No, it’s not just you: Facebook memes have gotten really weird. I mean, they’ve always been — at least in some circles — but it feels as if 2016 has witnessed the mainstreaming of something spectacular.
Dozens of absurdist pages have sprung up this year, devoted to “jokes” (can they be called jokes?) about everything from plastic chairs to deceased apes. A network of hyperactive Bernie Sanders supporters has made his name synonymous with the adjective “dank.”
Facebook memes have gotten so weird, in fact that a bot can create them just by pairing images at random. The bot is called S***postBot 5000, and it’s the creation of a 19-year-old Australian who has been memeing since his early teens. Recently he realized that his coding skills had advanced enough that he could code a bot to make his memes.
S***postBot 5000, which was first flagged by the Daily Dot, recombines user-submitted images, templates and/or captions to generate a new meme every half hour. Those get posted to its Facebook page, which more than 215,000 people are currently following. This is not a trivial number of people, and they’re not consuming these memes passively: Some posts have hundreds of comments and dozens of shares. The guy behind the bot has set up a Patreon and hopes to get enough donations to run the page professionally. (We aren’t posting his name because he says he’s been doxxed over his previous meme-making.)
This is, depending on your orientation toward the Web, either the apex of Internet culture or its most nihilist depths: an entire culture of people who devote hours each day to producing and consuming content that is calculatedly meaningless. Speaking to The Post about weird Facebook memes earlier this year, enthusiast Sean Walsh characterized the culture as “a rabbithole of weirdness” and a new frontier for absurdism “as an art form.” At the same time, one sorta fails to see the art or substance in a loaf of bread on a skateboard.
As for the mysterious teen behind the bot, he thinks it’s funniest when his creation pairs two images, or an image and a caption, that actually make semantic sense. He likes that the system can accidentally find order in the chaos, or meaning in the randomness. In that regard, S***postBot 5000 is almost a philosophical exercise … just retooled for the age of irony.
“The appeal is that there’s no person behind them,” he said. “And nobody is trying to be funny.”
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