700,000 daily unique visitors and over 450,000 Facebook fans stretching from Canada to Lithuania.

“It’s taken off because it’s halfway between voyeurism and exhibitionism, isn’t it?” said 37-year-old Alan Holding, who helps run the site from his pad in Beziers, France. “If you’ve got something embarrassing that’s happened to you, you can post it anonymously on the Internet and the whole world can either [mock you] or empathize with you.”

The premise is simple. Users submit a story in the format that begins with “Today” and concludes with “FML” (standing for “[expletive] my life”). What goes in between is entirely up to the submitter, but, typically, it’s a few sentences depicting a funny true-life anecdote. It’s less dramatic pity party and more shared camaraderie over the unexpected — and often silly — scenarios that happen to us all.

Fmylife.com‘s appeal has international roots: It’s the English language spin-off of the wildly popular French Web site Vie de Merde. Created by French 19-year-old Maxime Valette in January 2008, Vie reached 10,000 daily visitors after just two weeks. Today, it’s more like 400,000, the now 20-year-old Valette said via e-mail. It’s no wonder he decided to release a compilation of the site’s most hilarious anecdotes in book form last October.

Holding, an expat Brit and a fan of Vie de Merde, signed on in November to help develop F*** My Life in English. Since its January launch, the site’s been a full-time gig for the former phone engineer — and a relaxed one at that. “It’s a pretty rare job where you can work in your underwear and watch films at the same time,” he said.

Not that he and his six co-workers are trying to make bank. Advertising takes up a minimal amount of space on the page, so money-making opportunities are slim. It’s more of a labor of love, he said. The site developed so quickly that Holding hasn’t even met his fellow FMLers in arms, who range in age from 18 to 40 and work remotely from French locales such as Marseille and Reims.

For now, he’ll continue promoting the site and pitching in with the moderation of hundreds of daily submissions, which sometimes includes a little extra effort on his part. With 90 percent of the site’s visitors streaming in from the United States, Holding — who has been to the U.S. only once — admits he’s occasionally perplexed by what Yanks are whining about.

“There was one story and they mentioned a certain product from Dairy Queen,” he said. “We don’t have Dairy Queen over here. I didn’t know what that was. So, I had to Google it to know what the bloke was talking about.”

Could it be a Blizzard — DQ’s signature ice cream treat?

“Yeah, that’s it. They serve it upside down. I couldn’t understand why it was falling down, so I had to look it up.”

Holding said he and his cohorts hope that future releases — such as potential Spanish- and Chinese-language sites — can lure more of the world into their international community of commiseration.

“It’s amusing to see people from India empathizing with people from Canada,” he said. “It’s quite nice, actually.”

Art by Ben Classen for Express

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