Group 4

Sillyposting is the new shitposting

The internet is tired of dark jokes and nihilistic memes. Let's get goofy.


Silly little painting by Lila Sky

A few years ago, the internet was up to its neck in jokes about depression, anxiety and all of the particular ways being alive right now felt overwhelmingly difficult — cheeky tweets and memes about existential dread and wanting to die and TikToks about cleaning up your depression room, swamped with dirty clothes, half-finished projects (specifically of the quarantine variety — bits of crochet and hardened resin), half-drunk plastic cups of iced coffee and general Tracey Emin-esque mess. This type of humour, which across the board made light of dark thoughts and “dirty” behaviours, was branded ‘Gen Z’ (though we all know that the millennials were the first to use the internet as a void to scream, cry and shitpost into). After being spun through the generational analysis machine, this label developed into ‘Gen Z nihilism’, in an attempt to explain why young people were posting memes of Hello Kitty framed by hearts and dispirited statements like “i don’t want to want to feel anythif anymore”. Making dark jokes online, “devoid of context” and equal parts “I wanna die” and Charli XCX saying “let’s ride” energy, was a way of making sense of a world that didn’t make any at all.

Across social media, sillyposting is slowly being codified — the way shitposting was in the mid 2010s, and the way casual-posting was in the past few years when photo dumps and blurry pics began to displace matchy-matchy feeds and a general preference for good quality images. Devon Lee Carlson, an influencer whose manner of posting almost always trickles down to the set of stylish-posters, has taken to captions and content that serve silliness as the main dish. Take a recent carousel led by a dramatic photo of her sister listening to Drake’s critically panned track “I’m Upset”, captioned “life’s been ssssssilllllllyyyyyy🤭🎻🫶”. Or another recent photo dump which places a close-up shot of Ms. Carlson with a face mask being applied by the disembodied hands of, we assume, a skilled facialist, next to a similar shot of Drake doing nearly the exact same thing. Sillyposting is also achieved in subtler ways — through the use of tongue-out emojis, a cohort Emojipedia defines as conveying varying degrees of silliness, goofiness, and zaniness. For instance, the emoji search engine defines the 😜Winking Face with Tongue as “generally goofier than 😛Face With Tongue and 😝Squinting Face With Tongue but less ‘crazy’ than 🤪Zany Face.” These zany little guys, present throughout several of Ms. Carlson’s recent posts, have started to overtake Gen Z’s traditional diet of 🙃🥺🤡💀, which all vibe with the visual language of dark humour.

The shift towards silly can also be felt outside the typical Los Angel(es)-ish influencer-sphere. Houston rapper Tisakorean is prolific in silly — first pointed out by a commenter on a Digi TikTok documenting the goofy proof. Tisa’s whole ethos as an artist is about getting silly — it’s in his music, his merch, and his posts, which bring to mind “hip-hop’s silly era” in the 2000s, when we were all posting goofy videos dancing to Soulja Boy’s “Crank That”. His upcoming tour is even called the Silly Tour, complete with a poster featuring a MySpace mock called Sillyspace and sweet and simple Blingee art. Elsewhere, Comic Sans, widely considered to be the least serious and most playful font (and Digi’s long-time font of choice), has entered its own renaissance, used by beloved recommendation newsletter Perfectly Imperfect and reimagined in rainbow for the (entire) March issue of The Face.

For better or for worse, brands have picked up on sillyposting, too — from MSCHF’s seriously goofy red boots to Duolingo’s TikTok posts becoming increasingly unhinged. It’s worked, so far anyways. Those red boots broke the internet debatably more than other fashion stunt this year (of which there have already been many), and Duolingo is still raking in millions of views with thirst traps for its owl mascot (and videos of Duo using Iolspeak in the vein of “I can has cheezburger”-style early memes).

So why the shift from sad-and-shitposty to silly and goofy? Certainly young people are still depressed and anxious — some sources say more so than ever, with statistics more shocking than the last continuing to roll out. And surely the youth can’t have collectively rejected the nihilism alleged to be so fundamental to their generation’s understanding of the world in just a year or two? Probably not — but it seems the posts about it got a little, well, depressing. It makes sense that we’re all a little nostalgic for the time before zesty traumadumps were par-for-the-posting course, before traumadump was even a word — when were were just vibing online, posting what made us lol without, in the very same moment, thinking about living to see manmade horrors beyond our comprehension. 

A few members of our TikTok audience suggested sillyposting is a descendant of millennials’ love for “random” content in the 2000s, whilst both are lighthearted ways of posting, silliness has a different agenda. Being random online in 2006 was all about asserting your niche interests — from being obsessed with post-apocalyptic zombie comedy movies  to owning a maple bacon-scented candle, random was essentially codeword for not mainstream or status quo. After all, it was still largely a subset of larger hipster culture, which was about liking things “normal people” didn’t. Being silly online in 2023 is, to a certain extent, about denouncing those niche interests —  the kind that so often inform people’s so-called hyper-specific taste in memes (which arguably pull us further apart rather than closer together), to get closer to what really matters — the live, laugh, love of life. “I am cringe but I am free” has become the mantra for posting freely without worrying what other people think, but sillyposting is post-cringe. It doesn’t require the exercise of deciphering the poster’s intentions — what's accidental cringe and what's intentional. Silly is simple, it’s a joke you don’t have to be on the inside of to get — silly is for everyone.

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