Troll With It: Like It Or Not, Shitposting Is Here To Stay
Ah, the shitpost. If you’ve been on the internet over the past few years, there’s a good chance you’ve come across a shitpost, or even shitposted yourself.
But what exactly is a shitpost? It’s easy to do but hard to define.
Currently, the general understanding is that a shitpost is any random, low effort post that usually doesn’t take more than a minute from idea to execution. Much like many other internet artefacts, the term shitpost can be traced back to message boards. Its earliest known usage goes all the way back to 2007, when a user on Something Awful Forums used the expression when referring to worthless threads on the site's BYOB forum.
On 4chan, shitposting got associated with intentionally derailing discussions or aggravating other users. Predictably, social media changed the game for shitposting.
Over the years, the shitpost has evolved to mean anything from nonsensical word vomiting with low quality image macros that won’t be seen by more than a handful of Tumblr users, to highly for a Facebook community of many thousands. One entry in the scholarly publication Urban Dictionary defines the act of shitposting as “ironically posting something which to the average person looks just like a cringy or weird or stereotypical post conforming to a norm, but is intended to mock, insult, or amuse”. The attempt to invoke humor has become somewhat intrinsic to the shitpost, even if the only one who is amused is the person posting it.
That’s the beauty of shitposts- they can be whatever you want them to be. Teenage Twitterati even ran hundreds of fake accounts , and this was declared “nothing more than shitposting”.
So, what sets the shitpost apart from the average troll? Intention, for one, might set it apart. The lines are blurry, of course, and constantly in flux, and what started out as an innocent shitpost might even evolve into a nasty takedown of another user, putting it in the troll category.
But what’s the significance of shitposts, and why do we put them up?
They really aren’t as worthless as they are made out to be. Sure, they might not add any value to the viewer’s life, but to the poster, shitposts can be cathartic. Often taking the form of stream-of-consciousness rants on finsta accounts and close-friends stories, the shitpost resists the temptation to self-censor. It is spontaneous, and in that regard, it is the opposite of the curated instagram post.
It can be argued that users often feel a sense of liberation after they realise that it’s their account, and that they can go batshit crazy and post whatever they want. Who cares how many people understand the reference to that niche philosophy meme or pick up on the hints you dropped about your childhood trauma? You make the shitposts, you run the show.
Another characteristic element is the frequency of posts. Many users with dedicated shitposting accounts post multiple times a day, rejecting arbitrary rules about how many posts a day is appropriate. For the Extremely Online types, any passing thought is a potential shitpost. So no wonder they rack up several thousands of posts, only disseminated to their hundred or so followers.
Others find fame and community through shitposting, like comedian Manoj Mehta, better known as @notmanoj on Instagram. His bio reads “shitpost kr kr k India-Pakistan ko aik kar dena mainy” (I’ll unite India and Pakistan through shitposting). The screenshots he posts of Pakistani Uber and WhatsApp chats have induced many lols online, and given Indians something to relate to their neighbours over. He has managed to cultivate a space where we can come together and laugh at silly exchanges, and have our day made just a little bit brighter.
The shitpost and it’s many possibilities are constantly evolving, giving us a living breathing form of expression that, at its core, is a rejection of internet etiquette.